Last night I went along to hear Cory Doctorow give a lecture with not a title, a subtitle “Technology Giveth and Technology Taketh Away” at ACMI in Melbourne. Cory is the co-editor of Boing Boing and has contributed works for Wired, Popular Science, Make and the New York Times to mention but a few, he’s worked for the EFF and the WIPO.
The focus of his talk was Digital Rights Management (DRM) or the more assumed name by those who do not support it of Digital Restriction Management. DRM is the lock in and attempt of failed business models of the times we now live in this digital age by such agencies as the MPAA, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the International Federation of Phonogram and Videogram Producers (IFPI).
A team led my Princeton Professor Ed Felten accepted a challenge in 2000 by the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) to see if the security was able to be broken which it did quite easily and were then threatend by the RIAA to remain silent about their findings or face prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Felten eventually presented his paper at the USENIX security conference in 2001 with assurances from the Justice Department that threats under the DMCA were invalid against researchers discussing these technologies as such. It appeared as if the music industry wanted to stop a university professor from teaching security and mathematics to students and from that experience being able to go on and develop higher mathematical algorithm's for use in society.The RIAA have been suing groups of individuals for music piracy breaches as it is cost effective for them to pick a peer-to-peer file sharing group of users and sue them all in a single hit, if you change that to make the RIAA only be able to sue each individual person for the offence that each person committed then that would account for 1 in 50 of every lawsuit that was filed in the entire United States in 2005.
DRM in many aspects such as the make assumptions about the status of a family which is in-appropriate for a company to ask. With Microsoft Windows and the product activation it has for Windows XP is a prime example of this. You install Microsoft Windows and it then goes and activates itself on the internet by checking the serial number you used when you installed Windows for the first time. Now if you have had an issue with your computer and you re-install your operating system the following for week for whatever reason Microsoft declines the activation because it knows that this was done last week and it makes the assumption that the serial number in question is being used for piracy. This goes the same for music you download and is then limited in the number of copies you can make of that track to a device or computer and with a DVD they want you to only use it on the TV you have in your living room and not let you use your media server to play the content on a different TV or computer in your own house. A great example here is Grandpa, he has legitimately purchased digital music and movies and happily listened and watched these for years at home with no problems whatsoever. Grandpa now is looking at moving into a community care facility as he would like to have a few other people around him a little more often and care close by if it is needed. Now Grandpa is longer aloud to use his digital media collection because it was never licensed for use in that facility and if he would like to listen and watch some his favourite things he needs to purchase a new license.
Musicians of the days before radio existed would write some songs and when ready would go and perform these to a live audience. Then radio came along and a radio station would pay a license fee to broadcast the music and the licensing company would distribute this money to the artist in the form of royalties and gave the artist a much wider audience and then increased sales of the work performed. The digital age is making another significant shift in this area giving the internet as an even wider distribution source for media and as such some of the current business models no longer work in this day and age.
If you have a business model that actively restricts the rights of the way a user can use the media that they purchase by not letting you watch your movie on your laptop or listen to that CD in your car or copy that music from an iPod to the new and latest device to be manufactured then it is no doubt going to drive many to piracy. If your iPod breaks down in 2007 and you decide to get that latest device as it now has a 'heads up display' video player, game console, mobile phone and music player all built into the single device the same size as today's mobile phone you have been locked into the Apple iTunes service which you have payed out a large some of money to support your favourite artists and you cannot migrate this data from the digital device you will turn to piracy and go and download these from an alternative source as you have already paid for it once and now they want you to pay for it on a new device. The cost of moving from that old device to the new device is so prohibitive that people will either pesist with the iPod they purchased 20 years ago and keep fixing it as the cost to re-finance your media for licensing on a new device is to restrictive. Today's mobile phones are a great example of a device that does not have DRM, a new phone comes out and you decide because of the telephone carrier and the significant subsidies that they offer it is extremely cheap to migrate to a new phone with new features and basically you just pull out your old SIM card and plug it into your new phone and you are up and running.
Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/
Wikipedia: Digital Rights Managemnt
Wikipedia: Apple FairPlay DRM
Wikipedia: Microsft PlaysForSure DRM
Wikipedia: Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Ed Felten's Blog
Wikipedia: Ed Felten
Electronic Frontier Foundation
EFF: Ed Felten vs. RIAA
EFF: Digital Rights Management
Wikipedia: SonyBMG and First4Internet CD Rootkit
Wikipedia: Recording Industry Association of America
Wikipedia: Motion Picture Association of America
Wikipedia: International Federation of Phonogram and Videogram Producers