Defective by Design

Microsoft DRM, Big Media and The Big Picture on Sharing

Hello, this is Sarah Adelaida McIntire. I have been posting DRM news here each week for the past few months, but this is my last post as my campaigns internship here at the FSF draws to a close. I welcome you to read my parting letter and if you'd like to know even more about me, you can read my letter of introduction. If you see stories we should mention here, please let me know.

Microsoft DRM, Big Media and The Big Picture on Sharing

With the launch of the FSF's new campaign, Windows 7 Sins, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on some of the DRM offenses that Microsoft has committed. One DRM scheme Microsoft uses is "Protected" Media Path. Protected Media Path was first introduced in Vista, but continues in Windows 7. The function of Protected Media Path is to make sure outgoing signals from your computer comply with Microsoft DRM standards and that no other "unapproved" software is running on your computer. Not only is your content initially slapped with DRM but your outgoing digital signals are constantly monitored and there is code running on your computer at all times checking your applications for "approval". If there is anything that Microsoft does not approve of they can just stop your ability to play your DRM'ed file. It keeps other programs from reading the playback process on your DRM'ed media files, by only showing audio and video in a basically impossible to read (encrypted) form.

"Protected" Media Path is just one of many DRM schemes that Microsoft has used over the past years, but is a good example of how DRM feeds into a bigger problem that not only limits freedom now, but makes sure our freedom will be limited in the future. Hollywood and the music industry often push Microsoft to incorporate DRM into their products. But Microsoft also uses DRM to its own advantage by creating user lock-in. The DRM article on the new "Windows 7 Sins" illustrates this scenario well, and demonstrates how harmful DRM schemes are to our culture.

"The...fear of big media companies is that people will share digital media with their friends, building a free public library of cultural works. Public libraries are wonderful institutions, and in a digital age they become almost miraculous: we can now provide universal access to human knowledge and culture--or at least anything that's been published--at a tiny cost. The amazing thing is that it's almost automatic: once people can share freely with their friends over a global network, you get a digital public library. P2P networks are one example of a digital library, and the web is another.

The value of these libraries to the public is historic and immeasurable. But media companies serve shareholders, not the public, and are therefore very ready to destroy in its infancy any public resource that might interfere with their profits. The personal computer is built from the ground up to make sharing information fast and easy, so for media companies to restrict sharing they need the full cooperation of software makers at the deepest level. Enter Microsoft."<<

DRM is often used to prevent extremely important modes of sharing for our society, just to protect outdated business models. This is especially damaging for our future because these harmful practices are being made into law. The future of sharing ideas is being defined right now, as countries wage a war on sharing. These steps have very serious consequences for the creation and spread of human knowledge now, and in the future.

Marlin a "new" form of DRM
Intertrust, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony have come together to make a "next-generation content and rights management technology." called Marlin. What's different about Marlin DRM is you can move media across more devices than traditional DRM would allow. But Marlin still controls what devices you use and requires the device to be properly authenticated and authorized before you can play anything on it. Marlin is still the freedom restricting DRM we all know, its just dressed up in a different suit.

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