Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DRM is Bad for You AND for the Planet

Written by Hank Green

I am primarily an ecogeek, but I can't deny that I'm also just a geek. And so I, of course, love the open source, free software and creative commons movements. Without those powerful forces EcoGeek would absolutely have never existed.

So, yeah, I hate digital rights management. I believe that it's contrary to the spirit of creation and should not exist. But I don't get to talk about it here, because its all geek and no eco.

Or so I thought! When recently reading about Wal-Mart's epic DRM fail at Read Write Web, I realized that DRM is indeed very bad for the environment. So bad, that it could possibly destroy one of the great environmental benefits of technology... digitization.

First, I should point out a less substantial environmental problem with DRM. IT EATS POWER! Devices using DRM have been shown to use up to 25% more power than when they're playing non-managed media...and that's not even counting all the resources consumed by the manger's server farms that keep track of it all.

But, comparatively, that's a tiny problem. The real problem here is that the easiest way to get an MP3 that isn't crippled by some kind of DRM is still to buy the physical CD. What's worse, when DRM systems go offline (as they are at Wal-Mart) people are going to be extremely hesitant to go digital again. Basically, Wal-Mart's servers going offline is like saying "Oh, that song you bought, well, you didn't actually own it because it wasn't really real...sorry."

Wal-Mart's suggestion? Burn it to a CD, that way you'll have it even if after we take your official ownership away. BURN IT TO A CD! I thought the whole point was that we weren't using those clunky petro-disks anymore!

What I'm afraid of is that DRM will effectively remove ownership from non-physical media. Either we will rent the right to access everything for a certain monthly price (already working well for Microsoft) or rent out our eyeballs for the right to watch it (working just fine at

But if we want to actually own a song or movie or television show, we will need to buy the real-life, made-of-petroleum, shipped-across-the-world, physical disk. Either that, or we'll have to break the law...our choice. And any way you look at it, when physical media consume up to ten times more resources than non-physical media, DRM isn't just bad for consumers, it's bad for the planet.

Original here

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