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September 13, 2005

Framing DRM

Kevin Marks uses Lakovian frames* to explain what's wrong with DRM to five different audiences, of which the first two:

Computer Users: DRM turns your computer against you
I know sometimes it seems like your computer has it's own agenda, when it refuses to print or copy or find your documents. DRM does this on purpose. It is designed to stop you copying and pasting, printing and sharing things. I don't think you want this.

Computer Scientists: DRM will fail through emulation
One of the basic precepts of Computer Science is the Church-Turing thesis, which shows that any computer can emulate any other one. This is not theory, but something we all use every day, whether it is Java virtual machines, or CPU's emulating older ones for software compatibility.

The corollary of this is that code can never really know where it is running. For a rock solid example, look at MAME, the Multi-Arcade Machine Emulator, that runs almost any video game from the last 30 years. The games think you have paid a quarter when you press the '5' key.

I like this sort of comparative re-framing of debates. It provides for a variety of different viewpoints, acknowledges that there's more than one way to think about these issues and allows you to hit one very big bird many times with several well-framed stones.

* 'Frames' are a way of presenting information or rhetoric that is sympathetic to a specific audience's paradigm. George Lakoff applied frames to political communications thus illuminating how language is used by politicians to very subtly reinforce their point.

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