This morning, my partner and I were chatting when he mentioned a new patent Apple applied for to disable recording functions on their devices at concerts and theaters. This article gives you a brief overview. I had been waffling between upgrading to a Droid or an iPhone, but after reading this I may have my decision made for me! The patent is still being processed, from what I understand, and no announcement has yet been made as to whether it will be included on future iterations of the iPhone, but the fact that it was applied for raises some important issues for me. I posted a link to the article in a tweet, and in minutes had a number of retweets and responses that sparked a vibrant discussion about DRM (digital rights management) in a number of devices and what our role is in encouraging producers (like Apple) to reduce restrictions.
Why I care (and why I think others should too):
1. Placing further restrictions on technology that is already very restrictive (unless of course you use the device the way Apple wants) is problematic because it hampers creativity and customization. This new patent application is part of a long string of restrictive activities designed to keep us using products within the confines of manufacturer intention.
2. To me, this isn’t just about pirating. Honestly, I can think of a million things I’d rather do than watch someone’s homespun iPhone recording of a concert on YouTube. I get that concert promoters and filmmakers don’t want pirated copies of their products out there in the big wide world, but I feel like that’s going to happen no matter what. My concern with this is that this technology could be deployed for more nefarious purposes later on. I don’t think that our friends at Apple have any intention of restricting coverage of political protests or other activities, but since the technology uses a transmission, it seems like there’s the potential risk that someone who might be interested in disabling recording devices could hijack that transmission technology (that’s just speculation, of course, but I would be interested to know what guards Apple has in place to prevent such activities.)
3. Apple makes products that have great interfaces and are easy to use (I’m typing this on a Mac, so I can attest!) BUT, making such awesome products doesn’t mean Apple should ignore users’ needs for the sake of making an extra buck. I love my Mac, but I keep wondering when (or if) those restrictions will come back to bite Apple as users demand more freedom with their products and content. This patent indicates that company loyalty lies more with agreements with other large, wealthy entities (movie studios, concert production folk, etc) than with customers. I know this isn’t something that Apple does exclusively, but I do like to give my support to companies that at least feign interest in consumer needs.
The #AppleDRM conversation
We’re having a lovely (and ongoing) conversation via Twitter about the implications of this patent and about DRM in general. The Kindle has come up a few times, although from what we (myself, @cleighwalters, @JosephFM, @lhrtobos, and @dianasymons) understand Amazon is moving towards being less restrictive as it competes with Apple. There have been discussions of Apple products in general and how they compare (as far as DRM is concerned) with others (i.e. iTunes vs Amazon Cloud Player.) There are a couple big take-aways here:
These discussions have been absolutely incredible (most are under the #AppleDRM hashtag, although others aren’t but will be added on here later today,) and have resulted into us putting our heads together and deciding a possible way to be part of the solution. We’ve decided that combining the skill sets of a number of different librarians/info pros can result in an awesome user guide! Courtney Walters is making a Google Doc (link to be placed here when it’s available) on which we can all share links, resources, and tips for effectively conducting consumer research. Then, the guide will be made publicly available online (probably as a WordPress page) and will be a (at least somewhat) exhaustive resource that librarians can share with their patrons to help them make more informed choices. More information to be added here as it becomes available!
UPDATE 11:34 AM: Courtney has made the Google Doc public so all can add their insights. It’s available here. All relevant info that’s put into the doc will eventually be compiled into a website/LibGuide for library users.
UPDATE 11:41 AM: I’ve created a Twapper Keeper archive for all #AppleDRM tweets. I just made it, so it will take a few minutes to populate, but should fill up pretty quickly. I’d love other folks to participate in #AppleDRM discussions too–just make sure you use the hashtag so we can all see your insights!
UPDATE 11:48 AM: Here are screen shots of our discussions prior to adding the #AppleDRM hashtag. This was my original tweet:
BookishJulia: Apple applies for patent to restrict recording in movies and music venues http://bit.ly/kkzldB
The tweets that follow are in ascending order (oldest first.) It’s a bit annoying to read in an archive, but I’m a tad time-crunched so it will do for now!
UPDATE 1:35 PM: I have been hoping to collect other articles about this patent, so if you see any, please leave links in the comments so we can co-create a curated list! Here is one from the NY Times, with thanks to LIS News.
UPDATE June 17th: The Google Doc has been filling up with some awesome insight, and Courtney Walters has set up a WordPress site where all of that lovely info can be organized in a more user-friendly way. Check it out here: http://librarygadgets.wordpress.com/ and remember to keep adding your thoughts to the Google Doc!