XKCD vs. DRM FTW LOL

 By Shamus Nov 3, 2008 39 comments

(Sorry about the post title.)

XKCD had wisdom for us a few weeks ago, and I’ve been remiss in not linking it:

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/steal_this_comic.png

In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught.

-Hunter S. Thompson

201939 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Well… does anyone who chooses these DRM choices even LOOK at these? Oh, wait they don’t listen to us, the customer, over their advisers that tell them that SecuROM is a holy relic.

    Makes so much sense.

  2. Illiterate says:

    Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. – Henry Lewis Mencken

  3. Corsair says:

    I’m not entirely certain as to what that means, Illiterate, but that sounds awesome.

  4. Kel'Thuzad says:

    I think he means that everyone’s tempted by the offer of being a pirate.

    So… what is EA if they’re trying to get us to pirate games?

    Arr.

  5. henebry says:

    I’ve started buying music on Amazon rather than iTunes. The price is better and the sound quality appears to be identical. The key, though, is DRM. When my daughter buys iTunes music and I discover that I like it, it seems ridiculous that I can’t use her files without laboriously burning a cd and then ripping it on my computer.

  6. Chris says:

    @Corsair: I think it’s a comment on even the most mild-mannered of men having limits to their patience.

  7. Illiterate says:

    It’s a popular quote for the makers of pirate computer games.

    I think it says that all of us play them because we all really wish we were pirates.

    Arrr….

  8. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Bah. When EA will finally stop making PC games at all, we will simply find a way to pirate Console games into PC games. And the PC-dedicated games will still be there, and Stardock will reign supreme with their awesomness.

  9. Lunafysh says:

    @Henebry

    That is a darned good point. We just got a non-iPod for my eldest and he’s been asking for his favorite music, unfortunately, I had ripped much of it directly to iTunes or purchased from the iStore, so it’s effectively worthless to his player.
    I think from now on, it’s Amazon for me, as well.

  10. Adam says:

    @Lunafysh

    Music ripped to iTunes shouldn’t be worthless. I guess it depends on what file type they were ripped as, but most formats should be supported by most players.

    Store stuff is more complicated, but burning them to CDs fixes everything.

    I don’t really understand complaining about having to burn to CDs. Does everyone have external backup hard drives, or does no one want to back up hundreds of dollars of music?

  11. Illiterate says:

    Adam –

    If it’s really not that big of a deal, why should users be forced to do it to play their media the way they want to?

  12. MrValdez says:

    Do you know that xkcd comics has title tags on the comics? Which means, if you hover your mouse over a comic, you get an additional joke or extra info by the author. This comic has the following title tag:

    I spent more time trying to get an audible.com audio book playing than it took to listen to the book. I have lost every other piece of DRM-locked music I have paid for

    Also, the filename of that comic is: steal_this_comic.png

    But I guess you already knew that since you hotlinked, which is something he actually encourages :)

  13. Nixorbo says:

    This is why I always buy the physical media and keep it in a safe place.

  14. Oleyo says:

    This is why I don’t buy music online. I love iTunes and used it as my media player until I started using Linux, but I never bought music with it for this very reason.

    I will be a cd man for life. I like having the physical media, burn ‘em on the computer and put the cd in storage. Besides, I cant stand “owning” something in a lossy format. I want to be able to have pure data available if I bought the music.

  15. LintMan says:

    I’ve started buying music on Amazon rather than iTunes. The price is better and the sound quality appears to be identical. The key, though, is DRM.

    I’m torn about this:
    - iTunes doesn’t want DRM – it uses it because the RIAA forces them to use it.
    - RIAA wants to charge way more than $1/song but iTunes stands firm on price and has the major marketshare.
    - So the RIAA creates a new competitor (Amazon) and gives them a sweetheart deal by allowing them to sell without the DRM to undercut iTunes by offering a superior product at the same price. For now – but the agreement probably gives the RIAA almost all control over the pricing.

    Good deal for consumers? Yes, short-term. But I see the RIAA’s long-term goal as intending to force iTunes to cave in on their pricing stand. And once iTunes has relented to the RIAA’s will, the RIAA is free to raise prices across the board and even have Amazon start using the DRM too.

    So, IMHO, the Amazon deal will only last long enough for the RIAA to gain the upper hand on controlling the market, at which point we’ll start paying $3 for DRM-loaded “premium songs” and “hot new releases”.

  16. Hotsauce says:

    There is an alternative to CD burning. I’ve seen software that converts media in iTunes’s format (mp4? Don’t know, never touch the stuff myself) to mp3s, as long as you have the digital certificate for the iTunes file. Thanks to the DMCA, that’s a violation of the law, but so is burning it to a CD and ripping it back to mp3.

    @Adam: “I don’t really understand complaining about having to burn to CDs.”

    It’s time consuming, expensive, and unreliable. I can’t tell you how many CDs I’ve burned that wound up corrupt, or that burned fine but degraded to uselessness within a year. Backing up my 2000-plus files to a different hard drive is a matter of clicking and dragging, then waiting a few minutes. Doing the same via CD would take days.

  17. Loneduck3 says:

    Well, I’ll share my perspective. From a Socratic perspective, one should never do wrong. In America, it’s wrong to steal this form of media. By living here with these laws, we are accepting these laws. To reject them suddenly because we want a version of a song we can play on mutliple devices is wrong. There’s an easy, legal way to get DRM free music. Buy CDs. If that doesn’t suit you, then buy the DRM music. But it would be better to forsake music or games, than to allow your sense of right and wrong, your sense of justice to be corrupted. You really want to make a difference? Compose a well-researched letter to your Senator/Representative, explaining how the RIAA has established an illegal monopoly of influence. Either way, for a law abiding citizen, piracy is not a viable choice.

  18. Moridin says:

    Are you claiming that illegal=wrong? That needs some justification.

  19. BarGamer says:

    Laws have changed before. Laws have been morally wrong, as well. Just as there is no such thing as the perfect law, so can there be no justice in a rulebook of absolutes. (Mangled quotation from Star Trek:TNG, “Justice.”)

  20. Hotsauce says:

    Loneduck3, Rosa Parks would like to have a word with you.

    America has a long and proud history of publicly breaking laws we feel are unjust.

    disclaimer: I recognize that DRM in no way approaches the injustice of segregation.

  21. radio_babylon says:

    “Either way, for a law abiding citizen, piracy is not a viable choice.”

    not only is it not viable, it is actively counter-productive. if youre disgusted with DRM’ed media (be it music or games or what have you) the only viable choice is to DO WITHOUT. yes, i know, thats like utter heresy to people nowadays, god forbid they should DO WITHOUT something they WANT… but anything short of that only makes the problem worse.

    buying the DRM’ed media sends the message that the market is willing to bear that DRM, so its ok to keep using it. pirating, on the other hand, sends the message that the DRM is need, so they feel they have to keep using it. in the case of music, there is usually (but not always) an alternative in the form of buying physical media… games, youre just shit out of luck.

    please, people, stop being part of the problem. stop buying games with DRM you find to be objectionable, and DONT pirate them. just DO WITHOUT.

  22. Al Shiney says:

    I’m too tired of politics and other useless arguments to weigh in on this debate, but I did want to highlight what our Canadian friends at UserFriendly.org think of last week’s EA announcement. :-)

  23. Illiterate says:

    Hotsauce — good disclaimer. Was about throw a godwin’s law flag on the play.

  24. krellen says:

    Amen, radio_babylon.

  25. Certainly Socrates would have been among the last to say breaking the law was by definition wrong. True, he proved by his actions in the end that he thought it necessary to abide by legally decided *punishment*, but that’s not the same thing. Many who advocate civil disobedience consider that part of the gig includes taking the punishment for breaking the unjust law.

  26. NobleBear says:

    I bought a handful of songs and a couple of albums from iTunes; never again. I had to subvert the DRM to listen to my legit tunes when I had to switch computers. I burn the songs to CD, then reinsert the burned disk into the tower, then reimport the tracks, then go back and delete the original copy of the songs I bought.

    It seemed only Charlie Brown understood my supreme frustration at the time.

    Good grief, indeed.

  27. Cuthalion says:

    I buy used CDs off Ebay or Amazon sometimes. I also get them off of Sony’s site, if they’re available (their selection of Christian music isn’t that great). Either way, I can get it for $7 or less per album, including shipping.

    Then I can rip it at max quality, keep the original CD with art/lyrics booklet, and play that in my car or stereo.

    disclaimer: I realize buying music from Sony makes me a Bad Person. Oh well.

  28. ryanlb says:

    FWIW, I believe iTunes by default encodes into their apple format (whatever it’s called) when ripping. You can change it to encode as mp3 or wav or whatever.

    Also, you can convert already ripped music to mp3, just select the music, and from the Advanced (or context) menu select Create MP3 Version.

  29. Dan Beck says:

    @ NobleBear and Henebry:

    There are a lot of legitimate reasons to not want to use iTunes, but limits to transferring files and sharing them on a home network don’t have to be among them. While nothing stops you from doing it your way (burning to CD and reimporting the files sans DRM), the most convenient (and quickest) method is probably to “authorize” your new computer, and (if desired) de-authorize your old one (takes one click in the “Store” menu, plus your password confirmation). Your original (DRMed) files can be copied over and will then be recognized by iTunes on the new computer–no need to burn to CD first. You can have 5 authorized computers at once, and if they are on the same network, the files need only be on one of them to be shared among all of them. You can authorize and de-authorize an infinite number of times–however many times you may upgrade or change computers–Mac or PC (not sure if there is a Linux client for iTunes, which could be a deal-breaker for some).

    If you are willing to concede that digital duplication of perfect copies needs to be hindered to protect content providers, and want to allow fair usage within a household or small network, then I think iTunes has hit upon a pretty good balance that accomplishes both objectives to a reasonable degree.

    Leaving the iTunes walled garden behind makes this a moot point, I realize, but the ease of use inside IS actually pretty nice, and a HUGE selling point for Apple.

    Dan <–who finally gave up his Newton MP only when the iPod Touch became available.

  30. Merle says:

    I buy music from iTunes.
    I have not bought a CD in…close to three years, I think.

    If, after having bought music from iTunes, I somehow manage to lose all copies of it, I feel no moral twinge about pirating it. I paid for the stuff once, after all – and I tend to hang on to the receipt, useless as it may be.

  31. Eric says:

    “I’m too drunk to taste this chicken.”- Colonel Sanders

  32. Loneduck3 says:

    Yes, not all laws are perfectly created. But there are legal means of changing laws. For example, if you were a citizen in Washington D.C. who wished to protest the strict gun laws there, carrying a gun on your person is not a moral form of protesting. The key is to protest the content of the law, while upholding the institution of law.
    We are obliged to obey laws whether we agree with them or not. Otherwise, I could kill whenever I saw fit, I could take anything I thought I needed. I don’t want to get started on civil disobedience. Legislators change laws. Not protestors, not criminals.
    As for the Godwin’s Law scenario, this assumes two things. Whether the government was installed with the people’s consent, and whether that government acts lawfully as well (i.e. within the international community). If you find yourself rejecting your government and the values placed on you, then break the laws. I don’t mind breaking laws that fail to value life or property. Likewise, if you’re denied the opportunity to protest, and the chance to leave, then you are justified in breaking the laws. But if I agree with the fundamental government and its values, if I choose to abide in this nation, then I am obliged to obey the laws. Likewise, I am obliged to respect the next President, even if I dislike him, because I value the fundamentals of our government.
    It’s like a contract. If I choose to abide in a region, then I am accepting its laws, its ways, its people. Suppose you moved to a cannibal village in New Guinea. It wouldn’t do for you, years after moving there, to start breaking their laws, because you don’t care for cannibalism. If you are offended by Muslim law, you wouldn’t move to Saudi Arabia, and start breaking their laws. At least, that would neither be smart nor moral.
    I deviated from the topic at hand, and I apologize. Suffice to say, it’s better to be without music and games, and be a law abiding citizen, than to be a music and game possesing criminal. Not because I care what society calls me, but because I value the security that laws offer a society. I’m am not prepared to live in a society without laws. So I’ll respect laws, even laws I disagree with, while I protest them.

  33. Nick says:

    I wish someone would come up with a rival to allofmp3.com, that is where I currently purchase my music, and I’m sure you’re all aware of it’s “is it legal?” status.

    I use it because I have yet to find anywhere else with Ogg and FLAC downloads with such a large catalogue, it’s prices are much more realistic as well.

  34. Dave says:

    Look.. it’s been simple for a loooong time.. the rich try to get as much money from the poor as possible.. and pass laws and rules the keep the poor poor.. They try to manuever themselves to reign over anything of value thus keeping their engine running..

    Sure.. it used to be easier to tell the peasants from the king’s court.. but don’t think technology and voting has really changed those with big purses.

    I don’t pirate .. some of us aren’t cut out to be robin hood.. but.. without Robin Hoods.. well.. …

  35. dagbrown says:

    My preferred format for buying music is still the humble CD. The CD itself acts as a sort of receipt to indicate that I’ve fairly paid for the music in question. The first thing I do with any new CD is stuff it into my elderly Mac and rip it. That turns it into a non-DRM’ed AAC file that I can listen to on my Linux machine any time I want, and also transfer to my iPod with a minimum of fuss.

    The software I use to transfer songs to my iPod, despite them having being ripped by iTunes, is amarok, the awesome Linux music library software.

    It’s almost sad that some random piece of Linux software is vastly preferable as a way of managing music on an iPod than Apple’s official software.

  36. Brad says:

    “There’s an easy, legal way to get DRM free music. Buy CDs.”
    The problem with that scenario is that some companies, Sony specifically, put DRM on the music CDs you buy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_BMG_CD_copy_prevention_scandal

    Now, I would like to say that since the law suit, that they no longer put DRM on their music CDs. However as many times as Sony was willing to dupe the customer, even after getting caught, they probably do it any way.

  37. Jonathan says:

    If you pirate something, you can ow[e] the RIAA for life.

    iTunes and Audible rock, and I’ll never get sued for $50,000,000. Both services work great, and are incredibly convenient.

  38. Viktor says:

    But they can completely wipe out your music collection for no reason, forcing you to either pirate or buy the stuff again. The threat of a lawsuit is not enough to make that a good deal.

  39. [...] provides an interestingly cool-headed counter to some other bloggers I could [...]

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