Defective by Design

Friday DRM News

Submitted by sarahmac on Fri, 2009-07-17 08:17

Nokia and DRM, Apple shuts out the Palm Pre, Hollywood confiscates moviegoers' phones, great GPL Games

Hi, I'm Sarah and I am working at the FSF this summer as part of a newly launched internship program. I will be posting new DRM news each Friday. If you'd like to know more about me read my letter of introduction. If you see stories we should mention here, please let me know.

I thought I'd preface this week's DRM news with a quick illustration of the difference between "DRM" and "encryption." DRM is often used synonymously with encryption and is also frequently promoted with deceptive words like “protection.” This leads to DRM being synonymous in some people's minds with security. DRM certainly uses encryption, but the way DRM uses encryption is not exactly the same way it is generally used when people refer to “encryption.”

Encryption is usually some sort of algorithm shared between two parties that makes information unreadable to others. Once you know the “key” to this algorithm it then becomes readable. Encryption is what lets you have private communication between two parties over an open network. Without it, you wouldn't be able to enter a password or a credit card number on a website without it being visible to others.

Products with DRM use encryption, but in a way that prevents you, the user, from seeing that “key.” The most common use of DRM is to prevent media content like songs, videos and ebooks from being copied or shared. In this case, the goal is not to keep credit card information from others' prying eyes. Here, DRM is implemented by one party to stop you from using a product that you bought, in ways you otherwise would be able to. DRM encryption doesn't protect you. What it does is let the company that sold you the product limit the ways you can use your software by not giving you the key.

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For example, the Amazon Swindle ebooks have a re-download limit for the amount of times you can re-download a book you paid for. On Microsoft's Web site it says, “Windows Media digital rights management (DRM) is a flexible platform that makes it possible to protect and securely deliver a la carte and subscription content for playback on a computer, portable device, or network device connected to an IP network.” How can if be flexible if I have to be connected to an IP network to play my subscription? Anno 1404, a video game, has a re-download limit and requires the user to be online while playing.

DRM isn't uncommon, nor is it uncommon for companies to falsely say that you, the user, is being “protected” or “secured” when encrusting a product with DRM. Many avoid explaining what they actually mean by the “protection” DRM provides. What they mean by protection is that they control the way you can use their product, in the process violating your freedoms. Encryption and DRM encryption are two separate concepts, and many companies like to merge the two together to muddle up the distinction between actual security and DRM restrictions.

For more on the problems with DRM, check out this article: Why DRM Will Never Work.

On to this week's news about DRM:

Nokia is Testing an Online Music Store in India, With DRM. Nokia is planning on launching an online music store in India which will be restricted by Microsoft DRM. A spokesperson is reported as saying, "The store will help promote legal music". If this spokesperson is referring to DRM as a way to prevent filesharing, she is grossly mistaken. It has been proven again and again to be ineffective at preventing filesharing. Stomping all over users' rights to promote legal music with a way that has been proven ineffective just doesn't make much sense.

DRM is Still not Enough for Hollywood! Hollywood has begun confiscating cell phones at movie previews to prevent filesharing. This is a pretty drastic measure considering it has not been proven that a pre-released movie has ever been leaked by a recording on a cell phone. In almost every case, leaks have been "inside jobs," leaked by someone involved in the creation of the film.

Apple Shuts Out Syncing iTunes to Palm Pre Beware: if you have a Palm Pre and install Apple's most recent “bug fix-update” for iTunes, you will no longer be allowed to sync your Pre with iTunes. This is just another instance of Apple locking out third-party devices forcing you to use their hardware if you want to use their software. Apple, yet again, tightens its grip over how you can experience your technology. This is what happens when you put yourself in the crossfire between two proprietary software companies.

Awesome DRM Free Games Licensed Under the GNU GPL Nexuiz, The Mana World, and Warzone 2100 are dedicated to using free software to develop computer games licensed under the GNU GPL, encouraging users to copy and improve them. Nexuiz is a first person deathmatch shooter game including different gamemodes like team deathmatch, capture the flag, and domination. The Mana World project develops massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) using 2D graphics. In Warzone 2100, your task is to rebuild civilization amongst the aftermath of a nuclear missile war. These games are free to download and copy, making them great alternatives to games restricted with DRM. Happy Gaming!

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