Column: DRM Needs To Be Banned Because It's Toxic

With the European Greens’ adoption of the Pirate perspective on the copyright monopoly, I have received a few questions from entrepreneurs, the copyright industry lobby, and libertarians why we want to ban Digital Restrictions Management. It’s a good question that deserves a good answer.

First of all, DRM is a type of fraud that robs citizens of their lawful rights. The copyright monopoly is chock full of exceptions that allow copying in many circumstances; DRM takes no notice of this whatsoever but establishes and enforces a superset of restrictions that goes well above and beyond those of the law. Therefore, to begin with, a ban on DRM can be seen as a form of consumer protection.

Read the full column over at TorrentFreak >>.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Travis McCrea

    As a free speech activist, and a person who finds software development a form of speech, I would like to amend this idea to this:
    DRM should not be something that is protected by law, but not banned. Consumers, however, should have the right to know what they are buying.

    I hate DRM as much as the next guy, but you cannot disallow for someone to write code. This would also block just the idea of creating DRM systems, and just as some coders like to break DRM for education, others like to create it for the same reason.

    On the topic of DRM products that you buy, it *COULD* be a law that the website specifically lists the type of DRM used, before you purchase it. This way the consumer knows what they are getting.

    1. Per Wigren

      I fully agree with this and I’m a member of the Pirate Party since the first day. I dislike DRM on consumer products very much but there are places where DRM-like technologies makes sense.

      It would be good enough to just make DRM-breaking (for personal use) legal and also the software and tools to do it. Explicitly legal, not some gray area it-isn’t-tried-yet-legal or we-use-some-extreme-workarounds-to-squeeze-through-some-loopholes-legal.

      What could be illegal, though is things like requiring a network connection to open a media file unless it’s explicitly sold as a “stream” in the first place. Any for-money software or media that requires an internet connection to check the DRM and won’t start if it can’t find its servers should be regarded as broken.

      1. -

        How do you intend to break DRM that’s baked into your CPU?

        1. PiratGurra

          How could you possible “build in” DRM into a CPU?

          1. Scary Devil Monastery

            He’s probably thinking of Sandy Bridge with a skew towards the old concept of “trusted computing”.

            I.e. basically bake hardwired network card functionality into your integrated CPU’s/Motherboards.

            Of course as can be seen by China’s “Green Dam” project, both the manufacturing industry and consumers are understandably leery of such. Imagine something like the SONY PS3 hack being able to grant system privilege over any other private computer with internet access…

          2. -

            Like it’s said already, I mean Sandy Bridge. But also PS3 (which wasn’t hacked until a lucky key leak 4 years from launch) and various mobile devices.

  2. David Xanatos

    I would like to suggest a slightly different approach to the issue.
    DRM should be simply legally considered a product defect, meaning that within a curtail time set by law (in case of Germany and Austria 2 years) the reseller is obliged by law to take a defective product back or provide a intact unit (without DRM).
    Those DRM is not exactly illegal, but if you can get your full money back after 2 years of fun its a really strong intensive not to sell DRM contaminated products.

    1. Jheral

      I suppose the problem with that is that when you buy software, you don’t by a product; you buy a license to use the software, rather than the software itself (at least, I’m sure that people will argue for that in order to get out of having to refund anyone).

      1. Rick Falkvinge

        This is another legal abomination. Our consumer laws say that you can only buy two things: goods or services. By legalesing software as “licensing”, meaning neither, the copyright industry is trying to evade consumer protection laws that have taken decades to get in place.

        That is another thing that just makes me see red.

      2. David Xanatos

        I don’t think so, buying software is I would say like getting a subcontractor to do something for you, for example fixing your roof, in which case you have some time as with physical products within which he has to guaranty for his work. When the roof collapses or you notice that he used asbestos or so you can make him repair the problem or refund you.

        And well DRM in a program should be handled as asbestos in a roof, meaning it has to be removed or money back.

  3. -

    “If people want to buy DRM-defective goods which are clearly declared to be so”

    There is a problem with products that are clearly marked DRM-Free, while they in fact contain techincal measures to prevent users from using them freely. Some obscure companies have products like this, i.e. Microsoft (Windows from Vista on) and Intel (Sandy Bridge CPUs).

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      That, and not to forget, the declaration is usually ambiguous.

      Far better to insist on legislation which demands that the one who bundles DRM with his product is specific as to how and in what circumstances said DRM will exert control over your computer, or what adresses it will seek to contact.

      For any system administrator it’s a given pain when he’s painstakenly closed up his firewall just to discover that the latest game he installed demands he starts opening weird portholes in said firewall where an unknown application suddenly demands an encrypted connection to an unknown server where it will communicate unknown sets of data which might be a security certification – or a log of what keys you’ve pressed in order to log on to your computer, facebook page or bank.

  4. Jean-Pierre Rupp

    Right now we have patents and copyrights, and on top of this, manufacturers implement DRM. Balance of power is lost.

    I don’t agree to use more law to forbit DRM, but I’d rather push for *less* law and remove patents and copyrights. DRM will take care of itself then.

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