December 3, 2020

Grimmelmann on the Berkeley DRM Conference

James Grimmelmann at LawMeme offers a typically insightful and entertaining summary of the recent Berkeley DRM Conference. Here’s my favorite part:

And thus, the sixty-four dollar question: Is any of this [DRM technology] really going to work? The question tends to come up about once per panel; most of the panelists do their best to avoid dealing with it. The techies are split. The ones who go to great pains to say that they don’t speak for their companies say “no, DRM is a pipe dream.” The ones who don’t include these disclaimers either avoid the question or say “well, we’re doing our best.” The content industry reps treat effective DRM as almost a foregone conclusion. It must exist, because if it doesn’t, well, that would be too horrible a future to contemplate.

The lawyers in attendance, strangely enough, don’t seem to care whether DRM can work. I would have thought that the technical feasibility of effective mass-market DRM was the critical threshold question, but apparently not. I suppose it’s because they’re so accustomed to speaking in hypotheticals.