Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Leeway

407 words

David Weinberger writes on the importance of leeway in his newsletter. Using a couple of examples he points out that being able to bend the rules slightly on occasion is a very important element of people living together and goes on to say that machine controlled rights - or even machine enforced laws - will not allow for such tolerance as machines cannot distinguish where it is appropriate and where it isn't. He concludes that this poses a big problem for DRM if it is supposed to be accepted by both the rights' owners and the consumers.

I found it interesting to read about this as I had thought along similar lines a few years ago. Back then, it probably hadn't heard about the DRM stuff at all, so didn't consider this example. I was wondering, why the behaviour of large companies frequently feels bad although being perfectly legal (well, let's for simplicity's sake assume it is). My conclusion back then was that while in real life we have all kinds of rights, we never fully exhaust them. They're just there in case we use it. Contrary to that, businesses seem to have the tendency to fully exercise all their rights in order to maximise profits. The same goes for people who legally cheat their way out of paying taxes.

My conclusion was that when it comes to money, people living the profit-maximising paradigm like sticking to the law literally, rather than to it's spirit. I don't think this is an appropriate way of living together. The rules we have for living together seem to be relaxed enough to allow for a certain variation of the desired behaviour - but this is not meant to be exercised on a regular basis.

legal a. [...] 4. lawful [...]
legitimate a. [...] 2. lawful, proper, regular, conforming to standard type [...] 4. logically admissible [...]
(The Concise Oxford Dictionary)

So, while it may not be without faults, I don't think technology is the main problem here - it's rather the mainly profit-driven ambition to exercise one's rights fully.

Actually I think that David might come to the same conclusions cosidering that a few paragraphs above the bit on leeway he points out that "Technology is policy". And of course implementing DRM is a policy decision (implying that whoever makes it doesn't give a damn about the consumer having a certain comfort, let alone leeway) rather than a technical problem.

October 30, 2002, 1:03

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