cory_doctorow's picture
Science fiction novelist; Blogger; Technology activist; Co-editor, Boing Boing
Science fiction novelist; Blogger; Technology activist; Co-editor, Boing Boing

Copying Is What Bits Are For

I'm optimistic that the risks of anti-copying technology and the copyright wars are starting to move to the mainstream. Daily newspapers are reporting on the risks from Zune's DRM; governments and librarians are starting to question the fairy tales from the entertainment industry. The British government is poised to be the first government in history to reject a proposal to extend copyright. A Canadian MP lost her seat last year because she'd sold out the country to a bunch of entertainment dinosaurs. Four European nations opened inquiries into the competition and consumer protection issues raised by iTunes DRM. The latest WIPO treaty looks like it has died, killed by activist involvement.

Sure, the US-Russia Free Trade Agreement restores the totalitarian practice of licensing presses (Uncle Sam, bringer of liberty!) and plunges Russia back into the pre-Samizdat era. Sure, the RIAA is continuing to terrorize American families by reducing 700 of them to poverty every month. But most people, confronted with the choice between HD-DVD DRM and Blu-Ray DRM are choosing none of the above.

There is no such thing as a copy-proof bit. There aren't even copy-resistant bits. Copying is what bits are for. They will never, ever get any harder to copy.

The copyright wars are a form of contemporary Lysenkoism, a farce wherein we all pretend that copy-proof bits are a reasonable thing to expect from technology. Stalin's Lysenkoism starved millions when the ideologically correct wheat failed to grow and anyone who pointed this out was sent to dissident prison. Entertainment industry Lysenkoism is ruining lives, undermining free speech and privacy and due process, destroying foreign democracies and keeping poor countries poor.

It's about time we wised up to it—and we are.

That makes me optimistic.