June 21, 2006

Anti-DRM campaign targets the RIAA

Author: Bruce Byfield

The Defective By Design anti-Digital Rights Management (DRM) campaign is urging supporters to participate in a day of action on Friday, June 23. This time, supporters are being asked to call the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and similar organizations around the world to complain about DRM. After making the call, supporters will have the chance to share the results of their call with other participants.

"The way we see it," says Defective by Design manager Gregory Heller, the first two actions in the campaign, "targeted the first immediate sources of DRM that consumers would experience." The first event targeted Microsoft during WinHEC, and the second event took aim at Apple. In just a few weeks' time, the campaign has grown from zero to almost 3,000 registered supporters. Friday's action, he says, is aimed "at the top of the chain."

"This step is going after one of the driving forces behind the spread of DRM technology," Heller says. "We intend to drive the message home that consumers don't want DRM. We're taking it the source."

However, Heller is quick to add, the RIAA and similar organizations are "not the only ones responsible. The hardware manufacturers and the online retailers of music are not without blame here. They like to say, 'We have to do X, Y, and Z because the RIAA says we have to,' but I think we all know that's kind of a straw horse."

What is unique about the event, Heller says, is that the RIAA will be hearing directly from the users it affects. "The RIAA is insulated in the sense that it doesn't have customers. Consumers don't have a relationship with the RIAA; they have a relation with Windows, with Apple and iTunes. [The RIAA] is not accountable to anyone, at least certainly not to the end-user, but we're going to send a message loud and clear that the end-user is not happy with what they're doing."

Contact information for the RIAA and other organizations will be posted Friday on the Defective by Design Web site. According to Heller, information will be available for participants in Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

After making the call, Heller says, "We're going to be asking the people who participate in this action to let us know the results of the call. On Friday, we'll have a system on the Web site set up for the people who've participated to post a message about who they called, what the response was, and what they said. We'll then be looking at those responses and providing some aggregate numbers for the public."

Heller attributes the idea of posting responses to activist sites such as MoveOn and TrueMajority. "We figure it would be fun to hear what people at the RIAA and other organizations are saying," he adds.

"We don't know how the RIAA will respond," Heller admits. "We hope that they will hear what people are saying, and that they take this as the feedback and criticism that it really is. But we suppose that there's a chance that people on the other end of the telephone may perhaps respond in an inappropriate way, and we'd certainly like to know if that's how the RIAA treats the end user."

"I imagine that at some point [the RIAA phone system] might switch over to just receiving voice mails," Heller says, "but we see a value in having the RIAA feeling an impact. They've insulated themselves in a lot of ways, and we just think that they should feel some impact for their actions."

More details are available on the Defective By Design web site. The page for the action also includes a form for notifying friends of the event.

Bruce Byfield is a course designer and instructor, and a computer journalist who writes regularly for NewsForge, Linux.com, and IT Manager's Journal.

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