Doctorow Now Spreading My Sermon

For anyone who remembers my exchange with Boing Boing ‘er Cory Doctorow (reLink), you might remember my point that instead of mindlessly hacking through DRM, consumers should simply walk away from the products that incorporate intrusive and unfair implementations of it (Note: I believe it’s possible to have a consumer-friendly form of DRM). Based on his comments, Doctorow didn’t seem to agree. From my perspective he wants to slap an over-reaching label on everything and pick popular fights. And in his fight against corporate “terrorism”, he apparently wants to play the role of president Bush: let’s not think too hard, let’s just go in guns blazing; collateral damage be damned.

Anyway, I suspect that during our exchange he found himself in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand he’s often railing against Apple’s DRM, but on the other hand it’s clear he uses – maybe even endorses – their products. In fact, wasn’t he wearing a Shuffle around his neck during some talk he gave recently? a talk which was shown online and got plenty of link love? Good advertising for a company whose DRM system he seems to hate. What’s next? A trademark-encrusted ballcap for big oil?

Well, now it seems as if he thinks walking away as I suggested is a good idea, because he’s posted (Link) excerpts from a rant by former Gizmodo editor Joel Johnson (Link) that seems to suggest that he likes what Johnson has to say. Odd. It wasn’t cool when I said those things.

So what did Johnson say? Well, compare and contrast his words with mine:

Johnson:And you guys just ate it up. Kept buying shitty phones and broken media devices green and dripping with DRM. … Stop buying this crap. Just stop it. You don’t need it. … Stop buying products that serve any other master than you. … Get it together: every single one of these consumer electronics companies should be approached as the enemy. They work for us.

My words to Cory:And I’m also saying that if someone doesn’t like it, they should turn their back on the product … My stance is, imo, more anti-corporate than people who pirate; more anti-corporate than you. We live in an age where Attention has value (Boing Boing being a good example). People downloading music and movies are getting content that costs nothing to reproduce, but which has power that can be leveraged in other ways. The most anti-corporate stance I can take, is to ignore a company’s product entirely. And that’s what I do. … So while you prefer to encourage DRM-hacking (which potentially adversely impacts the creators of the music), I encourage people to simply walk away from Apple’s products. … If there are apologists out there, it’s the one’s who claim to take issue with Apple’s practices yet continue to buy their equipment; they’re apologizing with their purchase. Would that be a Mac you’re using, Cory? Are there NO other options?

Looks to me like Johnson and I are largely in agreement. We’re basically preaching the same thing.

Now one might suppose that Doctorow’s finally heard the message, looked in the mirror and not liked what he saw. Or one might think that he’s just linking to an inspired, blog-worthy and Digg-able post to help keep the Boing Boing presses rolling… which of course brings in some ad revenue bacon. But has he truly changed his ways? I doubt it.

2 thoughts on “Doctorow Now Spreading My Sermon

  1. That’s a position that I’ve been trying to evangelise for a while myself on the matter of software – if you download a cracked version of Word, you perpetuate Word as a standard – but I would say that Johnson is really attacking mindless neophiliac consumerism (on the part of the readers) and lazy unquestioning puff repetition (on the part of the journalists). The DRM bit is more there as an illustration – people buying things which are clearly crippled to begin with, and then downloading things to make them better, is just another indication that the consumers aren’t properly discriminating at all.

  2. I agree. I’m not sufficiently familiar with Johnson or the Gizmodo community to do anything more than note that Doctorow is himself guilty of buying “‘chromed turds’ that are broken, DRMed, overhyped, and useless.”

    As for people “properly discriminating”, that gets to my beef with him not using his over-sized soapbox to tell the *whole* truth. Like you said, cracked versions of software – just like pirated/”shared” content – just plays into corporate hands in the long term. But people don’t think long term. We’re a “gotta have it now” world; too busy to notice that a Pirate Bay splinter group somehow has money to go island shopping. Gee, where *do* they get their money? Money trees?

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