Cory Doctorow Explains Digital Locks & Why Authors Shouldn’t Be Responsible for Censorship: TOC

At the O’Reilly Tools of Change Author Revolution conference in New York today, blogger/author Cory Doctorow discussed how the evolution of technology and the rise of DRM has led creative content to be “locked and loaded with surveillance gear in the name of copyright.”

He challenged creators not to hand the keys of these locks over to intermediaries who do not have their best interests or the best interests of readers in mind.”Nobody wants digital locks on her device,” he said. “No one woke up this morning asking for it.”

According to Doctorow, these kinds of locks turn computers from creating devices to controlling devices. “Digital locks are fundamentally programs that shift your computer from ‘Yes, master,’ to ‘I can’t let you do that, Dave,'” he said.

For Doctorow the idea of openness is not for the sake of information itself. “Information doesn’t want to be free,” he said. “People want to be free.”

Doctorow admitted that it is tough for authors and creators because the terms at big publishing companies and record labels come with locks and these terms are often the same across the street unless you have a lot of leverage. He also admitted that online fame is not enough to pay the rent. Having 2 million YouTube hits is nice but it might only buy you bus fare, he admitted. “Fame won’t make you rich but you won’t get rich without fame,” he said.

So how do you take YouTube or Twitter fame and pay the rent as a writer? Converting content into a living is a tough job, but not impossible. Authors should take a “hybrid” approach. Some ways that creators convert fame into money include selling things, asking for donations, charging for events, wrapping works in ads, and taking commissions.

According to Doctorow, there needs to be a better system. “The job of the artist can never be to be responsible for censorship and surveillance,” concluded Doctorow. “If that is how you do art, you are doing art wrong.”