Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Freedom is almost always lost in small steps.

Sure, discontinuities happen in extreme cases (e.g., the WTC's destruction -> the PATRIOT Act), and when they do a lot of people notice. The more subtle losses in freedom that occur gradually (the DMCA and its progeny, for example) are harder to notice until one day you look back and say "huh, how did we get here?"

The concept of the Overton Window [1] is interesting and germane here. 20 years ago the idea that you couldn't lend a book you own to your friend or loan them the new album you just bought would have seemed insane. Over time, a gradual shift in the concept of ownership has changed the scope of the issue to the point where many people would now accept that it seems reasonable that you can't lend your books to someone else.

People at the edge of the Overton window are like our canaries in the coal mine. Gradual shifts in the window are hard to notice from the middle, but easy to notice as the "edge" passes over you. In that respect, to me RMS seems most valuable to us for precisely the reasons others call him a crackpot.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window




You articulated my opinion of rms much better than I've ever been able to. I've always called him a counterweight for the discussion.

In letting these DRM schemes take hold and become commercially acceptable, I feel that as a profession, we have failed the general populace. (I am certainly not innocent here. Although I've not developed anything, I've bought quite a few DRM'd games.)

Only a few groups (such as the FSF) have stood up and tried to raise awareness of what's going on, but it's not been enough.

Observation: I don't think the FSF's tactic of renaming everything helped (iBad, iGroan, Treacherous Computing, Digital Restrictions Management, ...), as it adds another barrier to explaining things to Joe Public. I can see what they're trying to do (make these things sound less friendly), but for the nontechnical end user it just muddies the water.


> iBad, iGroan, Treacherous Computing, Digital Restrictions Management

iBad is tacky and groan-worthy, but I think Digital Restrictions Management is quite apropos.


Digital Restrictions Management has the advantage that it isn't really a renaming, but an upgrade of the descriptiveness of the term. It isn't snotty or obviously juvenile, it is actually more accurate. It is the only expansion I use, because "Rights" is actively deceptive.


Agreed. Of the ones I listed, it's the only one that stands a chance of sounding plausible. It helps that the discussion about DRM usually refers to it by its initialism.


Are people actually more accepting of not being able to share, or is it simply the case that they can't or don't know how?

It's a pretty easy and painless gesture to lend someone a physical book for the weekend. It's a much harder gesture to lend someone your entire Kindle or iPad in order for them to access the book. Until/unless sharing features become more available, better known, and more widely used, I think we're really just seeing the effects of "I don't know how" rather than "I wouldn't."


People had no trouble "sharing" media on floppy disks (or email, etc...). The fact that it's been made (deliberately, IMHO) difficult might be part of the proximate cause for the lack of sharing, but I don't see how that refutes the original point about the Overton window: people's perception of what is "sharable" has shifted over the past 20 years.

And that's sad.


I don't dispute that sharing has been made deliberately more difficult in the digital media age, and by parties interested in maintaining -- or at least prolonging -- that difficulty. I'm not fully convinced, however, that this difficulty has actually changed consumer notions of what is, and is not, ethically sharable. I haven't seen enough data on consumer perceptions or beliefs; all the data presented so far can just as easily be explained by the difficulty of sharing in and of itself. (Note that I'm not saying perception changes won't ever happen; I'm merely saying that I don't know if they've actually happened just yet).

For the record, I am pro-sharing, and I believe that IP holders and media companies who would do their darndest to prevent sharing are incredibly short-sighted. They wring their hands about the need for (evidently magical) "viral marketing" of their material, while at the same time inherently limiting the ability of their consumers to do a lot of the peer-to-peer marketing that they used to do.


I think you're right that people simply don't know how to share, and that they probably would share if they did know how. But isn't it troubling that sharing requires some kind of special knowledge? that sharing is a "feature" to be added (or not) at the producer's whim? And isn't it troubling that people don't seem to be upset about that?


And isn't it troubling that people don't seem to be upset about that?

The fact that they're not presumably indicates that people don't lend their books to their friends all that often.

I mean, I have hundreds of books, and I've lent a couple of 'em to friends on a couple of occasions, but if I were physically incapable of doing so then I doubt it would have bothered me too much.

Paper books vs eBooks are just different products with different properties. You can read and lend paper books and use 'em as paperweights and sell 'em second hand... but you can't copy 'em, and you can't fit more than a few in your carry-on luggage. eBooks, on the other hand, you can carry around hundreds at a time, but you can't sell or lend 'em or use 'em as paperweights.


There is a very big difference between lending a paper book and sharing an electronic copy and conflating the two damages the debate. Please stop making the analogy.

Lending a paper book meant you couldn't read the book until you retrieved it from the other party. Sharing an electronic copy has no such restriction.

Pretending that the rights you had with a paper book should be the same as the rights you have with electronic copy is silly because the only similarity is the content and nothing else. The real debate is what should your rights with regard to the content actually be? And how do you protect those rights when the content goes digital?


And on that note, the Patriot Act is in the process of being extended


> many people would now accept that it seems reasonable that you can't lend your books to someone else.

Really? Some evidence for this claim would be very useful.

My (personal and anecdotal) experience is just the opposite - people seem more willing to lend out physical possessions - where they still have them. So, books, XBox games, clothes, etc - I see these things being shared all the time.


Really? Some evidence for this claim would be very useful.

How many people are boycotting the Kindle because the lending feature is broken?

How fast would I get sued if I made a magical piece of software that allowed people to lend digital music purchases to their friends in some hypothetical way exactly analogous to lending them a physical CD (i.e., only one copy ever exists)?

How fast is the RIAA lawyering up over Amazon et al offering services where I can store my music in their cloud and stream it to myself?

Really, I don't think I'm making a hugely strong claim here.


I don't know anybody that doesn't at least express regret over the fact that books on their Kindle can't be shared, and I know more than one family that shares one giant account for all their purchases as a workaround. It's definitely not something people are completely happy with, although they're not as up in arms as I'd like...


> How many people are boycotting the Kindle because the lending feature is broken?

I won't be buying one until they remove the DRM.


Admirable, but regrettably, people boycotting Kindle or any other product because of the DRM are in the minority that is easy to ignore.


> How many people are boycotting the Kindle because the lending feature is broken?

Yesterday Amazon announced they're selling more titles on Kindle than hardback and paperback put together.

> How fast would I get sued if I made a magical piece of software that allowed people to lend digital music purchases to their friends in some hypothetical way exactly analogous to lending them a physical CD (i.e., only one copy ever exists)?

What does this have to do with me asking you for some evidence that people were more accepting of the fact that they can't lend books out?

> How fast is the RIAA lawyering up over Amazon et al offering services where I can store my music in their cloud and stream it to myself?

Again, not sure what this has to do with you saying people accept that it's reasonable to not lend out books.

I think we understand different things by "evidence" - you're positing hypotheticals.

[updated to add missing not in my penultimate sentence]


> > How many people are boycotting the Kindle because the lending feature is broken?

> Yesterday Amazon announced they're selling more titles on Kindle than hardback and paperback put together.

That's his point. Not many people are boycotting the Kindle, despite its titles being less lendable than their physical counterparts. This seems like evidence to me; it's not likely that you'll find a longitudinal study of people's attitudes towards book lending over the past 50 years, but anecdotally I think it's reasonable to posit that people would have scoffed at Kindle-like lending restrictions on physical books 50 years ago (and probably still would). What sort of evidence would you require?


But you can lend - you just hand someone your Kindle. What you can't do (right now), is take a copy, send that copy to someone and be prevented from reading the .

Having said that, I clearly misunderstood his original point - I had physical items in mind when I responded.

There's an implication that we're all blissfully unaware, and one day we're going to wake up, and all the rights that matter will have been taken away from us, one imperceptible slice at a time. I pretty much disagree with this - I think the tradeoffs that are being made are deemed acceptable.

We yearn for more (the ability to share anything we want with anyone we want at any time), but we've have collectively decided to sacrifice some freedoms to gain others.


From where I'm sitting all I see is a steady erosion of personal freedoms and an ever-increasing number of behavioral mandates we have to adhere to. I invite you to point out these new found freedoms we've traded up for.


I don't think I said we traded up, but it's not like we've lost everything. Here are some freedoms (or benefits)

- freedom from physically needing to get to a bookstore - I know this sounds trivial, but there are many people who have difficulties with access

- the freedom of choice: I can still continue purchasing the physical artifacts and carry on as before

- being able to carry around hundreds or thousands of digital artifacts in incredible. I grew up with Walkmans, and having to create tapes, then moved onto carrying around CDs in cumbersome cases to go with my portable CDman.

Are these trivial freedoms? Possibly. Is my life better - certainly.


The problem is we've given up long-term benefits in exchange for short-term ones, and it's not clear where that's going to lead us.

Steam makes my life super convenient, but what happens if I move to a country with super-aggressive bandwidth caps? For that matter, I don't even know if Steam would let me access my US-bought materials from another country.

As hackers, we're used to working around the problem. The problem is that that attitude lacks foresight, and "death by a thousand cuts" can become a reality.


> For that matter, I don't even know if Steam would let me access my US-bought materials from another country.

Yes.


But don't come to Australia or you'll have to pay a fortune for your games.

Dawn of war 2: Complete Pack (Australian Steam) $99.99 http://store.steampowered.com/app/56437/?cc=au

Dawn of war 2: Complete Pack (United States Steam) $59.99 http://store.steampowered.com/app/56437/?cc=us

Please note: The currency in both of these “products” is identical.


I think you're confusing freedom with convenience. This seems to be a common mistake. In my experience the two are frequently mutually exclusive. Here's an example from my personal life:

I like to rock climb on the weekends. Two of my favorite climbing destinations (I like them both for different reasons) have wildly different characteristics.

One is a top-roping area managed by the State Park Service and the management plan and local rock quality conspire to force you to utilize specific pre-planned routes. There are well-maintained trails and a parking lot up top. This is insanely convenient as you can just walk up, clip into anchors at the top of the crag, drop a rope, and you're in business. The convenience factor makes this a really great spot if you're taking out a group of inexperienced folks for their first time climbing. That's convenience.

The second area (in another state park) has no anchors of any kind. Parking is at the bottom a couple miles from the crag and to get to any of the climbs you're looking at a 45 minute hike uphill weighed down with a bunch of gear. The rock is also a lot taller here so toproping isn't an option, everything has to be lead from the ground up, on gear, with no pre-placed protection available. In non-climber terms this means you have to hang your ass out on the line and risk taking a fall on every climb you do there. You are totally free to pick any section of rock that suits your fancy, but this also means you have to be able to assess risk and know what you're about. That's freedom.


What you can't do (right now), is take a copy, send that copy to someone and be prevented from reading the

I thought you could do exactly that, if the author allows it, for something like 14 days. But there is a difference here: the author has the say on that (for now, anyway).


Handing someone my Kindle is like lending my whole bookshelf when someone asked a pocketbook.


then buy another kindle.


And if I want to lend more than one book at a time, I would need to buy even more Kindles? Very scalable idea...


Even bits on physical media are slowly being made un-lendable.

EA's "Project Ten Dollar" is an attack at the used games market, and a side affect of this is that you can't lend the whole game to a friend.

All Steam games require you to have steam installed, and the physical CD is just a convenience. Once you've installed the game, you might as well throw the CD away.

people seem more willing to lend out physical possessions - where they still have them

Doesn't that bolster the original claim "many people would now accept that it seems reasonable that you can't lend your books to someone else."? As more and more media moves to digital distribution, the concept of lending is entirely foreign.


First, this is not a loss of freedom. You are free not to buy products, and people are free to write and distribute their work without compensation. Thanks to technology, publishers and distributers are now only relevant for works where the author wants to be paid. Otherwise they would just push a PDF onto their website and you can share it all you want.

Second, if consumers could buy books at 10% of the price on the condition that they not loan them to others, this is not a loss of freedom. It's a good deal.

Third, when you purchase a book, electronic or not, you are not purchasing the global distribution rights for the book. If that's what you want, it's available for a price I'm sure.

Fourth, I feel far more free to access books and information than I did before ebooks. My mother can loan me a book across the country without Fedex. For $10 (less than the price of Fedex'ing that book) I can permanently own a copy of that or nearly any book instantly, anywhere, anytime. I can carry all my books around with me all of the time. I call that freedom.

Fifth, let's not forget Amazon's library program! (http://content.usatoday.com/communities/technologylive/post/...)

This paranoia is completely unfounded and melodramatic. Take off your tin hats!


Technology is supposed to push humanity forward, make possible the things that once were impossible. The developments in printing made it possible for us, the common people, to own books in the first place. But now technology is also used to limit our use of the books that we own, and I wouldn't call that "a good deal".

I recognise the problems in free distribution of digital goods, author compensations beeing the top one in my mind. But as someone already said, we tend to fix the problems with kludges rather than trying to come up with more long lasting solutions.


You don't permanently own it.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: