The short definition of DRM would be that it's different ways of making sure copyrights are not infringed. Like, say, by online pirates. These ways can be a CD that can't be played in a computer (and the content thus cannot be converted into MP3's), or a computer game that only works when connected to certain servers (which, in theory, only accepts legit users). The general thrust of it is to build in obstacles into the usability of things, so they can only be used in some ways and not others.
The brutal definition would be that it is about selling intentionally crippled products.
The second biggest problem with DRM is of course that those who are tech savvy can break through the so called protection in about five minutes. And after those five minutes, whatever was supposed to be protected is now up for grabs on the Pirate Bay or wherever. Which is the exact opposite of what the whole purpose of DRM is.
The biggest problem is that these things continue to be broken, even when the purpose for them being broken is nulled. Which means that those honest consumers who want to listen to a CD in their computer can't do that, and that you have to watch those unskippable anti-piracy ads every time you load that DVD into the player.
Those who pirate the movie don't have to put up with such bullshit. And when the pirated version is better that the legit copy, then it's not the pirated version that's the inferior one.
In no other industry would this type of practice be tolerated. What if IKEA sold kitchen tables where one leg was missing, stating that someone might copy the design if they gave you the full version? No one would take that seriously, and the PR department would have to expand rapidly in order to cope with the newfound customer interest. But when it comes to culture, this same course of action is suddenly okay - in fact, it is so okay that no one even notices that no one notices anymore.
The comparison to IKEA won't work if we take it too far, though. Not including a table leg per table would, after all, result in a lot of legs not shipped out, which can be translated into saved money. When it comes to DRM, though, it's not something removed. It's something added. And at a cost, at that. Which is the opposite of saving money, and the one who has to pay for this is you, the consumer. Every time you buy their broken products.
As you can see, DRM is a scourge that needs to be purged. It makes things more expensive than they need to be, they make them harder to use, and they do it without a good reason.
Common sense dictates that we stop this madness at once. For the benefit of everyone in general, and the honest consumer in particular.
Originally published February 10, 2012