mfioretti: drm*

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  1. R Martin bought a Garadget -- a device that lets you verify whether your garage door is closed using a mobile app -- and couldn't get it to work and left an intemperate 1-star Amazon review for the product.

    In response, Garadget creator Denis Grisak disconnected his customer's Garadget from the cloud service, rendering it inoperable, and told the customer that he would not "tolerate any tantrums," so R Martin's "only option is return Garadget to Amazon for refund." This drew some negative publicity, resulting in the restoration of the customer's service.

    Whatever you think of the dynamics of R Martin and Denis Grisak, this is a cautionary tale about how the IoT is full of what we used to think of as "products" (garage-door openers) that are now "services," subject to the ongoing goodwill of the vendor to continue working. If the vendor decides to discontinue a product-service it simply stops working...forever -- same goes for vendors who punish customers for not buying official consumables; or who simply walk away from their businesses.

    What's more, the ubiquity of DRM in these devices, along with their abusive terms of service, combined with Section 1201 of the DMCA (which bans breaking DRM even for lawful purposes) and the CFAA (which makes breaking Terms of Service into a potential felony) means that developing an alternative OS for these gadgets, or a third-party replacement cloud, can land you in jail.
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  2. Start by understanding this: copyright lets you do a lot of stuff without permission (and even against the wishes) of rightsholders. For example, it let Apple launch the Ipod and Itunes, both of which were bitterly denounced by the record industry at their launch -- as far as they were concerned, "Rip, Mix, Burn" was an invitation to piracy, and Apple was wrong to encourage this behavior. But because copyright has limits -- fair use, and the limits on copyrightability itself -- Apple was able to revolutionize music.

    Enter the DMCA: in 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Section 1201 of which says that breaking DRM, even to accomplish those legal activities that lead to so much improvement and innovation in the entertainment industry (like Itunes and Ipods and Iphones) is illegal.

    This matters a lot. The Supreme Court told us that the only way copyright -- a government-issued monopoly over the utterance of certain words, sounds and images -- can square up with the First Amendment is through those limits on copyright, fair use and copyrightabaility's limitations. Then the Supreme Court repeated this.

    That's part of the basis of EFF's lawsuit to invalidate Section 1201 of the DMCA. Until we win that case, though, any digital interface with a thin scrim of DRM on it becomes a copyright no-go zone. Bypassing the DRM opens you up to felony prosecution and punishing civil penalties.

    That's why, if you have a CD you want to play on your Iphone, Apple provides software that automatically rips the music and seamlessly moves it to your device. But if you have a DVD -- the same kind of disc, but with a creaking DRM that was broken more than a decade ago -- Apple will invite you to buy that movie again on Itunes. The DRM on DVDs has kept them stuck in the 1990s, while the music on CDs has roared into the 21st century.

    Once all the audio coming out of an Iphone is digital -- once there's no analog output -- Apple gets a lot more options about how it can relate to its competitors, and they're all good for Apple and bad for Apple's customers. Just by wrapping that audio in DRM, Apple gets a veto over which of your devices can connect to your phone. They can arbitrarily withhold permission to headphone manufacturers, insist that mixers be designed with no analog outputs, or even demand that any company that makes an Apple-compatible device must not make that device compatible with Apple's competitors, so home theater components that receive Apple signals could be pressured to lock out Samsung's signals, or Amazon's.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2016-08-12)
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  3. Purchasers of the Philips Hue 'smart' ambient lighting system are finding out that the new firmware pushed out by the manufacturer has cut off access to previously-supported lightbulbs. Philips contends that this move will help their customers. A statement from the company reads in part: "While the Philips Hue system is based on open technologies we are not able to ensure all products from other brands are tested and fully interoperable with all of our software updates. For guaranteed compatibility you need to use Philips Hue or certified Friends of Hue products."
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  4. If DRM doesn't respect anyone's rights, why does it stick around? The market is broken and can't respond well--because DRM mostly works. When you buy encumbered media, you might only discover its problems long after you've made your purchase. As far as the industry is concerned, you're just another happy customer. When you bought it, you told the market it was what you wanted. When you silently stop buying intentionally broken products, it's obviously because you've discovered "piracy," and the lost sales might be used to justify even more oppressive restrictions.
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  5. Critics view Deere’s assertion that a tractor is fundamentally a software system with machine parts as an example of digital rights management (DRM) and copyright laws run amok. The Globe spoke to one of the leading opponents of DRM, Canadian author and technologist Cory Doctorow. He is co-ordinating the EFF’s Apollo 1201 project, which aims to strike down chunks of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) through the U.S. court system. In Canada, Bill C-11, the 2012 Copyright Modernization Act, updated our existing rules to enshrine many of the same prohibitions against breaking digital locks that make the DMCA a target for reformers.

    What do you make of this John Deere application?

    John Deere’s insistence that you have “licensed” your tractor and can’t really own it neatly demonstrates that anti-circumvention rules are actually anti-property rules.

    Laws like Canada’s Bill C-11 and the U.S. DMCA say that if a manufacturer uses computer code to control what you do with the things you buy, you can’t overrule them. These laws say that it’s a crime to remove DRM even if what you’re doing is otherwise allowed. So, it’s a lock on something that belongs to you, that even for legitimate reasons you can’t remove.

    As the John Deere petition to the U.S. Copyright Office made clear: The presence of a digital lock in a manufactured good means that you don’t own it and can’t decide how to best use it.

    In this world, “property” becomes the exclusive purview of manufacturers. You don’t get to own your computerized devices: You are only and forevermore a tenant of them, and the manufacturers are the landlords and they get to decide how you use the goods they deign to allow you to pay for.

    It used to be that if you bought something and figured out how to get extra value out of it – using an old blender to mix paint; fixing your own car; or ripping your CDs and loading the music in an MP3 player instead of buying it again – that extra value was yours to keep.

    In the world of C-11 and the DMCA, all that value is retained by the manufacturer. So automotive companies can put software locks on the engine computer, then insist that the mechanics they license source all their parts from the manufacturer at full retail, meaning that you can’t choose a mechanic who’ll use cheaper third-party spares.

    If your dishwasher can detect and reject “unauthorized” dishes in it, it can refuse to run its load. It’s the inkjet printer model, metastasized into the Internet of Things where everything we own – cars, houses, hearing aids, phones – is just a computer with a fancy case.

    I had quite a heated argument with James Moore Minister of Industry » on Twitter when he was working on C-11. I asked him “How can you say that you believe in markets and property, and then have a rule that says if I own a device I’m not allowed to choose how it works?” And he said “Well if you don’t like it, you should buy a different device.” And I’m like, “That’s not how property works!” If I don’t like how the decorator paints my house, I get to repaint it.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-05-19)
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  6. From phones to cars to refrigerators to farm equipment, software is helping our stuff work better and smarter. But those features come at a high hidden cost: the rapid erosion of ownership. Why does that matter? Because when it comes to digital products, owners have rights. Renters on the other hand, have only permission.

    The source of the problem is simple: copyright. You may own your device, but your use of the software in it is usually governed by the terms of an End-User License Agreement (or EULA). And that license agreement is likely to restrict your ability to tinker with your stuff. Typical clauses forbid reverse-engineering (e.g., figuring out how the software works so you can adapt it), transfer (e.g., giving it to a friend or selling it on the secondary market), and even using “unauthorized” repair services at all.

    Further complication: the software may be saddled with digital locks (aka Digital Rights Management or DRM) supposedly designed to prevent unauthorized copying. And breaking those locks, even to do something simple and otherwise legal like tinkering with or fixing your own devices, could mean breaking the law, thanks to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

    And then there’s repair-manual lockdown, which happens when manufacturers refuse to publish crucial repair information (including the manuals themselves, but also things like diagnostic codes for cars)—and then threaten to sue anyone else who tries to do so with a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

    The end result: fair uses are impeded, users are disempowered and trained to go hat in hand to the Apple store just to change a battery (rather than doing it themselves).
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  7. Digitalizzare sovraimponendo alle digitalizzazioni nuovi vincoli (riproduzioni a bassa risoluzione, watermark, copyright, la clausola “non per uso commerciale” che il settore pubblico ama adottare senza rendersi conto delle conseguenze**) significa non comprendere il valore generativo della cultura.

    Che cosa ne è dell’attività di mediazione delle biblioteche? Di certo si sta assottigliando molto, moltissimo. Probabilmente, si sta riducendo alla funzione di contrattare coi fornitori condizioni economiche agevolate alle risorse documentarie. Ma forse fissarsi su questo tema non aiuta. Forse è una questione di tempismo e questo potrebbe essere il momento della “restituzione”: possediamo un patrimonio e la conoscenza su come gestirlo per puro accidente storico, è il momento di rispettare la missione che abbiamo da sempre e liberarlo. Solo dopo che avremo fatto questo potremo domandarci se c’è ancora bisogno della nostra intermediazione e in quale forma.
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  8. Sure, they say that Blu-Ray (and HD-DVD) are new and improved media for distributing video -- but that's easily done, and not the focus of development. Where the money is spent is on introducing anti-features: ways to make the "illegitimate" product worse in order to make the legitimate product more attractive. If you want to know more about this sordid situation, here's a short list of these anti-features as they exist in Blu-Ray, with explanations of what they do: AACS (a type of DRM), BD+ (another DRM element which is essentially a legalized rootkit technology), MMC (hobbled copying path), HDCP (encryption over the wire), HDMI (video interface implementing HDCP), ICT (signal used to degrade output), and Region Coding (to divide viewers geographically and sustain market distortions).

    Of course, it's true that none of this actually works to defeat "piracy": all of this encryption has been broken by now, and so anyone serious about circumventing Blu-Ray's DRM will have little trouble in doing so. So it has no effect on real commercial "piracy" or "bootleg" disks. The real impact is to oppress ordinary users of the media.

    And all of this is clearly antithetical to your needs if you are a free culture movie, television, or web video producer. So, you want to opt out. With DVD you could -- you just made an unencrypted "all region" disk. It was unfortunate that this wasn't the norm, but at least we could operate in our own little free-trade zone.

    Not so with Blu-Ray. Blu-ray is locked down by industry collusion and binding contracts. The media moguls have got you on a short leash. As a video producer, I cannot get a non-DRM version of a Blu-Ray disk replicated (this is no myth, I queried a replicator about this directly). It's a contract violation, and it's illegal (due to patent law) to build a competing replication business using the same physical technology.

    For those of us who want to produce free culture high-definition video, this presents a Hobson's choice: either we sacrifice our ethics and ideology and release on the locked down format anyway or we don't release HD video at all.
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  9. Is it more important to me to use open source 100% of the time, or is it more important that Linux succeeds? For me, that question answers itself. How? Think about it this way: If Linux doesn't succeed, open source cannot succeed.

    At this point in the game, Linux needs the likes of Chrome and Flash and countless other pieces of software (and APIs) that may not be as GPL-friendly as the open-source community likes. But if Linux is to win over new users, it cannot, in any way, depend on those new users extracting APIs from one browser and rolling them into another. For new users to accept Linux as a desktop platform of choice, said platform needs to work out-of-the-box. That's what the new Chrome and Firefox bring to the table. With the PPAPI architecture, Flash will be more reliable and it will be baked into the browser. This means less work and fewer frustrated users.

    In the end, that means more users, which is exactly what Linux needs.

    I'm not saying that it's time to abandon the idea of the GPL -- not at all. What I'm saying is that at least 50% of the Linux faithful need to open their minds up to the idea of using non-GPL software. If it means Linux gains more support and a larger install base, how can you not see this as a winning situation?
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  10. This is the same Baker who told the world that Brendan Eich was being sacked as chief executive because his financial support in 2008 for Proposition 8 in California - a measure to define marriage as a union only between a man and woman - did not match the Foundation's values.

    So one can kick out a co-founder of Mozilla, the person who invented JavaScript, a technical genius, in order to adhere to these so-called values.

    At the same time, one will incorporate DRM, even if it is in not in keeping with those same "values". A word beginning with "h" and ending with "e" suggests itself.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-05-16)
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