Tarleton Gillespie is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University and a fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. His recent book, Wired Shut: copyright and the shape of digital culture (MIT Press, 2007) may appeal more to students of media and communications, historians, legal scholars, and to sociologists of culture and technology than to technologists and entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, those with an interest in copyright, Digital Rights Management (DRM) and related topics should welcome Gillespie’s book as a timely and useful contribution to the field.
Although Wired Shut is an important analysis of copyright and DRM, I find two problems with Gillespie's arguments: one involving copyright and contract law, Fair Use, and business models; the other involving the role of encryption in DRM.
First, what is Digital Rights Management? I define DRM as “the association of rules governing use and use consequences (e.g., payment, audit information, etc.) with digital information of all kinds and the enforcement of these rules at a distance in time and space.” I’ll return to this definition.
Gillespie's basic argument is that attempts to impose controls on the use and/or distribution of copyrighted works through technical means are contrary to the societal goals of protecting creators and their works while at the same time fostering innovation and creativity.