When the coffee machine refuses you

Digital RIghts Management. It’s a term designed to put you to sleep and make you ignore what is happening around you. Wikipedia says: Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a class of technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content and devices after sale. It’s most common on digital products but things are getting more interesting and we should be paying more attention.

The DRM chair was a fun way of demonstrating the destructive elements involved in applying DRM – especially outside the world of software. The chair would self destruct after being used 8 times. This was a perfect illustration of the way in which technology can be used to hobble the things we surround ourselves with. It was a thoughtful, illustrative mix of art, design and political commentary. It wasn’t supposed to be an instruction manual…

DRM CHAIR from Thibault Brevet on Vimeo.
In Why Copyrighted Coffee May Cripple the Internet of Things Marcus Wohlsen explains how Green Mountain Coffee is adding DRM to its Keurig machines

…CEO Brian Kelley says its new coffee makers will include technology that prevents people from using pods from other companies. The approach has been compared to DRM restrictions that limit the sharing of digital music and video online. But more than just curbing your coffee choices, Green Mountain’s protections portend the kind of closed system that could gut the early promise of the Internet of Things — a promise that hinges on a broad network of digital, connected devices remaking the everyday world.

Cory Doctorow comments

I think Keurig might just be that stupid, greedy company. The reason they’re adding “DRM” to their coffee pods is that they don’t think that they make the obviously best product at the best price, but want to be able to force their customers to buy from them anyway. So when, inevitably, their system is cracked by a competitor who puts better coffee at a lower price into the pods, Keurig strikes me as the kind of company that might just sue.

This is just coffee. Not even particularly interesting coffee but what’s interesting is where we are heading. It is now easy and affordable enough for a seller of coffee to think about DRM. To limit consumers ability to change products, to buy a more affordable or better tasting brand. If it’s cheap enough to do this stupidity with coffee? Why would we imagine a world where this does not happen with everything else? Image a future where the spices you have will not blend with your lunch because they are sold by different corporations.

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