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The Decade in DRM (and announcing Day Against DRM, 2010)

Since the late 1990s, a handful of media and technology companies has waged war against the public, imposing digital restrictions on the technology we use.. Here is Defective by Design's look at some of the most significant events in the past 10 years fighting against DRM. If there are important moments missing (which there may be), please send them to us! Despite a number of victories over DRM in specific areas, DRM is far from dead. Whether companies will control and restrict us through our technology remains to be decided, and the battle is now.

Sign the petition: iPad DRM is iBad for our freedoms

Today, Apple launched a computer that will never belong to its owner. Apple will use Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) to gain total veto power over the applications you use and the media you can view.

We've launched a petition calling out Apple's new product for what it is: a frightening step backward for computing and for media distribution. Can you read it, sign it, and share with friends?

Sign the petition

Support DbD at Apple's Jan. 27 "Come see our latest restriction" event in SF

Update 2010-01-25: We will be meeting outside the Theater at 8:30am (Wednesday 27th), and will go until at least 10:30am. Stay tuned to http://identi.ca/dbd for updates and coordination.

This coming Wednesday, January 27th, Apple has invited members of the media to San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater to "Come see our latest creation."

There has been much speculation about what Apple will be announcing, with most of it revolving around a possible tablet PC -- basically an oversized iPhone. But no matter the form factor, it's all but certain given the direction Apple has been going that any new product will be DRM-infected and restricted by proprietary software.

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The company who once announced to the world that they opposed DRM on music has been pushing DRM in every other area of their business. Apple's iPhone goes out of its way to apply DRM on every piece of software on the device, saying it is illegal for users to install software that comes from anywhere other than the official Application Store.

Can you imagine a world where this same restriction is applied to your laptop or tablet PC? That could very well be Apple's announcement on Wednesday -- their latest restriction.

As in the past, they didn't invite us to the event, but we thought we would go anyway, and bring some friends. We'll be there to warn the public and the media outside the event about Apple's support for DRM and proprietary software.

Come help create the counter story in the media -- take photos, talk to the press, and have fun with a little bit of theater to show that Apple is not the force for creative expression they claim to be.

We got through to Steve Jobs before on music DRM, and convinced iTunes to drop it. We know we can have success here. But we need to repeat that effort and show that DRM on Apple computers means that people who are actually interested in creativity and freedom will go elsewhere.

Press coverage of Apple events usually falls all over itself to praise the style and sleekness of their devices. It's vital that we be there to unmask the new product for what it undoubtedly will be -- another seamless case and pretty screen hiding a new set of restrictions and threats to the public's digital freedom.

We'll post the precise time and meeting location for our group here next week -- since Apple's event starts at 10am, attendees will be showing up at 9am, and we will want to be ready and outside the Theater by then to hand out flyers and talk to people.

I'll be there representing the FSF and coordinating the action. Please join us, and bring friends. Let us know you're coming at info@defectivebydesign.org.

We'll meet at 8:30am outside the Theater.

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John Sullivan
DRM Elimination Crew
FSF Operations Manager

Take action: DRM leaves video game unplayable for days after purchase

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The video game "Borderlands" was released for consoles on October 20. But when people who bought the PC version in stores went home to play it, they had a nasty surprise. Thanks to DRM, they couldn't install it until the official release date 6 days later.

Apple says you can't have freedom because you might be clumsy, evil, and a drug dealer

Apple's lawyers, led by David L. Hayes of Fenwick & West LLP, claimed in comments submitted to the US Copyright Office that the Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) system on the iPhone is necessary to combat drug dealers, safeguard the cell phone network, and prevent you from hurting yourself.

Friday DRM News (Monday edition)

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.

Netflix, Why Do You Hate My Operating System?' Periodically, over the past couple of weeks my friend has been coming over to my apartment to watch movies with me. He has a membership to Netflix and I was delighted to learn that Netflix offers streaming of movies at no extra charge with many of its DVD rental plans. The convenience and wide selection of movies made me seriously consider signing up for my own Netflix account. I completely lost any such interest in signing up for an account when I found out Netflix doesn't support my GNU/Linux operating system and promotes proprietary software.

The DRM imposed on Netflix makes streaming unable to automatically work with GNU/Linux, unless I download proprietary software applications and even then, it's still not guaranteed to work. Basically, Netflix's DRM restrictions ask me to surrender my control over my laptop (by downloading these proprietary applications) in order to watch movies. Netflix should not even ask me to give up my freedoms in order to use their services.

More than six months ago Defective by Design asked users to “Send Netflix one of our holiday promise cards to say why you are boycotting their streaming service, and ask them to remove the DRM by June 2009... If Netflix fails to meet this ever-so-polite request, we'll be working on a mass cancellation of Netflix service in the new year.”

It is now the "new year", a whole seven months since Defective by Design and many Netflix users have politely asked Netflix to remove DRM from it streaming movies. Netflix has ignored its customers' requests to remove this DRM. It has refused to provide support to those who do not run Mac OS X or Windows. Their neglect of customers' requests show that Netflix clearly has no regard for their customers' rights. It's time to think about dropping subscriptions to Netflix.


Photo by Josh Bonnain, CC-BY

DRM News for this week:

Actually...DRM Isn't Dead By now you've probably seen the headlines “RIAA says DRM is Dead”. Wouldn't it be wonderful if one of DRM's biggest cheerleaders, the RIAA, retracted its support for this restrictive software? Unfortunately, it is too good to be true. Jonathan Lamy, representative of the RIAA, was misquoted by TorrentFreak saying "DRM is dead, isn't it?”, but what Lamy actually said was "There is virtually no DRM on music anymore, at least on download services, including iTunes." While is it true many music providers are now moving toward offering DRM free music downloads, certainly not all of them are. Not only that, but many other products besides music files continue to be restricted by DRM. In the end, whether or not Lamy actually said DRM is dead is irrelevant, we all know that the truth, regrettably, is otherwise.

Apple Withdraws Legal Threats from Bluwiki; EFF follows suit In November 2008 Apple legally threatened Bluwiki for a user created wiki page that discusses the possibility, which was unresolved, of how to use software other than Apple software on iPods and iPhones to sync media content. Bluwiki is a wiki that operates without censorship, pop-ups or banner ads. Apple sent a cease and desist e-mail to Bluwiki, claiming the pages violated the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions and infringed on copyrights they held. Bluwiki responded by taking down the pages and sought legal help. "The EFF and the San Francisco law firm of Keker & Van Nest sued Apple on behalf of OdioWorks, which runs Bluwiki, asking a court to reject Apple's claims and allow Bluwiki to restore the discussions." This month Apple withdrew its legal threats and the EFF withdrew its charges against Apple in response. Apples withdrawal of these allegations are encouraging, but Apple has still left a threatening permeate impression: Not only has Apple infected their devices with DRM, but users can't even discuss alternative bits of software to use without the fear of being sued.

Tesco Digital Removes DRM from its Tracks Not only does Tesco Digital offer DRM-free music on in its 15 million tracks, it will allow users to convert tracks they've previously purchased from Tesco Digital from WMA to MP3. This conversion will be offered for free until the end of the month.

Update: Palm Pre Will Now Sync With iTunes Last week I wrote about Apple's "bug fix-update" for iTunes on the Palm Pre. This "bug-fix" would essentially no longer allow the user to sync to iTunes from their Palm Pre. This week Palm responded with their own update, and the Pre now syncs with iTunes again. The war between these two proprietary companies continues. Be careful, don't get caught in the crossfire.

The Swindle Strikes Again! Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, Apologizes Amazon deleted purchased copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from customer's Kindles. Apparently, these electronic copies were not authorized properly by the publisher, so Amazon simply deleted the copies remotely. Amazon couldn't have chosen more symbolic books to remove could they? This is proof, once again, of the power DRM gives Amazon over your content. Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos apologized for the remote deletion of the ebooks after criticism began to pour in about the Kindle's use of proprietary software and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). While we appreciate and welcome his apology, Amazon's ebooks continue to remain encrusted with DRM. As Peter Brown put it, "Unfortunately this matter requires more than just changing internal policy. The real issue here is Amazon's use of DRM and proprietary software. They have unacceptable power over users, and actual respect necessitates more than an apology -- it requires abandoning DRM and releasing the Kindle's software as free software." While this apology is appreciated very much, Amazon still has unacceptable control over the user. If Amazon wishes to take that step to remove DRM from its ebooks, we would be more than happy to help with this transition.

Update: hundreds of 1-star reviews added to Kindle page!

Update: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos apologizes - see our press release, and Digg this news

This week's Kindle action is going great; together we've generated hundreds of 1-star reviews and tags.

Then there was a great article in Slate by Farhad Manjoo, Amazon's top "expert reviewer" on the Kindle's product page, retracting his recommendation. This would be a perfect article to share with friends and co-workers, to introduce them to the problem of DRM (diggable here).

If you haven't written a review yet, here are direct links to the review forms. Take a few minutes to explain to potential Kindle buyers why they shouldn't get one: 6" Kindle, Kindle DX.

If your review wasn't published by Amazon, definitely let us know. We'll be busy picking our next product to target (if you have any suggestions, email us at info@defectivebydesign.org). In the meantime, we thought we'd share some of our favorite reviews below. Awesome job, everyone.

Friday DRM News

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.

Friday DRM News (Monday edition)

Friday DRM News

Hello, my name is 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. **Apologies for the late post.**

The War on Sharing: Why the FSF cares about RIAA lawsuits

The Free Software Foundation and DefectiveByDesign have been working with attorney Ray Beckerman to help fight for victims of the RIAA's baseless intimidation campaign. The RIAA recently took notice, calling our position -- and by extension the position of many other anti-DRM activists -- "virulent" and "baseless."

Nintendo DSi: Defective by DESiGN.

In November, Nintendo released the DSi console in Japan. Next month, the rest of the world will be hit by this console. Similar to the previous Nintendo DS and DS Lite consoles, the DSi has two screens and the ability to access WiFi networks. However, in an effort to heavily control what gamers can do with their consoles, Nintendo has chosen to encumber this new version with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM).

Nintendo DSi -- defective by design

iPod Shuffle...

Apple has released a new revision of its iPod Shuffle, and in a general sentiment against buttons that began with the iPod and its solitary button, the new iPod Shuffle has no buttons whatsoever. Just a switch.

Apple has unhelpfully put these controls on the headphone cable, so now, you have to use their proprietary headphones. They've also added a feature that Rockbox has had for some time -- sadly, not the ability to play Ogg -- no, instead, a recording of each song's artist and title will be read aloud, before each track.

Gears of War is defective by design

Epic Games's Gears of War title apparently includes a cut-off date, enforced via DRM. Ars Technica is reporting that the game ceased to function for everyone who bought it on January 28, 2009.

While it's not rare for games to ship with bugs every now and again, it's pretty shocking when one ships with an issue that causes the title to stop working for everyone who paid.

Microsoft defends DRM, badly

While others are waking up to the problems with DRM and moving away from it, Microsoft is embracing and defending it.

Do they think we forgot about MSN Music already?

I buy these songs on your service - and they're locked to my phone - what happens when I upgrade my phone in six months' time?

Well, I think you know the answer to that.

Day 35 -- DRM in 2008

With our 35 Days Against DRM campaign ending, how about a 2008 recap to end things off...

Apple

In 2008, Apple released the iPhone 3G, new iPods and the new MacBook with an HDMI display output. A persistent rumor finally came true at the early 2009 MacWorld -- iTunes is now going DRM free, at least for music. Movies, TV shows, Audiobooks and Applications remain encumbered by DRM.

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