Gates Interview Part Four: Communists and DRM, Nice Work Bill

Gizmodo : Gates Interview Part Four: Communists and DRM Gizmodo is out with their final interview in a four part series with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, and in my opinion this is the best of the four.

Seeing these interviews with Bill Gates on Gizmodo adds to a tremendous amount of respect that I had already held for him in the past. I think that making himself available and participating publicly in the type of dialog that you will find in part four of the interview is refreshing, engaging and exactly the type of thing that he should be doing.

Microsoft is increasingly being seen as the bogeyman behind DRM. They have become criticized as whoring themselves out to the media industry at the expense of the consumer and end user. In this interview I think that Gates defends the intentions of Microsoft’s DRM strategy extremely well and offers up a well thought out comparison to medical records and the need to offer tools to allow people to lock or protect privacy.

Gates’ main argument rests on the fact that Microsoft is not really taking a position on what content should or should not be protected, but rather that there is nothing evil about creating software to protect any kind of computer file. His defense is that if you don’t like copy protection, 1. don’t buy protected content – it’s your choice after all and 2. if someone else (the content creator) is employing the technology don’t criticize Microsoft for creating the technology. It boils down to the old don’t shoot the messenger plea.

I have to say that I do tend to agree a bit with Bill and also have a much better understanding behind his thinking as it relates to DRM.

The other thing that Bill Gates seems to recognize is that in the end DRM will not be the panacea for media piracy. Rather he compares DRM to speedbumps.

“DRM is just like a speed bump that reminds you whether you’re staying within the scope of rights that you have or you don’t. So you don’t start with DRM. That’s like saying, ‘Do you believe in speed bumps?’ You have to say, ‘Should people drive at 80mph in parking lots?’ If you think they should, then of course you don’t like speed bumps.”

I think this is a good analogy because although DRM might slow people down what we must ultimately realize is that no one, try as they might, ultimately can control sound and light waves. To this extent you can make it difficult for me to convert a song played on my PC or stereo to a transferable totally restrictive free file, but in the end though any number of methods that song can always be rerecorded in a DRM free format and redistributed. In the same way, even if speedbumps are there, and they may work for 98% of the people, if one really wants to speed they still can.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree, but I don’t think many people who read Gizmodo and believe DRM is bad is smart enough to understand that. Because the question about transcoding was very stupid. The Gizmodo guy thinks converting from one file format to another is somewhat related with DRM without thinking about why and how. I mean, if transcoding doesn’t add any DRM itself, how the hell does the guy thinks that it has anything to do with the DRM. There is absolutely no thought process going on there. Speed Bump story is very nice and smart, but understanding it requires more brain power than understanding that transcoding has nothing to do with DRM.