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12.04.09

Scarcity vs Abundance: Microsoft and Copyright Cartel vs the World and the People

Posted in DRM, Europe, Finance, Free/Libre Software, Google, Microsoft, Vista 7 at 10:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Al Capone mugshot and Steve Ballmer

Summary: A view on the latest attack on rights and freedom, with well-deserved focus on Microsoft Corporation’s role

WHAT was rather unsettling but telling the other day is that Microsoft was conspicuously missing from a large-scale opposition to Mandelson’s bill [1, 2], which is a Christmas gift from England to Hollywood (and the MAFIAA™ in particular). It seems safe to conclude that Microsoft is yet again sidling with the Copyright Cartel. Windows Vista and Vista 7 already have DRM crippleware built in, baked into the very core of the operating system.

According to the following new article about ACTA, there is a connection to Microsoft, which can be formulated as follows:

The term “counterfeiting” is now being used to reference any type of minor infringement of the temporary government monopolies granted to holders of patents, copyrights, trademarks or any other related rights. Rather than being seen as an offense against consumers, it has been transformed into an offense allegedly committed by consumers.

[...]

As I included in my submission to the 2009 Copyright consultation, this minor form of infringement is sometimes beneficial to the copyright holder. In 2007 Jeff Raikes, then President of the Microsoft Business Division , said “If they’re going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else”. This is a recognition that while being directly compensated for a use of a copyrighted work is ideal, that infringement is better for the copyright holder than people switching to alternatives.

A far more serious form of copyright infringement is when a corporation, many that include staff lawyers who should be expected to know better, infringe copyright and commercially redistribute someone elses work without permission. As one example, yesterday I read Microsoft pulls Windows 7 download tool where Microsoft was yet again accused of commercial copyright infringement.

We should simply refer to this as “strike one”, and be done with it.

While Microsoft is just one company, they are easily accused of copyright infringement more than 3 times in any given month. If it were not for that fact that nearly every so-called “3 strikes” law were bogus, companies such as Microsoft would not be allowed to have an Internet connection (No more Bing, no more Windows or Office update or even development/testing of any of their Internet products, no more Hotmail, etc).

It isn’t as if Microsoft is alone. Brad M. Kuhn, the tech director at the Software Freedom Law Center, blogged on Sunday that, “Since 21 August 2009, I’ve been finding one new GPL violating company per day (on average) and I am still on target to find one per day for 365 days straight.”

The terms of the GPL are clearly aimed at commercial companies, given the license already grants everything a private citizen would ever want which is to legally redistribute the unmodified software for free to anyone they want, and for any recipient to use the software for free. This means that all of these potential GPL violations are commercial violations that are far more serious than anything a private citizen would do. This type of infringement is far less forgivable given companies commercially redistributing copyrighted works should be expected to hire lawyers to understand the relevant legal contracts and license agreements, while citizens shouldn’t be expected to.

Glyn Moody shares this good new essay, titled “IP and Artificial Scarcity”

Someone recently told me “I just ran across a few of your interviews and writings. I was particularly impressed with the point that IP creates scarcity where none existed before. Despite its obviousness, it is characteristic of IP that had not occurred to me before.”

Moody also shares this new example of scarcity versus abundance.

Pixies fans on the hunt for holiday fixes are in luck: The deluxe edition of the legendary band’s high-art megabox The Minotaur is finally hitting mailboxes. That includes our own, which is where Wired.com’s Michael Calore found the collector-gasm for the video tour above.

Later on, Moody writes about the subject himself.

One of the (many) things that get my goat about ACTA is the sheer dishonesty of the project. It was originally put forward as aiming to curb large-scale counterfeiting – hence its name, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

It was sold as only going for the “big fish”, with promises that ordinary people wouldn’t be inconvenienced. In fact, it was purely for their benefit, its proponents explained, since one of the most heinous kinds of counterfeiting it attempts to tackle is counterfeit drugs – an undeniable health hazard.

But then something strange happened. Counterfeiting morphed into copyright infringement, and yet all the legal heavy guns aimed at massive, criminal counterfeiting remain, now ranged against little you and me.

Finally, Moody shares this piece of copyright propaganda, which echoes the talking points of the BSA when it comes to software [1, 2, 3]. Just because the big companies do not manage to squeeze money out of the population does not mean it is a loss to the country. There is too much focus on “earnings” while neglecting the notion of “savings”. It is spin doctoring, and as far as the press is concerned, it proves to be effective. The press is, after all, part of the media industry, owned by the very same corporations.

Moody has also found this new article from the New Scientist. It describes this as a battle of “The people vs the entertainment industry,” but sadly enough it uses misleading propaganda terms like “piracy”.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), suggested by the US administration in 2007, aims to redefine global trade rules. The intention is to stem losses from counterfeiting and internet-mediated piracy of content like music and movies.

It will do that by penalising internet service providers and websites that carry, or help people to find, pirated content. ACTA has quickly proved a hit with G8 nations, the European Union, South Korea and Australia, who are all using it as a basis for future national laws.

ACTA is still being worked up in secret by trade delegations from the many nations involved. But a series of leaks to the Wikileaks website reveal that it will require ISPs to become technological sleuths who monitor their customers’ internet use to “deter unauthorised storage and transmission of infringing content”. Infringers will face a “graduated response”, with disconnection as the ultimate sanction.

The Obama administration’s plans to implement ACTA are still hidden in a thicket of non-disclosure agreements with movie studios and record labels. The UK’s Digital Economy Bill, unveiled in last month, is clearly inspired by ACTA.

Moving on to something a little different, Google has finally responded to the Microsoft|Murdoch insult.

Google tells Murdoch to shut up

[...]

But Schmidt said Google is a “great source of promotion” for newspapers through its aggregator website Google News and other services.

There is also this headsup from Moody, who took special interest in the subject recently. We’re at a crucial legal corssroad in the UK.

Putting up paywalls around online content will not on its own transform the finances of national newspapers, but a mixed strategy of subscriptions and micropayments could prove more successful, according to research published today.

We previously covered the Microsoft|Murdoch situation in:

Microsoft is very afraid of Google, with which it is fighting for the minds of future generations. Now they are both looking to exploit young individuals. Mercury has this new article on the subject.

Microsoft, Google in battle to win over students

[...]

Neither Microsoft nor Google will disclose how much it spends to furnish those educational services, nor will they say how many schools they have signed up. But with schools under budget pressure at both the university and K-12 level, administrators are weighing concerns about the security of their data on a cloud-based network against its powerful educational features, and against its price — in most cases, zero.

Now that Google enters the dictionary and DNS business (mentioned this morning), there is more speculation about Google’s stealth and impact on competitors.

Google has quietly rolled out its own online dictionary, complete with multilingual support and accompanying photos. The new site was first discovered by the LA Times Tech Blog, and you can access it at Google.com/Dictionary.

Some Free software people are rightly concerned, but worries are accentuated due to fear mongering from the Microsoft-faithful crowd.

If Android and later Chrome OS succeed, Google may become the portal to more than just the Web. Its services will have geo-location data as well.

There is no indication yet that such data will be misplaced and/or misused, but the above is from a Microsoft fan, so it is intended to cause uncertainty and doubt. Dana Blankenhorn responds to this endless daemonisation of Google, which in part comes from Redmond.

What I want to know is, where is the evidence? Where is the evidence that Google is evil, or has done evil? I try to read all the critics and mostly what I see are intimations of what they might do.

* They might use their digitizing of books to control the book market.
* They might use their collection of personal data against you.
* They might tie their Android phones and Chromium PCs to Google services and lock others out.
* They might create a search monopoly.
* They might kill the newspaper business.
* They might take over the DNS market, and while they would be better than competitors it’s still evil.

Blankenhorn names it the “Google derangement syndrome”. Microsoft calls it "screw Google". Unless and until Google commits crimes like Microsoft has, Google is a good tool for weakening a fierce enemy of Free(dom) software.

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12 Comments

  1. Yuhong Bao said,

    December 5, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Gravatar

    “Unless and until Google commits crimes like Microsoft has, Google is a good tool for weakening a fierce enemy of Free(dom) software.”
    Not to mention the fact that while Google is not perfect (no one is), Google is certainly better than MS in many ways.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Can you give me examples of Google playing dirty?

    The only ones I can think of are very subjective (e.g. YouTube incident in Italy and preferential placements for Google products, which the company soon conceded and changed upon complaints).

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    That is the whole point. Google isn’t perfect, but is certainly much better than Microsoft.

  2. Yuhong Bao said,

    December 7, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Gravatar

    On Vista DRM, here is an IRC chat with DaemonFC on Vista DRM:
    http://boycottnovell.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/irc-log-25102009.html#tOct%2025%2001:56:31
    I don’t agree entirely with him, I know for a fact that Vista DRM is more than “just what Windows applications do by default” (some of it is in the kernel, but AFRIK most of it is in the audio/video subsystem). But he does agree with me on a few point

    your_friend Reply:

    Security and imaging expert, Peter Gutmann, made an extensive study of DRM in Vista when Vista was new. He concludes that Vista’s digital restrictions are so much a part of the software and hardware that the entire computer industry is taxed. Both GNU/Linux and Mac have to deal with hardware that has been compromised by Microsoft’s overriding desire to restrict and control their customers. Just how baked into the system restrictions are is represented by “tilt bits” that eliminate system performance at treat user cost:

    Vista’s content protection requires that devices (hardware and software drivers) set so-called “tilt bits” if they detect anything unusual. For example if there are unusual voltage fluctuations, maybe some jitter on bus signals, a slightly funny return code from a function call, a device register that doesn’t contain quite the value that was expected, or anything similar, a tilt bit gets set. Such occurrences aren’t too uncommon in a typical computer. … Previously this was no problem — the system was designed with a bit of resilience, …. With the introduction of tilt bits, all of this designed-in resilience is gone.

    It can be argued that Vista is not so much an OS with restrictions added to it, as it is a set of restricted applications that pretend to be an OS. Three years after Vista’s introduction, we see that it was effective at keeping people most people from recording TV shows but a complete failure as an OS. The already decimated Windows ecosystem has only a few players left and Windows has been reduced to a method of consuming Microsoft taxed and approved services rather than a general purpose computing platform. As Gutmann put it, this was by design, “Microsoft have been saying for some years now that they’d really like the PC to go away, to turn into a kind of media platform and content-distribution center for consumers.”

    Success at defeating particular restrictions should not be generalized into an overall defeat of digital restrictions. Eventually, if all the major publishers force enough restrictions into hardware and software, there will be no way around their shemes. We can only hope that there are too many competing factions and that none of them want to hand control over to an abusive company like Microsoft. Free software offers them all an excellent way for them to persue their foolish restrictions in a fractured way that will kill all of them. When Kindle books don’t read on the Barnes and Noble reader and neither read on Vista, we can be sure that all three will vanish in red ink. Companies that don’t burden their customers with restrictions will eat Microsoft’s lunch.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    “Security and imaging expert, Peter Gutmann, made an extensive study of DRM in Vista when Vista was new”
    I know, and I today finally was able to download the slides by Guttman, and yes reading it was very interesting.
    “It can be argued that Vista is not so much an OS with restrictions added to it, as it is a set of restricted applications that pretend to be an OS.”
    Now, I doubt DRM is that deep in Vista of course and even Guttman do not claim that.
    “Eventually, if all the major publishers force enough restrictions into hardware and software…”
    I would not go that far, but yea why do you think the music industry was forced to eliminate DRM from online music?

    your_friend Reply:

    I do not understand your concept of deep DRM or how user hostile a system has to be before you conclude DRM is a primary feature of the system. What can be more user hostile and performance defeating than hardware and software specs for “trip bits” that turn the system off due to random fluctuations which normal hardware is designed to ignore? Gutmann argues these specs damage performance for all software that attempts to use hardware made for Vista, in other words DRM is so baked in to Vista that it seeps out and stains the rest of the world. Gutmann is also voices Microsoft intentions to move from general purpose software to media distribution.

    I would argue that Microsoft’s failure to convince people to go along is not for a lack of trying and that there’s been on real change in trajectory. Windows 7 is nothing new or different. If anything, Windows 7 has collected even more anti-features while eliminating several applications that Vista users actually thought of as an improvement over XP.

    I wish that I could share your optimism about music DRM but I don’t see any change of intent or methods by that industry. Microsoft destroyed a large category of music DRM when they tried to prop up Zune by betraying partners and customers of it’s unpopular “Plays for Sure” program. Though Apple does a far better job of taking care of their customers, iPod is notoriously user and sharing hostile. Because iPod is the world’s most popular portable music player, most people live under obnoxious DRM. Finally, given the way Microsoft sacrificed system stability for DRM with the Vista family, it would be fair to say that the industry may be shifting the DRM burden from dozens of failed music formats to the OS level. Video, despite early cracking success, remains a patent and DRM laced nightmare. The anti-democratic and secret ACTA may make matters even worse. It is hard to imagine a more customer hostile industry than the one created by large publishers, where thousands of people are threatened and extorted or ruined in bogus lawsuits.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    “I do not understand your concept of deep DRM or how user hostile a system has to be before you conclude DRM is a primary feature of the system. What can be more user hostile and performance defeating than hardware and software specs for “trip bits” that turn the system off due to random fluctuations which normal hardware is designed to ignore? Gutmann argues these specs damage performance for all software that attempts to use hardware made for Vista, in other words DRM is so baked in to Vista that it seeps out and stains the rest of the world. Gutmann is also voices Microsoft intentions to move from general purpose software to media distribution.”
    I know, I have read the Gutmann paper and even the slides. My point is that most of the DRM stuff is in the audio/video subsystems in Vista, with some of the support needed (such as protected processes) in the Vista kernel.
    “Video, despite early cracking success, remains a patent and DRM laced nightmare. ”
    I know, and I was just going to say that just because music DRM is defeated do not mean that video DRM is defeated. In fact, the IRC chat was exactly about this.
    “Windows 7 is nothing new or different.”
    Indeed, I don’t think Windows 7 has changed much regarding the DRM in Vista. But MS may not ever be able to remove it, even in future versions of Windows. In fact, one of my points I was arguing was that if Linux was to add support for Blu-Ray, these same DRM anti-features would probably be needed to be added to Linux as well.
    See these IRC chats:
    http://boycottnovell.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/irc-log-25102009.html#tOct%2025%2001:56:31
    http://boycottnovell.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/irc-log-16092009.html
    http://boycottnovell.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/irc-log-22092009.html

    your_friend Reply:

    Free software never has to restrict users and never will. If people are able to make Vista hardware work it will not be by giving control to Microsoft to Linux kernel modules. Giving owners control of free software is the one way of insuring hardware never does what users want. If you want to submit to Microsoft, you might as well run Vista. Vista, Zune, Xbox and other non free software, however, are the technical failures. There’s probably a lesson about greed and hubris in all of this.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    “If people are able to make Vista hardware work it will not be by giving control to Microsoft to Linux kernel modules.”
    Certainly not, and it is unlikely to be necessary. I was talking about playing Blu-Ray discs on Linux and not about this.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    “There’s probably a lesson about greed and hubris in all of this.”
    I think the biggest lesson to learn is about artificial scarcity, which is fundamentally flawed.

  3. Yuhong Bao said,

    December 8, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Gravatar

    On Vista DRM, here is an IRC chat with DaemonFC on Vista DRM:
    http://boycottnovell.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/irc-log-25102009.html#tOct%2025%2001:56:31
    I don’t agree entirely with him, I know for a fact that Vista DRM is more than “just what Windows applications do by default” (some of the support needed is in the kernel, but AFRIK most of it is in the audio/video subsystems). But he does agree with me on a few points.

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