Dave Winer asks some questions in the wake of my posting about Bill Gates' recent interview, in which Gates called people who want balance in intellectual property laws "communists." (Dave calls them "neo-communists who want musicians to give their work away," so if I understand him correctly he agrees with Gates on this, even though that language largely misrepresents the beliefs of people who are trying to restore copyright fairness.)
(UPDATE: Dave strongly disagrees with my interpretation of how he characterized Gates' statement; see comments below.)
As Dave points out, Gates is busy trying to persuade Hollywood that Microsoft is the best friend of the entertainment industry. Indeed, Microsoft's DRM moves are in large part designed to assist copyright holders in locking down everything that moves. Of course, Hollywood would restrict the development of new technology that could be used for infringing purposes, even when it has totally legitimate uses; someday this could bite Microsoft, too.
Dave is also correct that Steve Jobs has been doing some of the same things, though Apple has at least attempted to find some balance for the users, as opposed to totally bending over for the cartel.
Contrary to Dave's assertion, however, Jobs isn't getting a free ride on this, at least not from me. I've gone after Apple on many occasions for its own tendencies toward control-freakery, most recently this posting the other day. And in my book I said this:
"Even Apple has jumped aboard the DRM train, though not with the same zeal Microsoft has shown. Apple’s iTunes Music Store, which sells songs, encodes them in a format that can’t easily be converted to the wide-open MP3 or OGG formats. The DRM scheme, instituted because the music industry demanded it, gives Apple users more freedom to copy songs among different devices than we saw in prior DRM schemes. But it tends to penalize some of Apple’s best customers -- people who repeatedly buy new Macs. An iTunes Music Store customer can listen to the songs on five computers, but managing authorizations can be a hassle. It’s also important to remember that what freedoms Apple gives today can disappear tomorrow."Dave also asks if I'd criticize the people with whom I now have business relationships. If I felt sufficiently strongly about something, I would -- though at least on the question at issue here we share pretty much congruent views (Mitch Kapor, the Omidyar Network and Tim O'Reilly all support the goals of Creative Commmons, for example). But, as was the case when I wrote about Knight-Ridder while employed by that company, anything I say about these folks or enterprises would need to be taken by a reader with a grain of salt, because of the business relationships. This is always true when a journalist covers a person or organization with which he or his employer has such a relationship, and it always will be. Transparency is a useful thing, but readers also need to be cautious.
(In an end-note, I described how Apple had subsequently changed the iPod's' functions in a way that both added and subtracted user freedoms.)