Defective by Design

Behind-The-Scenes Look at How DRM Becomes Law from Cory Doctorow

Submitted by Gregory Heller on Wed, 2007-07-11 22:12

This afternoon Information Week published a great article by Cory Doctorow about how big corporations and shadowy associations and working groups collude to develop DRM schemes and the laws that mandate them.

The piece is very long, and very good. Everyone who is interested in this sort of thing should give it a read and then tell your friends and family about it.

Here is a choice excerpt from the beginning:

At root, DRMs are technologies that treat the owner of a computer or other device as an attacker, someone against whom the system must be armored. Like the electrical meter on the side of your house, a DRM is a technology that you possess, but that you are never supposed to be able to manipulate or modify. Unlike the your meter, though, a DRM that is defeated in one place is defeated in all places, nearly simultaneously. That is to say, once someone takes the DRM off a song or movie or e-book, that freed collection of bits can be sent to anyone else, anywhere the network reaches, in an eyeblink. DRM crackers need cunning: those who receive the fruits of their labor need only know how to download files from the Internet.

Why manufacture a device that attacks its owner? One would assume that such a device would cost more to make than a friendlier one, and that customers would prefer not to buy devices that treat them as presumptive criminals. DRM technologies limit more than copying: they limit uses, such as viewing a movie in a different country, copying a song to a different manufacturer's player, or even pausing a movie for too long. Surely, this stuff hurts sales: Who goes into a store and asks, "Do you have any music that's locked to just one company's player? I'm in the market for some lock-in."

Doctorow goes into more detail in subsequent pages, I encourage you to read it.

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