DMCA – The Shoe Argument


First, you have the shoe manufacturers (SM1, SM2, and SM3). SM1 and SM2 get together and form the SMAA (Shoe Makers Association of America). The SMAA is an organization concerned with one thing only–self preservation–it uses private contracts and proprietary specifications to lock out competitors.

SM1 and SM2 start selling all of their shoes with a technology, provided by MasterSoft (MS), that allows SM1 and SM2 to dictate how the shoe can be worn and what surfaces are compatible with the shoe–they call this the “Smart Shoe”. If a “Smart Shoe” ever detects improper wearage or an unauthorized surface, the shoe activates the proprietary SLP or “Shoe Lockdown Protocol” which causes the shoe to forcibly adhere to the surface, preventing further unauthorized usage–this is what happens when shoes have DRM.

The “Smart Shoe” technology works like this. The “Smart Shoe” talks to SLP-enabled socks and SLP-enabled surfaces–this is how the “Smart Shoe” determines if the shoe is being worn properly on authorized surfaces. The sock manufacturer wants to sell socks but in order to sell “Smart Shoe Capable” socks, they have to sign an agreement with MS and the SMAA that says that their “Smart Shoe Capable” socks can only work with “Smart Shoes” and that if they want to continue making legacy socks, they can only do so in completely separate factories. Even without building new factories, there is a lot of extra cost and effort involved to make these “Smart Shoe Capable” socks–the sock manufacturer has to decide between making legacy socks and “Smart Shoe Capable” socks; it costs too much money to do both. The same thing happens to the surface manufacturers.

SM3 is faced with quite the dilemma now. SM3 knows that most customers will probably buy “Smart Shoes” without ever knowing that they are buying SLP limited shoes because of the huge marketing campaign behind “Smart Shoes”. SM3 must choose: 1) pay the large SLP licensing fee so that their shoes would be SLP compatible 2) mount a large marketing campaign informing consumers that “Smart Shoes” are really dumb 3) risk their entire business by ignoring the “Smart Shoe” thing and continuing to just make comfortable shoes, hoping the consumer is smart enough to figure things out.

Now, take the consumers (C1, C2, and C3). C1 buys a pair of “Smart Shoes” and then buys a pair of “Smart Shoe Capable” socks–this is exactly what SM1 has in mind and the world works as intended until C1 noticed that the “Smart Shoe” doesn’t know what grass is and often activates SLP when the surface is known and authorized, so C1 ends up buying a pair of SM3 brand shoes.

C2 decides that they like the feel of SM3 brand shoes better. C2 does some research and knows to avoid the “Smart Shoe Capable” socks. So, C2 goes out looking for some legacy socks. Great, now that new mall has a policy that only supports “Smart Shoes”, so, despite C2’s preference for the SM3 shoes, C2 must either find another mall or carry a pair of “Smart Shoes” and “Smart Shoe Capable” socks with them if they intend to go to the new mall. C3 avoids the “Smart Shoe” and “Smart Shoe Capable” socks completely and just buys legacy shoes and legacy socks and has no problems; no need to go to that silly new mall as Internet shopping is way more convenient.

C2 goes to the new mall one day, having forgot his “Smart Shoe Capable” socks. He tries to get his “Smart Shoes” to work with his legacy socks and gets arrested because the DMCA makes it felony to even attempt to disable SLP for any reason. Meanwhile, C1 realizes that he already paid a lot of money for all this “Smart” crap and his “Smart Shoe Capable” socks are still just socks so he tries to wear his SM3 brand shoes with them. C2 knows that he must work around SLP so that the socks that he purchased will work with the shoes that he purchased but he gets arrested because the DMCA makes it a felony to do any sort of reverse engineering even for the sake of interoperability.

Most socks just got more expensive. Wood floors, concrete, and pavement all just got more expensive. Those that do buy “Smart Shoes” run into bugs and compatibility problems. SM1, SM2, and MS are encouraged because 2/3 of consumers bought the new “Smart Shoe”. MS is out fixing compatibility problems trying to make normal grass work with SLP. SM3 is a little encouraged because 2/3 of consumers still bought their shoe. C1 and C2 are in jail on felony charges so they won’t be buying anything anytime soon. C3 will never buy “Smart” crap. All because SM1 and SM2 decided to sell “Smart Shoes”; the DMCA granted them all the power they needed to ensure that as long as they were the first to do it, they would have absolute control.

Why can’t the shoe and sock makers just go back to making quality socks and shoes that work like all socks and shoes should work? Their lobbyists bombard Congress and want everyone to believe that without DRM protections, their whole industry is doomed–sounds to me like they are dooming their industry just fine with DRM and are taking a lot innocent consumers down with them because of the DMCA.

Without the DMCA, C1 and C2 wouldn’t be in jail and could therefore, if they didn’t learn their lesson, buy more crap from SM1 and SM2. SM3 would have had a fourth option to reverse engineer SLP thereby ensuring that “Smart Shoe Capable” socks would work with their shoes.

Wouldn’t all the money spent on SLP be better spent on something actually related to making shoes better for the consumer, instead of being spent on ways to control how the consumer uses an uncomfortable, over-priced shoe?


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