Should I donate to EFF again?

As soon as Bush was re-elected, I immediately joined the EFF. Now, nearly a year later, I have to make the decision as to whether or not I should effectively re-up my membership.

Unfortunately, this is proving to be a difficult decision. While, the EFF supports a bunch of causes that I believe in strongly, they are taking a number of positions that seem disingenuous. Worse, it appears that the EFF is practicing the same fear-mongering of the likes of Fox News or CNN. That is, blowing things way out of proportion to gain more eyeballs and, hopefully, more monetary support.

I was hoping the EFF was above that.

For example, the EFF recently wrote a “layperson’s DRM guide” that says:

Imagine if Tower Records sold you a CD, but then, a few months later, knocked on your door and replaced the CD with one that you can’t play in your car. Would you still feel like you “owned” the CD? Not so much, eh?

But Apple reserves the right to change at any time what you can do with the music you purchase at the iTunes Music Store. …

Similar claims are made about the rest of the online music stores, too.

Yet, nowhere does the article mention that once you burn the music to a standard CD, it is just like any other CD. About the only difference at that point is that you can’t resell the CD.

The article also says that the various stores “restrict back-up copies”. Uh, no, I have made probably 100 back-ups of my purchased music — 100 copies.

I can only play back the music on 5 machines, but I can easily de-authorize one machine and re-authorize a new one. If a machine blows up, I can de-authorize all machines from the music store itself.

I could go on. All in all, the article is mostly a series of extreme claims about “horrendously limiting” tracks purchased or rented (in the case of Napster) from the stores are compared to regular CDs.

Except, wait a second, most people don’t find them that limiting! If consumer’s found purchasing music online to be so grossly limiting, then Apple would not have sold 1/2 of a billion songs online.

I have been a rabid purchaser of music for many many years. I have over 2,500 CDs in my collection. My only complaint with the iTunes music store is that it is only 128kbit/sec AAC — I can hear the difference on certain kinds of music. Beyond that, it is more convenient, provides me with more flexibility, I can easily burn a standard CD for playback in a car (or to let a friend borrow), and the electronic collection takes up a hell of a lot less room than the bulky CDs.

And I do not miss any of the supposed “rights” that I have lost. If there is a particular recording for which I really care about the encoding, I’ll buy the original CD and encode it using Apple Lossless (or Shorten/FLAC). Gee, that was tough.

Furthermore, the EFF titles the article with “The Customer Is Always Wrong”. Bullshit. Flat out bullshit. The customer has every right and ability to take their business elsewhere. If the customer doesn’t like the “limits” encountered when buying from an online music store, Amazon is one short click away and it is usually a short drive to the local record store.

The bottom line is that the knee jerk, fear mongering, style of presentation that the EFF is choosing to use for this and other subjects is diluting the organization’s credibility.

Worse, EFF has Cory Doctorow spouting fear and loathing of all things DRM-ish in an official capacity. Don’t get me wrong — I love BoingBoing and read it daily. I can easily ignore the opinion pieces that I don’t agree with, but I cannot stand the pieces that are spouting about the Evils of This Or That Technology Or Legislation where the underlying facts are either incorrect or the “reporting” is so mired in fear mongering as to be effectively useless.

For example, in this post, Cory claims:

The point of Trusted Computing is to make it hard — impossible, if you believe the snake-oil salesmen from the Trusted Computing world — to open a document in a player other than the one that wrote it in the first place, unless the application vendor authorizes it.

It means that the price of being a Mac user will be eternal vigilance: you’ll need to know that your apps not only write to exportable formats, but that they also allow those exported files to be read by competing apps. That they eschew those measures that would lock you in and prevent you from giving your business to someone else.

As Daring Fireball pointed out, what could possibly be the motivation for locking down “open format” data in the fashion Cory decries? Hell, even the mere act of locking down an “open format” would require that it be wrapped in a “closed format” that encrypts the data. In other words, the application would no longer support “open formats” and would, by definition, no longer be of interest to anyone demanding support for “open formats”. To put it simply: an “open format” will always be an “open format” unless the entire rest of the system is so totally crippled as to be effectively dead in the market anyway.

What disturbs me is that Cory makes statements and claims like the above in the name of the EFF — as an official EFF representative. To turn it around, my only conclusion is that the EFF is converging on the same “digital fundamentalist” mindset as Cory.

I cannot support that position as I feel strongly that it is both counter-productive and, given the presentation, often based on myth, fear, and ignorance. In other words, it isn’t going to get crap done in Washington, which is what really counts and the reason why I joined EFF in the first place.

Now I find myself in a situation where I no longer have a “digital lobbyist” protecting my computing environment in the danger filled halls of Washington (or the rest of the world). That bothers me.

Chuq said it best:

Cory is the reason why, despite strongly supporting EFF’s causes, I won’t give EFF a penny, because Cory is a public representative of theirs, and is constantly proving to me that he (in their name) is not an activist for these causes, but an extremist — and EFF supports his view of this.

I’ll continue to read BoingBoing because, despite the clueless political rants, it is still filled with same damned entertaining and inspirational stuff. I do like/respect Cory’s work and look forward to meeting him someday.

I just wish that I had some organization to represent my interests in Washington without the “fundamentalist religion” taint that Cory seems to be bringing to the EFF.

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4 Responses to “Should I donate to EFF again?”

  1. Charles Plater says:

    I couldn’t have said it better. This article really turned off in regards to the EFF. I really like some of the things they stand for, and I think DRM is useless in the big picture, but I’m glad to see the compromise, and I’m happy to use it until something better comes along. Unfortunately, I don’t think Corey will be happy until the labels make FLAC/ALAC/ files available at a cheap price.

  2. Nat says:

    I think Cory’s got pronounced blowhard tendencies, and I think Apple’s iTMS DRM does a darn good job of splitting the baby, but the median case for DRM’s badness is entirely worthy of the EFF full court press.

    Paradoxically, I’d be more concerned about DRM if I could point to other implementations, like Apple’s, that don’t make me want to vomit with rage. With more generally-reasonable implementations circulating, I think many more people would be getting accustomed to DRM in principle, that in the hands of less enlightened corporate masters can be turned right the fuck up to eleven at some arbitrary future date.

    I’m not worried that Apple’s going to turn it up to eleven, either with iTunes music or “trusted computing”, but I don’t fault EFF in either case for making people aware of the possibility. On the contrary, I applaud them. Apple, meanwhile, has a strong case to make that they’re not screwing people, and plenty of marketing muscle with which to make it. They’ll be fine.

    In this Republican age, “I don’t miss any of the rights that I’ve lost” is an indefensibly irresponsible position to take.

  3. bbum says:

    I don’t fault the EFF’s desire to make people aware of the situation, nor am I taking the position that losing rights that I do not use is acceptable. Last year, I quite happily sent EFF some $$$ specifically to continue their efforts to raise awareness and defend the rights that I have (but don’t use).

    My complaint is that the EFF is taking a position that is somewhat dishonest. There are both factual issues and the presentation is such that it appears to be attempting to strike fear of issues that do not exist. As well, the EFF has a vocal/popular spokesperson in Cory that strikes me as taking a position that is about as consistently reasonable as your average fundamentalist preacher.

  4. John C. Randolph says:

    Personally, I quit supporting the EFF a couple of years ago over the Hamidi case. The guy’s a spammer, and EFF was litigating to let him keep spamming.


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