Coding the Dictatorship of ‘the They:’ A Phenomenological Critique of Digital Rights Management
in Ethics and Phenomenology, eds. Mark Sanders and Jeremy Wisnewski (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012), 197-219
30 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2011 Last revised: 20 Dec 2016
Date Written: January 31, 2011
Written for an anthology on ethics and phenomenology, this paper uses Heidegger’s discussion of artifacts in Being and Time to motivate a phenomenological critique of Digital Rights Management regimes such as the one that allows DVDs to require one to watch commercials and copyright notices. In the first section, I briefly sketch traditional ethical approaches to intellectual property and indicate the gap that a phenomenological approach can fill. In section 2, following Heidegger’s discussion in Being and Time, I analyze DRM technologies as exemplary of the breakdown of things as ready-to-hand; in particular, DRM is an example of what Heidegger calls "obstinacy." In section 3, I argue that this sort of concern generalizes beyond digital rights management due to its imbrication in ordinary, everyday experience. Finally, in section 4, I propose a framework for analyzing DRM in terms of our individuation from "the They," emphasizing how DRM undermines the functioning of "responsibility."
Keywords: Copyright - Digital Rights Management - Anti-circumvention - Phenomenology - Ethics
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