Digital Rights Manag…, er, obliteration

An often-overlooked downside of DRM. This from a column by Oren Sreebny of the University of Washington:

It’s very important to universities that the recorded record of human history remain accessible to students, teachers, and researchers – and remain accessible for the long run. Who’s willing to bet that we’ll have the tools to read files encoded with Windows Plays For Sure (speaking of irony) a hundred years from now? Chances are good we’ll still be able to play mp3 files then. The industry’s current drive to lock that content away in proprietary formats is a pressing matter of concern to all of us. We are very interested in new distributors (like Audio Lunchbox and Mindawn) that are using open formats such as ogg vorbis and flac as well as mp3.

Update: Thoughtful email from Bill Thompson, pointing out that I missed

one important point, which is that none of the proprietary schemes are in fact very good, and that’s why they have to be protected by laws like the DMCA/EU Copyright Directive. I doubt that archivists in a hundred years will respect (or even be aware of) these laws just as we disregard the laws which would stop us plundering ancient burial grounds or reprinting sacred texts. So unless someone comes up with an unbreakable DRM scheme we should be ok – just as long as we have enough hackers working in the area :-)