Electronics are popular gifts for the holidays, but people often overlook the restrictions that manufacturers slip under the wrapping paper. From remote deletion of files to harsh rules about copying and sharing, some gifts take more than they give. The problems include DRM but go beyond it -- any device running proprietary software, instead of freely licensed software, is a locked box its users can't control or understand.
The blight of the DMCA continues as another round of the anti-circumvention exemptions process comes to a close.
Ten years ago today, Sony was caught red-handed in a flashpoint that galvanized popular resistance to Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). A security researcher named Mark Russinovich published a description of surveillance malware (in this case a technically sophisticated rootkit) that was secretly installed on users' computers by the DRM on Sony music CDs.
We have written previously about the organizations and individuals who opposed exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) anti-circumvention provisions. These drones oppose the rights of users to backup, modify, and study the software and devices that we own. The DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions create legal penalties for simply accessing your software under your own terms, and raises those penalties even higher should dare to share the tools needed to do so. It creates real penalties for anyone who wants to avoid Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) controls. The granting of exemptions to these totalitarian rules is a broken and half-hearted attempt to limit the damage these rules bring, granting for 3 years a reprieve for certain specified devices and software.
When we say people and groups lack integrity, we mean that they're corrupt and deceitful. Similarly, when computer scientists say that a file lacks integrity, they mean it's been corrupted: unintentionally or maliciously modified. Apple's recent decision to impose Digital Restrictions Management -- the favorite anti-feature of proprietary format developers -- on many music fans lacked integrity, and took away the files' integrity as well.
These DRM offenders tried to squelch anti-circumvention exemptions; let them know that DRM is always wrong.
Last week's International Day Against DRM was the biggest ever, with fifteen actions from Guatemala to Bangladesh, endorsement from major ebook publishers, and a chorus of support on social media. Community members shared diverse perspectives on DRM in community blog posts and helped bring new people in to our movement. Together we sent a strong message to the DRM and publishing industries: we will not tolerate digital restrictions.
Protestors at the New York City Apple store were evicted by uncomfortable security guards. Principled cooks in Italy created painfully spicy -- but tasty-looking -- DRM-themed snacks to illustrate the bait-and-switch deception of DRM-encumbered media. And a solitary activist took on the entire University of Illinois at Chicago campus with nothing but a few hundred flyers and an unflappable attitude. As of the time of this writing, we've heard about three times as many organized events as last year, a total of fifteen. Great job, anti-DRM community!
This post is by Kat Walsh, a lawyer with extensive background in the free culture movement, who recently joined the Free Software Foundation's board of directors. The post was written for the 2015 International Day Against DRM.
Everyone knows how to recognize cartoon villains. They twirl their mustaches as they kick puppies, delivering speeches about world domination for personal gain, and often let their arrogance lead to their undoing. People recognize this kind of evil immediately and rise up in protest, banding together to resist. In the real world, most evils are much harder to see coming: they look reasonable at first, perhaps taking just a little bit from many people to get to some unexpected end. Once the effect is widespread enough that most people notice, you have a systemic problem that's hard to get rid of. The evil that's easy to identify is easy to fight. The one that initially looks like something good can betray you, and that's why when we recognize it, we need to speak out against it.
Digital restrictions affect almost everyone, but most people have never heard of them. Today is one of our best opportunities to change that.
People around the world are coming together to say that we will not tolerate the remote deletions, unethical surveillance, and invasive restrictions of DRM. In fact, with events in at least nine countries and huge online participation, it's the world's biggest anti-DRM protest.
This is a guest post by Free Software Foundation board member Benjamin Mako Hill. It focuses on the rise of DRM in subscription streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. The post was written for the 2015 International Day Against DRM.
It's two days before the International Day Against DRM and our community is kicking into gear. We'll come together as a strong movement and we'll make sure the world hears our message: Digital Restrictions Management is wrong, and we will not sit idly by while it is imposed on us.
This is a guest post by Storm Dragon and Kyle (co-writer), two blind anti-DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) activists. It focuses on the problems facing blind readers in the US, but much of it is applicable to other countries as well. The post was written for the 2015 International Day Against DRM.
The International Day Against DRM is in two weeks on May 6th. On the same day across many countries, we will be meeting together and raising our voices against the unjust restrictions, control and surveillance that DRM imposes, and pointing the way to a future of empowerment for computer users. Will you join us at an event?
Every three years, supporters of user rights are forced to go through a Kafkaesque process fighting for exemptions from the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). We explain this process more fully in our announcement of the comments we filed this year. In short, under the DMCA's rules, everything not permitted is forbidden.
In the last year, we've seen DRM spread into more types of products, with Mozilla giving in to DRM in its Firefox Web browser and the media fawning over Apple's DRM-laden "smart" watch. But more people are waking up to DRM's oppressive effect every day, and the movement to regain control of our technology is growing.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has one particularly draconian measure criminalizing the circumvention of digital restrictions management (DRM). This section, which appears in law as 17 U.S.C §1201 states that "[n]o person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work". This facet of the law completely violates users' rights to their own devices, and their legitimate use rights to copyrighted works.
We've just finished another round of updates to the Guide to DRM-free Living, with tons of new entries for publishers, artists, platforms, and other providers of digital media who distribute files free of Digital Restrictions Management. The guide now contains over 200 entries for places to get DRM-free ebooks, movies, and music. Included among the new additions are Leanpub, a platform for authors to write and publish programming books, Rebellion Publishing, which sells graphic novels and comics, and Vimeo On Demand, a platform for creators to sell their videos.
Santa's helpers (activists) about to distribute the Giving Guide to commuters
I'm writing this with chilly fingers, having just come in from handing out our DRM-Free Giving Guide on the sidewalks around Cambridge, MA's central shopping district with some other activists. A few of the passersby were savvy about the issues of digital freedom and privacy, but for most, it was the first time they'd heard of ethical technology. Interacting with both types of people was meaningful -- sometimes hilarious as in the case of the man that said "I'm already ethical enough" -- and it reminded me why the Defective by Design campaign is so important: though DRM touches the lives of almost everyone we know, a disappointing few even know what it is.
We've just released a printable version of our online Giving Guide, which helps gift-givers choose tech gifts that are DRM-free and respect recipients' rights as computer users. The Guide is hosted on the Web site of the Free Software Foundation, which runs Defective by Design. The printable version, which is available in color as well as black and white, makes sharing and translating easy so the Giving Guide can spread far and wide.
Are you giving your loved ones holiday gifts they can use freely, or gifts which put someone else in control?
In the flurry of holiday advertising that happens at the end of the year, many people are swept into buying DRM-laden gifts that take more than they give. Each holiday season the Free Software Foundation -- which runs Defective By Design -- releases a Giving Guide to make it easy for you to choose tech gifts that are DRM-free and respect recipients' rights as computer users.
Opened a tech news site today? If so, you're probably up to your neck in buzz about today's Apple keynote. Front and center were Apple's new devices, the Apple Watch and iPhone 6. They're pretty and they're trendy, but, as we've been saying for years, those sleek metal finishes hold some of the most sophisticated and unjust restrictions around. On top of that, the company that sells them is a patent bully solely focused on control of the industry and its customers.
On May 6, 2015, the global anti-DRM community will hold our biggest display of unity so far - the 9th annual International Day Against DRM.
This year's International Day Against DRM featured a variety of events in Brazil, Bangladesh, Portugal, and the United States, and we're planning for 2015's Day to be even bigger.
Yesterday, people all over the world spoke out against Digital Restrictions Management with flyering, rallies, teach-ins, and sales on DRM-free media. Our eighth International Day Against DRM was a smashing success. Here are some of the highlights from yesterday's actions:
Powerful entertainment and technology companies use Digital
Restrictions Management to restrict our use of digital media. We
organize and build tools to protect our access to it. Our opponents
are strong enough to have the government on their side in most
countries, but when we come together, we are strong too.
During the last year, we've seen Digital Restrictions Management creep farther into the world of technology (including coffee makers and cars), even as we build a stronger and stronger community to fight it. A growing number of people are living within a box constrained by DRM without even knowing it.