Don Marti

Fri 17 Jun 2005 12:41:23 AM PDT

Have a Coke and a Smile

How did I get to be the optimist here?

"Marti makes a pretty good case that DRM is more trouble than it is worth, and that opening up technology rather than locking it down actually presents more benefits for tech companies:" (Policy Alchemist)

"Linux Journal has no time for such elaborate pessimism. DRM is doomed he thinks because of the free market. It doesn't make good business sense to develop it or invest in it." (Tim Hardy)

I can come up with lots of good reasons for IT customers not to deploy DRM, and reasons for companies not to participate in DRM-ized content schemes. But even though DRM is awfully counterproductive, and works against the interests of customers and most copyright holders and IT vendors, it's unfortunately still possible for the political process to give DRM a foothold it doesn't deserve.

Politicians do wasteful things in order to please special interests all the time. Sugar quotas are one commonly-cited example. Archer Daniels Midland doesn't sell corn sweeteners in the US because it makes economic sense to turn corn into a sugar substitute. Corn sweeteners sell in the US because our government distorts the price of sugar with quotas—in violation of WTO rules. Sugar outside the US costs less than a dime a pound. ADM prices its sweeteners to beat the US sugar price, but they're not competitive with sugar where the quota system doesn't apply.

Do a Google search for "world sugar price" and you'll get the ADM-backed "American Sugar Alliance" explaining that the world sugar price is a thinly-traded "myth" and the US's sugar policy is really good for sugar eaters.

But the same products that contain corn sweeteners here are made with genuine sugar in other countries. Mexican Coca-Cola tastes better because the bottlers there still use real sugar, as bottlers in the US did until some time in the 1980s. Some San Francisco taquerias have it, in the glass bottles.

In a country where you have to know where to go to score a real Coca-Cola because some politically well-connected company knows how to distort markets, I'm still concerned about politically-driven DRM mandates messing up the market.