Microsoft Research DRM talk
By Cory Doctorow

Presented by

Public Domain Books


This talk was originally given to Microsoft’s Research Group and other interested parties from within the company at their Redmond offices on June 17, 2004.


Greetings fellow pirates! Arrrrr!

I’m here today to talk to you about copyright, technology and DRM, I work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation on copyright stuff (mostly), and I live in London. I’m not a lawyer – I’m a kind of mouthpiece/activist type, though occasionally they shave me and stuff me into my Bar Mitzvah suit and send me to a standards body or the UN to stir up trouble. I spend about three weeks a month on the road doing completely weird stuff like going to Microsoft to talk about DRM.

I lead a double life: I’m also a science fiction writer. That means I’ve got a dog in this fight, because I’ve been dreaming of making my living from writing since I was 12 years old. Admittedly, my IP-based biz isn’t as big as yours, but I guarantee you that it’s every bit as important to me as yours is to you.

Here’s what I’m here to convince you of:

  1. That DRM systems don’t work

  2. That DRM systems are bad for society

  3. That DRM systems are bad for business

  4. That DRM systems are bad for artists

  5. That DRM is a bad business-move for MSFT

It’s a big brief, this talk. Microsoft has sunk a lot of capital into DRM systems, and spent a lot of time sending folks like Martha and Brian and Peter around to various smoke-filled rooms to make sure that Microsoft DRM finds a hospitable home in the future world. Companies like Microsoft steer like old Buicks, and this issue has a lot of forward momentum that will be hard to soak up without driving the engine block back into the driver’s compartment. At best I think that Microsoft might convert some of that momentum on DRM into angular momentum, and in so doing, save all our asses.

Let’s dive into it.


Introduction  •  1. DRM systems don’t work  •  2. DRM systems are bad for society  •  3. DRM systems are bad for biz  •  4. DRM systems are bad for artists  •  5. DRM is a bad business-move for MSFT  •  Copyright