The fair use debate is important, but it is not the only problem with DRM. Equally important, but thus far largely overlooked, is the impact on user-innovation and on the permitted development of media technology. Because DRM systems, by design and contract, must be hardened against user-modification, they foreclose a whole class of technology and mode of development. Moreover, this problem is distinct from that of fair use. Even if we could wave a magic wand and fully accomodate fair use in DRM, the incompatibility with user-innovation would persist, because it stems from a different and deeper aspect of the DRM system. Even the “fairest” DRM systems on the market today are unfair to the developers of new technology.
Anticircumvention law, backing TPMs [Trusted Platform Modules] and robustness rules, is fundamentally incompatible with deep-level user innovation…
Here is Wendy’s “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em” paragraph:
First I briefly review the history and existing academic debates around DRM to consider why they have so overlooked the user-innovation impacts. The next sections examine the law and technology of digital rights management, particularly the interaction of statutory law, technological measures, and the contractual conditions generally attached to them. I focus particularly on the “robustness rules” in licenses at at this inter- section. I then introduce the rich literature on disruptive technology and user innovation, to argue that these copyright-driven constraints significantly harm cultural and technological development and user autonomy. I conclude that the mode-of-development tax is too high a price to pay for imperfect copyright protection.