Linden CTO: DRM drags down economy

Executive at company behind Second Life says that it 'makes you less competitive'

Digital-rights management (DRM) drags down economic growth, and countries that back the technology are doomed to lag behind, a top Linden Research executive said Thursday.

DRM refers to any technology that restricts how a digital file or software can be used and shared. The technology is meant to protect the interests of copyright holders by limiting how digital content is used and insuring they get paid. But critics charge DRM is clumsy, infringes on fair-use rights, and restricts competition.

DRM makes education and learning more expensive, which results in less innovation and a lower gross domestic product, said Cory Ondrejka, chief technology officer at Linden, the company behind the Second Life virtual world.

"DRM makes you less competitive," Ondrejka told attendees at the iX Conference alongside the CommunicAsia show in Singapore.

Countries that want to close the gap with more advanced nations should avoid DRM or they will continue to lag behind, he said.

While Ondrejka's comments addressed the issue of DRM in the real world, Linden has wrestled with copyright infringement in the virtual world.

Last year, some Second Life users began using CopyBot, a program capable of replicating items that other users had created and sold in Second Life. Faced with a growing chorus of complaints from users who saw their products being copied, Linden ruled in November that CopyBot violated the virtual world's terms of service and threatened to ban any user found using the program for copyright infringement.

But Linden stopped short of using DRM to protect against copies in Second Life.

"While Linden Lab could get into an arms race with residents in an attempt to stop this copying, those attempts would surely fail and could harm legitimate projects within Second Life," Ondrejka wrote in a blog post at that time.

In that same post, Ondrejka noted Linden isn't in the business of fighting copyright infringement. "The communities within Second Life should have the tools and the freedoms to decide how and when they deal with potentially infringing content," he said.

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