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afferoman 09-30-2006 04:43 PM

Digital Restrictions Management (DRM)
Digital Restrictions Management (DRM)
by Peter Brown
FSF Executive Director has declared Tuesday October 3rd a "Day Against

With more than 10,000 technologists having joined the campaign, and
pledged to take direct action to stop DRM, and with more than 300
"actions" planned across the globe on October 3rd, we aim to raise the
level of awareness about the threats posed by DRM technology.

DRM technology is a growing problem for all computer users, by
extension all of society. DRM is typically used to restrict
individuals' access to copyrighted works. To enforce these
restrictions, DRM software, and now hardware, must monitor and report
on the computer users' behavior.

You might be aware that iPod users are restricted from transferring
their music to other non-Apple devices because the music downloaded
from iTunes is encrypted - locked with DRM. Apple allows you to rip
the tracks to a CD, but if you ever want to take them to a new
portable device in a compressed format, you will end up with very
lousy sound quality. These drawbacks are of course there for a reason:
they enable Apple to inconvenience their customers into binding
themselves to Apple products.

This type of nuisance is but the foreshadow of greater ones to come.
Standing behind the technology companies, the film and music industry
(Big Media) loom large. To serve their interests, they demand DRM be
imposed before they will allow their copyrighted works to be
distributed. Of course many of the technology companies now see
themselves as part of Big Media. Sony is a film and music company,
Microsoft owns MSNBC, and Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, sits on the
board of Disney. These technology companies cannot be relied upon to
look out for the best interests of technology product consumers.

Big Media hope that DRM will deliver to them what their political
lobbying to change copyright law never has: they aim to turn our every
interaction with a copyrighted work into a transaction, abolishing
fair use and the commons, and to make copyright term unending.

As entities granted monopoly rights, monetizing every use of a
copyrighted work makes sense to them. DRM technology allows them to
maximize their profits and trump our traditional uses of copyrighted
works. You gave up your rights. That you did so under duress is a
moot point.

Amazon's new movie download service is called Unbox and it outlines
the path we have embarked upon with DRM. The user agreement requires
amongst other things that you allow Unbox DRM software to monitor your
hard drive and to report activity to Amazon. These reports would thus
include a list of: all the software installed; all the copyrighted
works you own; all your computers interaction with other devices. By
agreeing to it, you will be forfeiting your freedom to such an extent
that you will not be able to play movies which Unbox DRM has flagged.
If you change your mind and remove the software you will remove all
your movies along with it. You are restricted even geographically in
your enjoyment and again you lose your movies if you ever move out of
the USA. You of course have to agree that they can change these terms
at any time. Microsoft's newly upgraded Windows Media Player 11
(WMP11) user agreement has a similar set of terms

Each time Big Media force you to upgrade your software you downgrade
your rights. Every new DRM system will enforce a harsher control
regime. Apple's added more restrictions to their music service, and
their new video service is yet more restrictive. And so it goes.

What does this mean for the future? No fair use. No purchase and
resell. No private copies. No sharing. No backup. No swapping. No mix
tapes. No privacy. No ownership. No commons. No control over our
computers. No control over our electronic devices. The conversion of
our homes into apparatus to monitor our interaction with their
copyrighted works.

If this type of invasion of privacy were coming from any other source,
it would not be tolerated. And that is where we as technologists come
in. We can see this threat and it is our civic duty to draw attention
to it.

As users of free software we are not immune to DRM. We can be locked
out, and our software won't be able to play movies or music under
lock. The RIAA and the MPAA are actively lobbying Congress to consider
new laws that mandate DRM and outlaw new gadgets that don't enforce
DRM. DRM has become a major threat to free software.

When we allow others to control our computers and monitor our actions
we invite deeper surveillance. With our personal viewing, listening,
reading, browsing records on file, are we not to be alarmed?

In September 2005 a Disney executive named Peter Lee told The
Economist, "If consumers even know there's a DRM, what it is, and how
it works, we've already failed,". A year later, we hope to make that
prediction come true. With your help, on October 3rd, we can. Join
the campaign at!

extrasolar 09-30-2006 05:29 PM

I've just signed up. You have my full support. :)

It about time we stood up and said "NO!"

crazymister 09-30-2006 05:51 PM

Regardless of whether free software users can escape from DRM, once Microsoft Sony and Apple have added DRM to everything it's hard for our society go back. The libraries are putting DRM on books for god sake! I've also heard that universities are looking to add DRM to distributed lecture files/notes. It seems that just at the moment when groups like wikipedia are rising up to give us some freedom, along comes stuff like DRM and Trusted computing to lock everything back up. It's pretty depressing. Good luck on Oct 3rd, I will do what I can to get the word out.

afferoman 09-30-2006 06:27 PM

There is an article in the Tribune about the Amazon's TOS.

Scary movie downloads -- escalations in the DRM war

Where Stephen King meets George Orwell we find's "Unbox Video: Terms of Use."

It's not a book. It's a 5,000-word agreement that customers must OK if they want to buy movies or TV shows from the online retailer's video downloading service that rolled out this month.

But it offers all the nightmares and bleak visions of the future that you'd find in an ominous novel.

Want to buy and download a video?

Fine. But Amazon's Unbox program is going to run in the background on your computer and send information back to the company about your "operating system, software, amount of available disk space and Internet connectivity" as well as what you're doing with those videos, all in order to continue to "manage rights" associated with them, says the agreement.

rickh 09-30-2006 11:27 PM

Is this article posted on the web in this format someplace? I'd like to refer people to it, but a lot of them think I'm a Linux bigot, and they'll ignore it if they see "Linux" in the link.

sundialsvcs 09-30-2006 11:50 PM

It's funny that you mention Stephen King. At one point he experimented in selling chapters of a new novel on-line, but he had to stop as the texts went everywhere but in his pocketbook.

It's actually not an entirely invalid question: how do you sell something on the Internet? What's supposed to assure that you do get paid? "Scout's Honor?" Hardly.

I think that many DRM-opponents oppose the idea "on a matter of principles," when they are just drawing a paycheck. If they owned a copyright and wanted to sell the wares electroically (without them becoming "warez"), they'd probably think differently.

Sure, the economics and the dynamics of this market will be vastly different from what has come before, but one thing won't .. can't .. be different. It must continue to be a market. The goods must still be offered for sale. And the mechanisms for assuring that people do, in fact, pay for the goods can't be "honor." Even the most prestigious store in the swankiest shopping center still has a Sensormatic at the door, even if they conceal it.

Sure, the RIAA is clueless. It's hard to imagine a business that is being so radically transformed and shaken-out by technology. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine a business where the marketing costs (today) are higher and the margins (today) are slimmer. They want to be a part of the brave new world yet their business ideas are still planted firmly in the old one.

Maybe, instead of howling at the idea of DRM, engineers should be thinking of creative ways to actually make it work. And work fairly. The present methodologies suck in many ways. But the people who might know how to fix them appear to just want to get rid of them, and that can't happen.

Talk about "free beer" all you want to, but don't try to walk out of a bar with one. Don't offer the entire room "free beer" without a platinum American Express card in your wallet.

It's a market. And let's also remember that there are paying customers out there. For every engineer who champs at the thought of having to pay for music, there are thousands of people who do download and do pay for music right now. You just can't put your rose-colored glasses on and suppose that, if copyright-related restrictions didn't exist and weren't enforced and enforceable, that it would be a "Scout's Honor" marketplace. That's just not human nature.

If DRM as concieved now "sucks" (and it does) ... and yet we need it (and we do) ... then what can replace it? What open-source, patent free great-idea will replace it? That is the discussion we need to be having!

z3r0.0v3rrid3 10-01-2006 04:19 AM


Originally Posted by extrasolar
I've just signed up. You have my full support. :)

It about time we stood up and said "NO!"

Ditto! It is time we said NO!!

extrasolar 10-01-2006 07:58 AM

I agree that DRM could be used to stop piracy but how can software and hardware determine what is piracy? I don't know the laws of other countries but UK law states that we are allowed to make copies of copyrighted material for our own personal use; so by copying an mp3 or a wma from my computer to my laptop is ok but is a DRM system going to see this as a personal transfer or a pirate?

I'm legally allowed to copy a CD so as long as it's for personal use (a personal backup). I don't like playing my original CDs so I make copies of them; is a DRM system going to know I'm copying it for personal use or is it going to think I'm pirating?

If a DRM system is intelligent to distinguish between making personal backups and pirating then when does that distinction come into affect? I mean, if I'm copying CDs and burning mp3s to them so I have one CD for my car, one for my stereo and perhaps one as a backup, when does DRM determine at what point I might be pirating? At what point will we not need a justice system because DRM is the "new law"?

At the moment I'm against DRM is it stands now.

vharishankar 10-01-2006 11:57 PM

Reading about DRM makes my blood boil.

It's the big media companies already rolling in cash on the global stage who are a bunch of greedy pigs.

I'll always support products produced and sold by local media companies in my country (as long as they remain unencrypted).

Old_Fogie 10-11-2006 02:16 AM

Personally, I really don't believe that DRM is the issue here.
This is how I understand DRM:

Let's take the web-site, "youtube" for conversation's sake here.

For a long time now, the 'artists' are actually real people who, for whatever reason, make movies from 'media content' and make their own movies, upload them to youtube and then all the other user's get to 'share' in the experience. The people who submit these items to 'youtube' use songs, video, news, photographs, whatever they want, make a movie in a hot copy of flash off of bit-torrent, and distribute to the world via youtube. Not to mention the viruses they pass off to the rest of the world because they used said 'hot copy' of flash. On the whole, no money was given to any record company, movie or tv studio, artist of any kind in the whole transaction, let alone macromedia/adobe.

Important to note that 'youtube' was a start-up at one time, kind of like another start-up. If I recall, they were called 'napster'.

You see with napster, people got hold of content and then distributed it to the world that way.

The courts ruled that napster was a bad bad thing, it made baby jesus cry they said, and eventually napster felt some pain and has yet to recover.

However, with 'youtube' has not shared the same experiences of 'napster'. I find it amazing that the owner's of youtube are percieved to be geniouses, renaisanse men if you will. Wall Street just loves them. So much so that this week they became millionaire's time and time over because google purchased them.

So it appears to me, there is some real in-consistencies here.

The millions of violator's submitted protected content, youtube hosting it, google buying it, user's watching it. How about all those lads sitting in jail for hosting DVD's out of their house? Does this seem right to you?

Where does it all go from here you say? Advertising.

You see in time to come, adverstiser's will swamp youtube with money because they know that people will go there, and they will have targeted ads on the content the youtube user's watch. It's really not that hard for them to determine. Tivo has been trying to do this for years.

In turn, we are to expect that those advertising dollars are to go to the original content provider's the movie studio's artists, etc. Really? How? Is someone going to watch out for poor poor "Erckle" to make sure he get's a dollar per video? What about the whale that eat's the man? Who's going to give the whale some extra fish.

We could go on and on. But the point is, that DRM will ultimately fail because the business model does not fit into the business model of modern economics. In fact the cases listed above are a pure example of it.

Linux simply has to get more people! There is power in number's. With a small percentage of the population wanting linux...we simply seem to appear to the media moguls as a pain in the butt because noone else is complaining except the linux users. Again, this is why they don't want the user to know there is copyprotection or they failed as one media mogul put it. If you can factually demonstrate and show there is a user base in linux, and that linux is not a poor man's operating system, then the media giants will port over, it's that simple. Without customer's they have no business. We need to get our ducks in a row here. Get more people on linux...the DRM issue will work itself out.

Look at it this way, if everyone gave up their windows pc and mac's would not apple move itunes over to linux in a heart beat? Of course they would, they want the money. It's that simple, now we just have to do it.

AwesomeMachine 10-11-2006 03:12 AM

I boycott anything that is protected by DRM. If everyone does this DRM will not survive. There really isn't much, if anything worth consuming that has DRM protection. DRM is going to eliminate exactly what it is meant to insure, control by the wealthy and powerful. When the Digital Millenium Copyright Act was tried, copyright holders were very careful not to sue anyone who would put up a fight. If people are willing to put up a fight, copyright holders lay off. Anyone who said, "Go ahead and sue me, I'll fight you all the way to The Supreme Court", they said "Could you please not pirate from us?" That's because if anyone fights back the court will overturn that ridiculous law. But, everyone lays down and lets copyright holders walk all over them.

Old_Fogie 10-11-2006 04:37 AM

I just read this article, interesting I'm not the only one who see's the entertainment moguls as 'not-consistent'

the best part of this article sums up my point. we need volumes of people in one voice:


If someone posts an unauthorized excerpt from ``Without A Trace," YouTube's computers would detect the piracy and notify CBS.

YouTube would remove the content on request, but the request may never come. CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said his firm may leave the illegal copy alone, because CBS will get a slice of any ad revenue generated by the video. A popular clip will generate extra income for the network while promoting one of its shows.
It's all about the money, and hey people do have to eat.

Give them linux customer's and this will work out. Boycot's are good, but if only a handful..well...

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