Coding the Dictatorship of ‘the They:’ A Phenomenological Critique of Digital Rights Management

In J. Jeremy Wisnewski Mark Sanders (ed.), Ethics and Phenomenology. Lexington Books (forthcoming)
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  Phenomenology
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