DRM And Copyright Legalities And Ethics

The DRM issue is one that is both frustrating and confusing.  James Frankel has published a number of his thoughts about this subject on his website: Music Technology in Education.  In his latest article: Copyright or Copywrong III he brings up many good points and considerations about using DRM in the classroom and states that using a cracked DRM file in class, even if  you own it, is illegal.

There is little room for doubting the truth of his statement in the legal sense, but the matter has again disturbed me as to the ethical nature of the problem.  Below is a comment I made on his page.  In an effort to bring this to a meaningful discussion, I am posting it here.  What are your thoughts about using DRM encoded files? What do you do when this happens to you? What are your frustrations with DRM and copyright?

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME AND SOUGHT AFTER!

Original comment below:

James,

I agree with you that that act of “cracking” a DRM encoded file is illegal but whether or not it is unethical is another problem…

DRM, at the moment, seems to be a necessary evil but I have to side with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates on this issue. If I legally have purchased the rights to enjoy an artist’s song, then it only seems fair that I should be able to play it back on whatever type of media players that are in my possession.

The restrictions of DRM encoded media files add a frustrating layer to the user’s (read “consumer” here) original purchase intent- that of freely enjoying the music which he/she has legally purchased.

I think that many of us should consider the sound advice that Bill Gates has recently offered in the public arena regarding this very issue. His short-term advice: “People should just buy a [the] CD and rip it. You are legal then.” This completely circumvents the DRM issue and puts you back in not only “ethical right”, but also the “legal right”.

Personally, unless I’m forced to buy DRM encoded music files in the future, I will always purchase the CD. I certainly don’t want to not afford the hard working musicians their proper due, but the hassle that is being created and has been created with the current way DRM schemes are implemented border on customer harassment and may be hurting the musicians in the long term.

For what it’s worth,

                   ~Joe Pisano

Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website jpisano.com.
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