Home Blog

DRM and the Open Web

February 14, 2017

I’m not sure DRM are such a bad thing for the web.

I came accross this tweet yesterday and it got me thinking.

I’ll readily admit that I haven’t looked that much into the arguments of anti-DRM folks, but they seem to be mostly stances on principles that the web needs to remain open, and DRMs are a step in the wrong direction. Here’s a general overview of the issue, but you can also refer to the tweet above for more.

And I get that; I understand as much as the next person that an open web is better, and that if it wasn’t open to begin with it probably wouldn’t be what it is now. But we can’t ignore the Money Problem.

Until there’s a universal basic income or something along those lines, making things requires money. And if, as a creator, you can’t get paid… you won’t make any more of these things. The hard problem is right there: force the web to be completely open, and monetization remains a hard problem that few can solve.
And look at how things are going with that right now: we have a gigantic ad problem on our hands (both in terms of privacy and performance) and more and more clickbait, shitty content. It’s a problem that the web doesn’t really address, where other ideas make it central. Rule 9 of Project Xanadu for example states:

Every document can contain a royalty mechanism at any desired degree of granularity to ensure payment on any portion accessed, including virtual copies of all or part of the document.

Having DRM offers and alternative. I don’t think it’s a very good one, but hey, for some content, it might be the right fit. Let the market experiment with it, see how it goes. We already have proprietary DRM; we have paywalls; patronage is taking off like crazy; we’re experimenting with micro-payments. None of these has ruined the web, I think we’re safe making DRM an official experiment too.

I don't host a comment system, so maybe tweet them or something.