You are not a pirate

27 February 2007

Via Boing Boing comes this piece by Eric Flint on DRM.

In the real world, criminals do not do everything in a criminal manner. Whatever you or I think of their morals, they are just as capable as anyone else of gauging an enterprise from the standpoint of its cost-effectiveness.

Fair enough. But what’s one example of this criminal enterprising mentality?

Pirates rob bullion ships, they don’t rob grain ships.

Don’t they? Oh yes they do.

Pirates Hijack Aid Ship Off Somali Coast

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Pirates hijacked a cargo ship delivering U.N. food aid to northeastern Somalia on Sunday – at least the second time in recent years that a vessel contracted to the United Nations has been hijacked off the country’s dangerous coast.

And they do it for economic reasons, just like those that Flint lays out – in a warzone such as Somalia where food supplies are limited, those controlling the food supply lines will be the ones with the most economic leverage. Grain becomes as attractive as gold.

It’s a pity. Flint’s central point is correct – that an expensive product of limited quality and usability, i.e. DRM, will mean people will inevitably be driven to find better quality and cheaper (to the point of being free) alternatives, and so DRM becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, crippling the product more and more with restrictions. But his message is let down by an insistence on a crappy real-world pirate analogy; rather than bandy about terrible metaphors (which is what the pro-DRM lobby are very fond of doing) he should just let the arguments sing for themselves.


2 Responses

Thanks for writing this so I didn’t have to – that line screamed at me as soon as I read it, too. More than being just a bad argument to make, it shows a worrying failure to give even the slightest thought to the real world when formulating anti-DRM arguments; the sort of mind-set that says something like that without pausing to think “hang on, is what I’m saying here demonstrably nonsense?” isn’t the kind you’re likely to trust on much at all.

LilyW

What’s this DRM (or anti-DRM) stuff all about then?

What your man is proposing sounds a lot like something I know as RCT (rational choice theory).

Now I’m not all together persuaded about the existence of RCT’s homo economicus or even HE’s use as some kind of ideal type. This means me jumping up and down at the idea of your pirates (or for that matter your average law-abiding Johnny Depp character) as engaging in purely logical and profit maximising enterprises.

But what’s really got me started is that I don’t think he has even considered that broadly different kinds of criminal behaviour (say pirates and paedophiles) might be united only by the fact that they are proscribed in law. Except for the paedophile pirates that is.