Blizzard has released the long-awaited game Diablo 3 to much fanfare, and yet to many gamers, much disappointment and frustration because of the game's DRM system. It requires a permanent internet connection to play -- moving much of the in-game interaction and logic to the network. Blizzard is using Diablo 3 to operate an online auction house, using real-world currency or in-game gold, which in turn can be exchanged between players to purchase weapons, materials and upgrades for your in-game character.
Just because you buy a DRM-restricted game doesn't mean you can play it. An unfortunate forum comment temporarily left a gamer unable to play a single-player game purchased through the EA Store. Bioware forum poster Arno recently had his EA account suspended for 72 hours and then found he could not activate his previously preordered and purchased copy of Dragon Age II.
This article provides an important back story to our DRM campaign. Here at DefectiveByDesign we try to give our readers the bigger picture of how DRM is a threat to society's freedom: it's more than just about access to music and movies.
("Kettling" refers to the police tactic of surrounding a large group of protestors in the middle of a protest and keeping them under siege for hours.)
Well, it's official. Apple has now announced it's bringing the App Store concept to the Mac and it looks like they'll be restricting apps with FairPlay DRM too for good measure. When we first began talking about the problems with the App Store on the iPhone and iPod Touch, people wanted us to drop it and stop talking about the DRM tricks being pulled by Apple on the grounds that the iPhone wasn't a general purpose computer (it is, and the iPad is too) but rather an appliance.
In 2007, Amazon announced their music store. It would, they promised, deliver DRM-free music to U.S. Amazon users. And they did just that. With much fanfare, they rolled out Amazon MP3, touting music downloads for any device. On their website, they explain what's special about their music sales. "DRM-free means that the MP3 files you purchase from Amazon.com do not contain any software that will restrict your use of the file."
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
We'll meet at 8:30am outside the Theater.
DRM Elimination Crew
FSF Operations Manager
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
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 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."
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.
While others are waking up to the problems with DRM and moving away from it, Microsoft is embracing and defending it.
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.
This year we've also seen some significant closures of various DRM services -- first MSN Music, then Yahoo Music. Yahoo offered refunds in the end, but it highlights the very real problem of DRM services closing down. Yahoo and Microsoft aren't even going out of business, yet they've closed DRM services. Google has done the same thing with its video store.
If you're in the UK, please lend your support to this petition against SecuROM.
"With more and more consumers being effectively handcuffed by games producers using draconian methods of DRM, we require the government to protect our rights as consumers by investigating this issue. We maintain that 'limited installs' and 'online activation' are both misleading, immoral and discriminatory.
Here is an opportunity to have some fun and get answers about the iPhone, straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
In every Apple retail store is a so-called "Genius Bar" -- a technical support station, the purpose of which is to offer help and support for Apple products.
You can use Apple's helpful online booking system (no registration required) to reserve time slots at the Genius Bar. There are currently 364 Apple stores in 13 countries, giving us plenty of slots to book. Several years ago, we held a two-day, worldwide iPhone Challenge, but you can keep up the pressure by continuing to visit your local Genius Bar and giving Apple the iPhone Challenge.
Take these three easy steps to give Apple our iPhone Challenge:
1) Book a 10-minute slot now!
Book online: USA, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Macau, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates.
2) Let us know which stores you have booked using our online counter.
3) Microblog about this, to encourage others to participate
At the Genius Bar....
Print out our handy questionnaire and information about how iPhone 3G restricts your freedom. If you have access to a color printer, you can also print out some of our snazzy iPhone flyers to hand out to people outside the store when you're done.
Head over to your local Apple Store at your designated time. Be sure to get a business card from your Genius first and then politely ask them the questions. For each question, give them a score between 1 and 32, with 1 being a really bad answer, and 32 being an answer that really showed insight into the restrictive practices of the iPhone.
The total score will be out of 160 -- the IQ level of Einstein, a certified genius. Rate your Genius's iQ to the same score, and if they get over 130, they're a genius -- any lower than that, and they're screwed. Glory and infamy awaits!
If you feel your Genius did particularly well, or particularly badly, please let us know their name, email address, and the store address -- it'll be on their business card. We'll send prizes and information accordingly.
Start by introducing yourself to your Genius.
"I'm from the DRM elimination crew at DefectiveByDesign.org -- I'd like to ask you a few questions about the defects Apple has designed into the iPhone 3G."
Why do all developers have to submit their applications to Apple before they can be loaded onto an iPhone?
Most smartphones, including those by OpenMoko, Nokia, RIM, Palm and even Microsoft, allow applications to come from a variety of sources, including free software developers. Free "as in freedom" software development requires that users and developers be able to share and modify the source code for programs they use. iPhone users are not permitted by Apple to share or load modified versions of programs distributed through the App Store -- even when a program's developer wants users to be able to do this! Apple markets itself as empowering, alternative technology -- How does Apple plan to support free software development?
Why does iTunes still contain so much DRM-laden music?
Services like Amazon, eMusic, Napster, Rhapsody, Play.com and 7digital are all selling music without DRM. A typical response to this might be that Apple has no option to sell media without DRM, but this is simply untrue. Jobs is the largest individual shareholder at Disney, and he could insist that its films be DRM-free. Apple should be leading the way to promote DRM-free music, but instead is lagging behind. What is Apple doing to fix this? If it really is the RIAA's fault, can you tell me specifically what the RIAA said to Jobs when he asked for the ability to sell DRM-free music?
The iPhone 3G has GPS support. How can users be sure that the GPS cannot be used to track their position, without their permission?
When the only thing preventing the GPS from being used is software, and the software in question is known only to Apple, why should iPhone users trust Apple? There is a privacy agreement, but how would I ever know that the agreement was violated?
In 'Thoughts on Music', Steve Jobs said, "it is useful to remember that all iPods play music that is free of any DRM and encoded in 'open' licensable formats such as MP3 and AAC".
If Jobs really wants to see open formats, why doesn't the iPhone play Ogg Vorbis, Ogg Theora video and FLAC? These formats require no licensing costs, and are not encumbered by patents. How does Apple plan to support these formats in the future? Will Apple approve applications for the App Store that support these formats?
Last question. Why can the iPhone 3G only be activated by Apple and AT&T?
In the United States, the Register of Copyrights has ruled that consumers have the right to unlock their phones and switch to a different carrier. How does Apple plan to remedy this discrepancy?
Give your Genius their score, your contact information (if you want) and your handout, along with any additional feedback you have about the defects in iPhone 3G. Thank them for their time, and quickly and politely leave the store. Outside the store, distribute some of the flyers and spend some time talking to people about these issues.
Let us know how it went by sending an email to email@example.com with your Genius's information, score, and your comments.
Bruce Schneier has brought a new form of Digital Restrictions Management to our attention:
Microsoft is doing some of the most creative thinking along these lines, with something it's calling "Digital Manners Policies." According to its patent application, DMP-enabled devices would accept broadcast "orders" limiting capabilities. Cellphones could be remotely set to vibrate mode in restaurants and concert halls, and be turned off on airplanes and in hospitals. Cameras could be prohibited from taking pictures in locker rooms and museums, and recording equipment could be disabled in theaters. Professors finally could prevent students from texting one another during class.
It sounds innocent enough, until Schneier pulls back the curtain to show the real motivation behind these policies:
Don't be fooled by the scare stories of wireless devices on airplanes and in hospitals, or visions of a world where no one is yammering loudly on their cellphones in posh restaurants. This is really about media companies wanting to exert their control further over your electronics. They not only want to prevent you from surreptitiously recording movies and concerts, they want your new television to enforce good "manners" on your computer, and not allow it to record any programs. They want your iPod to politely refuse to copy music a computer other than your own. They want to enforce their legislated definition of manners: to control what you do and when you do it, and to charge you repeatedly for the privilege whenever possible.
Consumers are objecting en masse to the idea of their own computers and devices continuously and indiscriminately policing their activities via Digital Restrictions Management. So it's no surprise that Microsoft is hatching plans to soft-pedal these same restrictions under the term "manners." This is just old wine in new bottles -- Microsoft wants another way to control your activities.
Since they would be the patent holder, they can profit from selling this ability to monitor and control you to others. There's no doubt that their main customers would be the same media distribution companies who are struggling to cripple the technology that makes them irrelevant -- technology that enables many more artists and creators to share their works directly with the public.
Microsoft's patent abstract says:
Similar to some of the social manners honored among people, such as with "no smoking" or "employees only" zones, "no swimming" or "no flash photography" areas, and scenarios for "please wash your hands" or "no talking out loud", devices may recognize and comply with analogous "device manners" policy.
It's common for companies pedaling digital restrictions to try to find parallels in the analog world, to make the restrictions seem familiar and correct. But these are flawed comparisons -- no machine covers your mouth with duct tape when you enter a "no smoking" zone just to make sure that you don't smoke. Nobody breaks your fingers to make sure that you don't use the flash on your camera in a museum.
Digital restrictions require you to hand over your privacy and freedom in advance. They are inherently unsafe because people other than the intended parties can access these mechanisms for monitoring and restricting you. They are inherently untrustworthy because you aren't legally allowed to know what's going on behind the scenes on the device in your pocket, including the contents of its continuous conversation with whichever corporation it's reporting to. The purpose of the restrictions might sound benign but their mechanism is unacceptable -- and what these companies are actually after is acceptance of the mechanism, so that they can then put it to other uses.
Digital Restrictions Management and "Digital Manners Policies" both use the fear that some people might not do the right thing to justify treating everyone like a criminal and taking away our freedom. We shouldn't accept this justification to cripple what are otherwise incredibly useful and powerful tools for innovation and creativity. "Digital Manners Policies" are really "Digital Monitoring Policies," and we should refuse them.
Last night the DRM Elimination Crew attended the grand opening of Apple's new store in Boston -- now its largest US store.
The clear glass front of the store stands in stark contrast to Apple's unethical business practices, including using opaque Digital Restrictions Management software to take rights away from its customers.