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02.13.14

DRM is Protectionism and Misuse of Laws, Nothing Technical

Posted in DRM at 10:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Interpretation of recent, truly troubling news about DRM and back doors, which are being promoted at a political level

ONE OF the world’s best known critics of DRM recently explained why the W3C lost credibility with its DRM moves. A week ago he explained [1] (getting applause/hat tip from the original Pirate Party’s founder [2] and TechDirt [3]) why DRM without corruption in politics is a pointless exercise of futility. DRM can, by definition, easily be circumvented, but it’s new laws that ban circumvention that make DRM what it is. It’s criminalisation of copying — even copying of what’s legally copyable. It’s a war on sharing. Apple is a big proponent of this and Microsoft became the biggest facilitator when it dumped Vista (and its predecessors) on this world. We need to fight back against those who are waging a war against our rights.

Sony, another infamous DRM booster (going as far as illegally sabotaging people’s computers with rogue DRM), is still fighting to spread DRM to books/literature [4] and Valve proved itself to be equally guilty (like Sony and Microsoft in consoles) by using the courts to prevent passage of digital data [5] (not even copying, just passage of ‘purchased’ — in reality rented — media). Meanwhile, as we learn from the press, “OEM “Kill-switch” anti theft bill proposed by California State” (criminalising devices with no back doors) [6].

If this is where technology is going, namely the enforcement of back doors and suspension of ability to copy and pass data (disguised as ‘technological solution’ when it’s actually political), then we are seriously destroyed. We are losing power over technology to a bunch of tyrannical technophobic plutocrats. DRM is their weapon of choice and it is one among several. DRM helps censor and divide the population, making everyone exceedingly dependent on copyright ‘masters’.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. What happens with digital rights management in the real world?

    In the real world, “bare” DRM doesn’t really do much. Before governments enacted laws making compromising DRM illegal (even if no copyright infringement took place), DRM didn’t survive contact with the market for long. That’s because technologically, DRM doesn’t make any sense. For DRM to work, you have to send a scrambled message (say, a movie) to your customer, then give your customer a program to unscramble it. Anyone who wants to can become your customer simply by downloading your player or buying your device – “anyone” in this case includes the most skilled technical people in the world. From there, your adversary’s job is to figure out where in the player you’ve hidden the key that is used to unscramble the message (the movie, the ebook, song, etc). Once she does that, she can make her own player that unscrambles your files. And unless it’s illegal to do this, she can sell her app or device, which will be better than yours, because it will do a bunch of things you don’t want it to do: allow your customers to use the media they buy on whatever devices they own, allow them to share the media with friends, to play it in other countries, to sell it on as a used good, and so on.

    The only reason to use DRM is because your customers want to do something and you don’t want them to do it. If someone else can offer your customers a player that does the stuff you hate and they love, they’ll buy it. So your DRM vanishes.

    A good analogue to this is inkjet cartridges. Printer companies make a lot more money when you buy your ink from them, because they can mark it up like crazy (millilitre for millilitre, HP ink costs more than vintage Champagne). So they do a bunch of stuff to stop you from refilling your cartridges and putting them in your printer. Nevertheless, you can easily and legally buy cheap, refilled and third-party cartridges for your printer. Same for phone unlocking: obviously phone companies keep you as a customer longer and make more money if you have to throw away your phone when you change carriers, so they try to lock the phone you buy with your plan to their networks. But phone unlocking is legal in the UK, so practically every newsagent and dry cleaner in my neighbourhood will unlock your phone for a fiver (you can also download free programs from the net to do this if you are willing to trade hassle for money).

  2. Because Of DRM, The Entire Copyright Monopoly Legislation Is A Lie

    Would you consider it reasonable if the copyright monopoly legislation ended with the words “but if publishers think this law is too permissive, they can rewrite it as they like, and we’ll enforce that instead”? Because that’s exactly what the law looks like.

  3. DRM Is The Right To Make Up Your Own Copyright Laws

    We’ve written about the problems of DRM and anti-circumvention laws since basically when we started way back in 1997. Cory Doctorow has been writing about the same stuff for just about as long (or perhaps longer). And yet, just when you think everything that can be said about this stuff has been said, Doctorow comes along and writes what may be the best column describing why DRM, combined with anti-circumvention laws, is so incredibly nefarious. Read the whole thing. It’s so well done, and so important, I’m actually going to write two posts about it, because there are two separate issues that deserve highlighting.

  4. Sony and Barnes & Noble look like their ebook days are numbered
  5. You can’t resell Valve games in Germany – court

    A German court has dismissed a ‘reselling’ case in favour of Valve Software, the maker of Steam OS. German consumer group Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (vzbv) had filed a complaint against Valve as Valve’s EULA (End User Licence Agreement) prohibits users from re-selling their games.

  6. OEM “Kill-switch” anti theft bill proposed by California State

    As more and more persons become owners of smart phones, thieves have found an ever increasing number of targets to prey on. Theft of cellphones is at an all time high in major urban centers across the US and many other countries, and the Californian government has decided to take a stance against it. With cellphones taking a more prominent roll in our lives, we all store sensitive information on our devices, and this is what the bill proposes to address.

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