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.

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.

Apple announces all music on iTunes to go DRM-free -- no word on movies, TV shows, games, audiobooks and applications

As you've no doubt heard, Apple, the last major retailer of DRM-encumbered music announced, live at MacWorld, that all iTunes music will be going DRM-free. Today, some 8 million songs and music videos are already available DRM-free, via iTunes Plus.

Jobs: Apple Customers Don't Want to Rent Music

There has been some recent chatter on the internet about the possibility of Apple introducing a subscription based service. Steve Jobs may have just put that speculation to rest:
"Never say never, but customers don't seem to be interested in it," Jobs told Reuters in an interview after Apple reported blow-out quarterly results. "The subscription model has failed so far."
This was reported on CNN.

WSJ on the Apple/EMI Announcement

The WSJ's "Real Time" column this week is about last week's Apple/EMI announcement (you know, the one about dropping DRM).

Jason Fry observes, "First and most obviously, a major label is finally treating its customers like customers, instead of regarding them as likely shoplifters who should be given as few rights as possible."

Looks Like Jobs is a Jester

About 3 weeks ago, we launched the Open Letter to Steve Jobs. Since then over six thousand people have signed on. Steve Jobs hasn't taken any action since his February 7 rant on DRM. As promised, we'll be sending him the open letter with our signatures and jesters hat on Monday.

Hold that hat....

No it can't be. He has, he really has. iTunes will be selling DRM free tracks from EMI within a few weeks. Read the

Jobs (and Gates) should "Put their money where the mouths are"

In the days since Steve Jobs' open letter basically denouncing DRM and calling for its abolition, we have heard from many of you that Jobs unfairly distances himself from the DRM problem and solution, laying the blame at the feet of the big four music companies.

We wonder if he has forgotten that he is CEO of Pixar, part of the Disney Family. DRM is not just about music, increasingly it is movies and video that are protected by DRM, especially those selections purchased from iTMS.

Instead of laying the responsibility for DRM with the music companies and calling on their customers to influence them, Jobs should ask music fans to join him in directly lobbying the Big Four to drop DRM. He should be joining with Bill Gates and hosting a summit on the issue with Big Media.

Hollywood admits piracy not the problem

Ars Technica reported last week on a Hollywood Exec's admission that DRM, for them, is not about piracy, rather about control over the way people interact with copyrighted works.

If we believe Ronald Grover's sources in his BusinessWeek article of last week, the problem is liberal DRM and not piracy, and this is a startling admission. According to him, an unnamed studio executive said that a major reason why studios weren't jumping on board with the iTunes store and other similar services is that their DRM is too lax. "[Apple's] user rules just scare the heck out of us." It's not piracy that's the concern, it's their ability to control how you use the content you purchase.

Newsweek on DRM

Newseek ran an article this week on DRM and the growing anti DRM movement that our efforts have been instrumental in over the last few months.

Now, an increasingly vocal grassroots resistance to DRM is cropping up. An anti-DRM campaign called “Defective by Design,” which is organized by the Free Software Foundation, has 15,000 registered members; the Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that DRM places limits on “your ability to make lawful use of the music you purchase.” Web sites like and have been launched “to protect individuals’ right to use new digital technologies” and urge boycotts on DRM-tagged content. David Berlind, executive editor of tech trade journal ZDNet, coined his own term for DRM: “Content Restriction, Annulment and Protection.” (Figure out the acronym).

DRM not part of a viable business model (Billboard)

Last week Billboard (the music industry publication) ran a great article about DRM and the digital music market. The article was picked up by Reuters and ran in many other publications. An article like this would have been almost unthinkable in a recording industry publication just a few months ago!

What's more, opponents insist that DRM, in fact, does nothing to protect music. Virtually every form of DRM has been hacked, including Apple's FairPlay and Microsoft's WMA encryption of tethered subscription files. Not all digital music consumers are aware of these workarounds, but tend to discover them the minute they find they can't play their music on their device of choice.

Apple Got Cored in NYC

[img_assist|nid=845|title=Apple Store 5th Ave|desc=photo credit|link=none|align=right|width=265|height=400]Members of, New Yorkers for Fare Use and DefectiveByDesign all turned out for today's precursor to October 3rd.

WE talked to shoppers and passersbuy distributing stickers and leaflets about the dangers of DRM. Apple security didn't seem too happy with us, but the people we talked to were all interested and were pretty pissed to learn about the privacy violations and use restrictions of DRM schemes that Big Media are pushing.

Taking another bite at the Apple

With 100,000 DRM warning labels now distributed, it's time to start the action. Join one. Start one.

Join us in New York and London.

On Saturday, September 30th, hazmat suited DefectiveByDesign members will gather at the flagship Apple stores in New York and London, These high profile events will kick-off awareness for "Oct 3rd, Day Against DRM"

Apple copy-protection bad for business

Cory Doctorow has written a spot-on new column over at Information Week on how Apple iTunes' DRM is bad for business (not just customers). It's a great overview of the problems associated with DRM, in language that is fairly accessible. What's interesting is his tone, though, which seems to target big record companies -- laying out for them how their insistence on DRM is shooting them in the foot, putting them at Apple's beck and call.

Read Cory's article...

Richard Stallman meets with French presidential front runner Ségolène Royal

Free Software Foundation (FSF) President Richard Stallman, met with French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, and they agreed a joint statement. On DRM and the recent French copyright bill they say, "By giving a privileged legal status to digital restrictions (DRM), the bill "copyrights and related rights in the information society" (DADVSI) is going in the wrong direction. It will thus be necessary to examine from scratch the legal framework created by the DADVSI law at the French level and to contribute to the development of a European and international legal framework more favorable to the sharing of works and knowledge."

Canadian Linux Nerd: Plays for Sure--NOT!

Tim over at Canadian Linux Nerd mentions the DefectiveByDesign Freedom Rings day of action in post that highlights some of the problems with DRM in music.

...he'd bought a new CD but it refused to play on his Mac. I asked him to read me all the labels on the CD and sure enough it had a "Plays for sure" label. I explained that this meant it would for sure not play on his Mac and advised him to return to HMV where he bought it. He was of course enraged by this, I pointed out that he had in the past told me I was being unreasonable for fighting DRM and that he thought that the Digital Restrictions Management on his iTunes music store music was reasonable even though such music can only be played in iTunes or on his iPod. Since then he has converted all his iTunes music to CD and signed up for Defectivebydesign.

Macworld UK labels DBD "savvy"

Jonny Evans, reporting for Macworld UK, places the recent DefectiveByDesign flashmobs in an international context: "The group is perhaps a little more savvy than European regulators. The group contends that by restricting how software or files can be used, DRM-equipped products are 'defective by design'."

Read the rest of the article here...

BoingBoing: Local freedom fighters pull out all the stops

A hilarious picture from the San Francisco flashmob on June 10th is up at BoingBoing. Freedom Fighters dug out the following quote from Apple CEO Steve Jobs: "If you legally acquire music, you need to have the right to manage it on all other devices that you own." Local DBD volunteers printed the quote out as a large banner, and brought it with them to the June 10th event. Way to go, fellow technologists!

The quote in question, from a 2002 Wall Street Journal interview, can be found over at Macworld.


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