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(digital) copyright problems, the best summary

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  • (digital) copyright problems, the best summary

    We had many thread on the copyright problems, but it is too good to buried in other topics.
    I think I found the best summary of my problems with the copyright (especially the digital copyright).
    See this link:

    (on the site you can find links to many translations of the text, so you can read it on your native language)
    a brain cell

  • #2
    That link goes to a search site with no content.
    Get the US out of NATO, now!


    • #3
      Originally posted by SparceMatrix
      That link goes to a search site with no content.
      Hmmm, it works for me, but here is the text:

      Greetings fellow pirates! Arrrrr!

      I'm here today to talk to you about copyright, technology and
      DRM, I work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation on copyright
      stuff (mostly), and I live in London. I'm not a lawyer -- I'm a
      kind of mouthpiece/activist type, though occasionally they shave
      me and stuff me into my Bar Mitzvah suit and send me to a
      standards body or the UN to stir up trouble. I spend about three
      weeks a month on the road doing completely weird stuff like going
      to Microsoft to talk about DRM.

      I lead a double life: I'm also a science fiction writer. That
      means I've got a dog in this fight, because I've been dreaming of
      making my living from writing since I was 12 years old.
      Admittedly, my IP-based biz isn't as big as yours, but I
      guarantee you that it's every bit as important to me as yours is
      to you.

      Here's what I'm here to convince you of:

      1. That DRM systems don't work

      2. That DRM systems are bad for society

      3. That DRM systems are bad for business

      4. That DRM systems are bad for artists

      5. That DRM is a bad business-move for MSFT

      It's a big brief, this talk. Microsoft has sunk a lot of capital
      into DRM systems, and spent a lot of time sending folks like
      Martha and Brian and Peter around to various smoke-filled rooms
      to make sure that Microsoft DRM finds a hospitable home in the
      future world. Companies like Microsoft steer like old Buicks, and
      this issue has a lot of forward momentum that will be hard to
      soak up without driving the engine block back into the driver's
      compartment. At best I think that Microsoft might convert some of
      that momentum on DRM into angular momentum, and in so doing, save
      all our asses.

      Let's dive into it.


      1. DRM systems don't work

      This bit breaks down into two parts:

      1. A quick refresher course in crypto theory

      2. Applying that to DRM

      Cryptography -- secret writing -- is the practice of keeping
      secrets. It involves three parties: a sender, a receiver and an
      attacker (actually, there can be more attackers, senders and
      recipients, but let's keep this simple). We usually call these
      people Alice, Bob and Carol.

      Let's say we're in the days of the Caesar, the Gallic
      War. You need to send messages back and forth to your generals,
      and you'd prefer that the enemy doesn't get hold of them. You can
      rely on the idea that anyone who intercepts your message is
      probably illiterate, but that's a tough bet to stake your empire
      on. You can put your messages into the hands of reliable
      messengers who'll chew them up and swallow them if captured --
      but that doesn't help you if Brad Pitt and his men in skirts
      skewer him with an arrow before he knows what's hit him.

      So you encipher your message with something like ROT-13, where
      every character is rotated halfway through the alphabet. They
      used to do this with non-worksafe material on Usenet, back when
      anyone on Usenet cared about work-safe-ness -- A would become N,
      B is O, C is P, and so forth. To decipher, you just add 13 more,
      so N goes to A, O to B yadda yadda.

      Well, this is pretty lame: as soon as anyone figures out your
      algorithm, your secret is g0nez0red.

      So if you're Caesar, you spend a lot of time worrying about
      keeping the existence of your messengers and their payloads
      secret. Get that? You're Augustus and you need to send a message
      to Brad without Caceous (a word I'm reliably informed means
      "cheese-like, or pertaining to cheese") getting his hands on it.
      You give the message to Diatomaceous, the fleetest runner in the
      empire, and you encipher it with ROT-13 and send him out of the
      garrison in the pitchest hour of the night, making sure no one
      knows that you've sent it out. Caceous has spies everywhere, in
      the garrison and staked out on the road, and if one of them puts
      an arrow through Diatomaceous, they'll have their hands on the
      message, and then if they figure out the cipher, you're b0rked.
      So the existence of the message is a secret. The cipher is a
      secret. The ciphertext is a secret. That's a lot of secrets, and
      the more secrets you've got, the less secure you are, especially
      if any of those secrets are shared. Shared secrets aren't really
      all that secret any longer.

      Time passes, stuff happens, and then Tesla invents the radio and
      Marconi takes credit for it. This is both good news and bad news
      for crypto: on the one hand, your messages can get to anywhere
      with a receiver and an antenna, which is great for the brave
      fifth columnists working behind the enemy lines. On the other
      hand, anyone with an antenna can listen in on the message, which
      means that it's no longer practical to keep the existence of the
      message a secret. Any time Adolf sends a message to Berlin, he
      can assume Churchill overhears it.

      Which is OK, because now we have computers -- big, bulky
      primitive mechanical computers, but computers still. Computers
      are machines for rearranging numbers, and so scientists on both
      sides engage in a fiendish competition to invent the most
      cleverest method they can for rearranging numerically represented
      text so that the other side can't unscramble it. The existence of
      the message isn't a secret anymore, but the cipher is.

      But this is still too many secrets. If Bobby intercepts one of
      Adolf's Enigma machines, he can give Churchill all kinds of
      intelligence. I mean, this was good news for Churchill and us,
      but bad news for Adolf. And at the end of the day, it's bad news
      for anyone who wants to keep a secret.

      Enter keys: a cipher that uses a key is still more secure. Even
      if the cipher is disclosed, even if the ciphertext is
      intercepted, without the key (or a break), the message is secret.
      Post-war, this is doubly important as we begin to realize what I
      think of as Schneier's Law: "any person can invent a security
      system so clever that she or he can't think of how to break it."
      This means that the only experimental methodology for discovering
      if you've made mistakes in your cipher is to tell all the smart
      people you can about it and ask them to think of ways to break
      it. Without this critical step, you'll eventually end up living
      in a fool's paradise, where your attacker has broken your cipher
      ages ago and is quietly decrypting all her intercepts of your
      messages, snickering at you.

      Best of all, there's only one secret: the key. And with dual-key
      crypto it becomes a lot easier for Alice and Bob to keep their
      keys secret from Carol, even if they've never met. So long as
      Alice and Bob can keep their keys secret, they can assume that
      Carol won't gain access to their cleartext messages, even though
      she has access to the cipher and the ciphertext. Conveniently
      enough, the keys are the shortest and simplest of the secrets,
      too: hence even easier to keep away from Carol. Hooray for Bob
      and Alice.

      Now, let's apply this to DRM.

      In DRM, the attacker is *also the recipient*. It's not Alice and
      Bob and Carol, it's just Alice and Bob. Alice sells Bob a DVD.
      She sells Bob a DVD player. The DVD has a movie on it -- say,
      Pirates of the Caribbean -- and it's enciphered with an algorithm
      called CSS -- Content Scrambling System. The DVD player has a CSS

      Now, let's take stock of what's a secret here: the cipher is
      well-known. The ciphertext is most assuredly in enemy hands, arrr.
      So what? As long as the key is secret from the attacker, we're

      But there's the rub. Alice wants Bob to buy Pirates of the
      Caribbean from her. Bob will only buy Pirates of the Caribbean if
      he can descramble the CSS-encrypted VOB -- video object -- on his
      DVD player. Otherwise, the disc is only useful to Bob as a
      drinks-coaster. So Alice has to provide Bob -- the attacker --
      with the key, the cipher and the ciphertext.

      Hilarity ensues.

      DRM systems are usually broken in minutes, sometimes days. Rarely,
      months. It's not because the people who think them up are stupid.
      It's not because the people who break them are smart. It's not
      because there's a flaw in the algorithms. At the end of the day,
      all DRM systems share a common vulnerability: they provide their
      attackers with ciphertext, the cipher and the key. At this point,
      the secret isn't a secret anymore.


      2. DRM systems are bad for society

      Raise your hand if you're thinking something like, "But DRM
      doesn't have to be proof against smart attackers, only average
      individuals! It's like a speedbump!"

      Put your hand down.

      This is a fallacy for two reasons: one technical, and one social.
      They're both bad for society, though.

      Here's the technical reason: I don't need to be a cracker to
      break your DRM. I only need to know how to search Google, or
      Kazaa, or any of the other general-purpose search tools for the
      cleartext that someone smarter than me has extracted.

      Raise your hand if you're thinking something like, "But NGSCB can
      solve this problem: we'll lock the secrets up on the logic board
      and goop it all up with epoxy."

      Put your hand down.

      Raise your hand if you're a co-author of the Darknet paper.

      Everyone in the first group, meet the co-authors of the Darknet
      paper. This is a paper that says, among other things, that DRM
      will fail for this very reason. Put your hands down, guys.

      Here's the social reason that DRM fails: keeping an honest user
      honest is like keeping a tall user tall. DRM vendors tell us that
      their technology is meant to be proof against average users, not
      organized criminal gangs like the Ukranian pirates who stamp out
      millions of high-quality counterfeits. It's not meant to be proof
      against sophisticated college kids. It's not meant to be proof
      against anyone who knows how to edit her registry, or hold down
      the shift key at the right moment, or use a search engine. At the
      end of the day, the user DRM is meant to defend against is the
      most unsophisticated and least capable among us.

      Here's a true story about a user I know who was stopped by DRM.
      She's smart, college educated, and knows nothing about
      electronics. She has three kids. She has a DVD in the living room
      and an old VHS deck in the kids' playroom. One day, she brought
      home the Toy Story DVD for the kids. That's a substantial
      investment, and given the generally jam-smeared character of
      everything the kids get their paws on, she decided to tape the
      DVD off to VHS and give that to the kids -- that way she could
      make a fresh VHS copy when the first one went south. She cabled
      her DVD into her VHS and pressed play on the DVD and record on
      the VCR and waited.

      Before I go farther, I want us all to stop a moment and marvel at
      this. Here is someone who is practically technophobic, but who
      was able to construct a mental model of sufficient accuracy that
      she figured out that she could connect her cables in the right
      order and dub her digital disc off to analog tape. I imagine that
      everyone in this room is the front-line tech support for someone
      in her or his family: wouldn't it be great if all our non-geek
      friends and relatives were this clever and imaginative?

      I also want to point out that this is the proverbial honest user.
      She's not making a copy for the next door neighbors. She's not
      making a copy and selling it on a blanket on Canal Street. She's
      not ripping it to her hard-drive, DivX encoding it and putting it
      in her Kazaa sharepoint. She's doing something *honest* -- moving
      it from one format to another. She's home taping.

      Except she fails. There's a DRM system called Macrovision
      embedded -- by law -- in every VHS that messes with the vertical
      blanking interval in the signal and causes any tape made in this
      fashion to fail. Macrovision can be defeated for about $10 with a
      gadget readily available on eBay. But our infringer doesn't know
      that. She's "honest." Technically unsophisticated. Not stupid,
      mind you -- just naive.

      The Darknet paper addresses this possibility: it even predicts
      what this person will do in the long run: she'll find out about
      Kazaa and the next time she wants to get a movie for the kids,
      she'll download it from the net and burn it for them.

      In order to delay that day for as long as possible, our lawmakers
      and big rightsholder interests have come up with a disastrous
      policy called anticircumvention.

      Here's how anticircumvention works: if you put a lock -- an
      access control -- around a copyrighted work, it is illegal to
      break that lock. It's illegal to make a tool that breaks that
      lock. It's illegal to tell someone how to make that tool. One
      court even held it illegal to tell someone where she can find
      out how to make that tool.

      Remember Schneier's Law? Anyone can come up with a security
      system so clever that he can't see its flaws. The only way to
      find the flaws in security is to disclose the system's workings
      and invite public feedback. But now we live in a world where any
      cipher used to fence off a copyrighted work is off-limits to that
      kind of feedback. That's something that a Princeton engineering
      prof named Ed Felten and his team discovered when he submitted a
      paper to an academic conference on the failings in the Secure
      Digital Music Initiative, a watermarking scheme proposed by the
      recording industry. The RIAA responded by threatening to sue his
      ass if he tried it. We fought them because Ed is the kind of
      client that impact litigators love: unimpeachable and clean-cut
      and the RIAA folded. Lucky Ed. Maybe the next guy isn't so lucky.

      Matter of fact, the next guy wasn't. Dmitry Sklyarov is a Russian
      programmer who gave a talk at a hacker con in Vegas on the
      failings in Adobe's e-book locks. The FBI threw him in the slam
      for 30 days. He copped a plea, went home to Russia, and the
      Russian equivalent of the State Department issued a blanket
      warning to its researchers to stay away from American
      conferences, since we'd apparently turned into the kind of
      country where certain equations are illegal.

      Anticircumvention is a powerful tool for people who want to
      exclude competitors. If you claim that your car engine firmware
      is a "copyrighted work," you can sue anyone who makes a tool for
      interfacing with it. That's not just bad news for mechanics --
      think of the hotrodders who want to chip their cars to tweak the
      performance settings. We have companies like Lexmark claiming
      that their printer cartridges contain copyrighted works --
      software that trips an "I am empty" flag when the toner runs out,
      and have sued a competitor who made a remanufactured cartridge
      that reset the flag. Even garage-door opener companies have
      gotten in on the act, claiming that their receivers' firmware are
      copyrighted works. Copyrighted cars, print carts and garage-door
      openers: what's next, copyrighted light-fixtures?

      Even in the context of legitimate -- excuse me, "traditional" --
      copyrighted works like movies on DVDs, anticircumvention is bad
      news. Copyright is a delicate balance. It gives creators and
      their assignees some rights, but it also reserves some rights to
      the public. For example, an author has no right to prohibit
      anyone from transcoding his books into assistive formats for the
      blind. More importantly, though, a creator has a very limited say
      over what you can do once you lawfully acquire her works. If I
      buy your book, your painting, or your DVD, it belongs to me. It's
      my property. Not my "intellectual property" -- a whacky kind of
      pseudo-property that's swiss-cheesed with exceptions, easements
      and limitations -- but real, no-fooling, actual tangible
      *property* -- the kind of thing that courts have been managing
      through property law for centuries.

      But anticirumvention lets rightsholders invent new and exciting
      copyrights for themselves -- to write private laws without
      accountability or deliberation -- that expropriate your interest
      in your physical property to their favor. Region-coded DVDs are
      an example of this: there's no copyright here or in anywhere I
      know of that says that an author should be able to control where
      you enjoy her creative works, once you've paid for them. I can
      buy a book and throw it in my bag and take it anywhere from
      Toronto to Timbuktu, and read it wherever I am: I can even buy
      books in America and bring them to the UK, where the author may
      have an exclusive distribution deal with a local publisher who
      sells them for double the US shelf-price. When I'm done with it,
      I can sell it on or give it away in the UK. Copyright lawyers
      call this "First Sale," but it may be simpler to think of it as

      The keys to decrypt a DVD are controlled by an org called
      DVD-CCA, and they have a bunch of licensing requirements for
      anyone who gets a key from them. Among these is something called
      region-coding: if you buy a DVD in France, it'll have a flag set
      that says, "I am a European DVD." Bring that DVD to America and
      your DVD player will compare the flag to its list of permitted
      regions, and if they don't match, it will tell you that it's not
      allowed to play your disc.

      Remember: there is no copyright that says that an author gets to
      do this. When we wrote the copyright statutes and granted authors
      the right to control display, performance, duplication,
      derivative works, and so forth, we didn't leave out "geography"
      by accident. That was on-purpose.

      So when your French DVD won't play in America, that's not because
      it'd be illegal to do so: it's because the studios have invented
      a business-model and then invented a copyright law to prop it up.
      The DVD is your property and so is the DVD player, but if you
      break the region-coding on your disc, you're going to run afoul
      of anticircumvention.

      That's what happened to Jon Johansen, a Norweigan teenager who
      wanted to watch French DVDs on his Norweigan DVD player. He and
      some pals wrote some code to break the CSS so that he could do
      so. He's a wanted man here in America; in Norway the studios put
      the local fuzz up to bringing him up on charges of *unlawfully
      trespassing upon a computer system.* When his defense asked,
      "Which computer has Jon trespassed upon?" the answer was: "His

      His no-fooling, real and physical property has been expropriated
      by the weird, notional, metaphorical intellectual property on his
      DVD: DRM only works if your record player becomes the property of
      whomever's records you're playing.


      3. DRM systems are bad for biz

      This is the worst of all the ideas embodied by DRM: that people
      who make record-players should be able to spec whose records you
      can listen to, and that people who make records should have a
      veto over the design of record-players.

      We've never had this principle: in fact, we've always had just
      the reverse. Think about all the things that can be plugged into
      a parallel or serial interface, which were never envisioned by
      their inventors. Our strong economy and rapid innovation are
      byproducts of the ability of anyone to make anything that plugs
      into anything else: from the Flo-bee electric razor that snaps
      onto the end of your vacuum-hose to the octopus spilling out of
      your car's dashboard lighter socket, standard interfaces that
      anyone can build for are what makes billionaires out of nerds.

      The courts affirm this again and again. It used to be illegal to
      plug anything that didn't come from AT&T into your phone-jack.
      They claimed that this was for the safety of the network, but
      really it was about propping up this little penny-ante racket
      that AT&T had in charging you a rental fee for your phone until
      you'd paid for it a thousand times over.

      When that ban was struck down, it created the market for
      third-party phone equipment, from talking novelty phones to
      answering machines to cordless handsets to headsets -- billions
      of dollars of economic activity that had been supressed by the
      closed interface. Note that AT&T was one of the big beneficiaries
      of this: they *also* got into the business of making phone-kit.

      DRM is the software equivalent of these closed hardware
      interfaces. Robert Scoble is a Softie who has an excellent blog,
      where he wrote an essay about the best way to protect your
      investment in the digital music you buy. Should you buy Apple
      iTunes music, or Microsoft DRM music? Scoble argued that
      Microsoft's music was a sounder investment, because Microsoft
      would have more downstream licensees for its proprietary format
      and therefore you'd have a richer ecosystem of devices to choose
      from when you were shopping for gizmos to play your virtual
      records on.

      What a weird idea: that we should evaluate our record-purchases
      on the basis of which recording company will allow the greatest
      diversity of record-players to play its discs! That's like
      telling someone to buy the Betamax instead of the Edison
      Kinetoscope because Thomas Edison is a crank about licensing his
      patents; all the while ignoring the world's relentless march to
      the more open VHS format.

      It's a bad business. DVD is a format where the guy who makes the
      records gets to design the record players. Ask yourself: how much
      innovation has there been over the past decade of DVD players?
      They've gotten cheaper and smaller, but where are the weird and
      amazing new markets for DVD that were opened up by the VCR?
      There's a company that's manufacturing the world's first
      HDD-based DVD jukebox, a thing that holds 100 movies, and they're
      charging *$27,000* for this thing. We're talking about a few thousand
      dollars' worth of components -- all that other cost is the cost of


      4. DRM systems are bad for artists

      But what of the artist? The hardworking filmmaker, the
      ink-stained scribbler, the heroin-cured leathery rock-star? We
      poor slobs of the creative class are everyone's favorite
      poster-children here: the RIAA and MPAA hold us up and say,
      "Won't someone please think of the children?" File-sharers say,
      "Yeah, we're thinking about the artists, but the labels are The
      Man, who cares what happens to you?"

      To understand what DRM does to artists, you need to understand
      how copyright and technology interact. Copyright is inherently
      technological, since the things it addresses -- copying,
      transmitting, and so on -- are inherently technological.

      The piano roll was the first system for cheaply copying music. It
      was invented at a time when the dominant form of entertainment in
      America was getting a talented pianist to come into your living
      room and pound out some tunes while you sang along. The music
      industry consisted mostly of sheet-music publishers.

      The player piano was a digital recording and playback system.
      Piano-roll companies bought sheet music and ripped the notes
      printed on it into 0s and 1s on a long roll of computer tape,
      which they sold by the thousands -- the hundreds of thousands --
      the millions. They did this without a penny's compensation to the
      publishers. They were digital music pirates. Arrrr!

      Predictably, the composers and music publishers went nutso. Sousa
      showed up in Congress to say that:

      These talking machines are going to ruin the
      artistic development of music in this
      country. When I was a front of every
      house in the summer evenings, you would find
      young people together singing the songs of
      the day or old songs. Today you hear these
      infernal machines going night and day. We
      will not have a vocal chord left. The vocal
      chord will be eliminated by a process of
      evolution, as was the tail of man when he
      came from the ape.

      The publishers asked Congress to ban the piano roll and to create
      a law that said that any new system for reproducing music should
      be subject to a veto from their industry association. Lucky for
      us, Congress realized what side of their bread had butter on it
      and decided not to criminalize the dominant form of entertainment
      in America.

      But there was the problem of paying artists. The Constitution
      sets out the purpose of American copyright: to promote the useful
      arts and sciences. The composers had a credible story that they'd
      do less composing if they weren't paid for it, so Congress needed
      a fix. Here's what they came up with: anyone who paid a music
      publisher two cents would have the right to make one piano roll
      of any song that publisher published. The publisher couldn't say
      no, and no one had to hire a lawyer at $200 an hour to argue
      about whether the payment should be two cents or a nickel.

      This compulsory license is still in place today: when Joe Cocker
      sings "With a Little Help from My Friends," he pays a fixed fee
      to the Beatles' publisher and away he goes -- even if Ringo hates
      the idea. If you ever wondered how Sid Vicious talked Anka into
      letting him get a crack at "My Way," well, now you know.

      That compulsory license created a world where a thousand times
      more money was made by a thousand times more creators who made a
      thousand times more music that reached a thousand times more

      This story repeats itself throughout the technological century,
      every ten or fifteen years. Radio was enabled by a voluntary
      blanket license -- the music companies got together and asked for
      a consent decree so that they could offer all their music
      for a flat fee. Cable TV took a compulsory: the only way cable
      operators could get their hands on broadcasts was to pirate them
      and shove them down the wire, and Congress saw fit to legalize
      this practice rather than screw around with their constituents'

      Sometimes, the courts and Congress decided to simply take away a
      copyright -- that's what happened with the VCR. When Sony brought
      out the VCR in 1976, the studios had already decided what the
      experience of watching a movie in your living room would look
      like: they'd licensed out their programming for use on a machine
      called a Discovision, which played big LP-sized discs that
      were read-only. Proto-DRM.

      The copyright scholars of the day didn't give the VCR very good
      odds. Sony argued that their box allowed for a fair use, which is
      defined as a use that a court rules is a defense against
      infringement based on four factors: whether the use transforms
      the work into something new, like a collage; whether it uses all
      or some of the work; whether the work is artistic or mainly
      factual; and whether the use undercuts the creator's

      The Betamax failed on all four fronts: when you time-shifted or
      duplicated a Hollywood movie off the air, you made a
      non-transformative use of 100 percent of a creative work in a way
      that directly undercut the Discovision licensing stream.

      Jack Valenti, the mouthpiece for the motion-picture industry,
      told Congress in 1982 that the VCR was to the American film
      industry "as the Boston Strangler is to a woman home alone."

      But the Supreme Court ruled against Hollywood in 1984, when it
      determined that any device capable of a substantial
      non-infringing use was legal. In other words, "We don't buy this
      Boston Strangler business: if your business model can't survive
      the emergence of this general-purpose tool, it's time to get
      another business-model or go broke."

      Hollywood found another business model, as the broadcasters had,
      as the Vaudeville artists had, as the music publishers had, and
      they made more art that paid more artists and reached a wider

      There's one thing that every new art business-model had in
      common: it embraced the medium it lived in.

      This is the overweening characteristic of every single successful
      new medium: it is true to itself. The Luther Bible didn't
      succeed on the axes that made a hand-copied monk Bible valuable:
      they were ugly, they weren't in Church Latin, they weren't read
      aloud by someone who could interpret it for his lay audience,
      they didn't represent years of devoted-with-a-capital-D labor by
      someone who had given his life over to God. The thing that made
      the Luther Bible a success was its scalability: it was more
      popular because it was more proliferate: all success factors for
      a new medium pale beside its profligacy. The most successful
      organisms on earth are those that reproduce the most: bugs and
      bacteria, nematodes and virii. Reproduction is the best of all
      survival strategies.

      Piano rolls didn't sound as good as the music of a skilled
      pianist: but they *scaled better*. Radio lacked the social
      elements of live performance, but more people could build a
      crystal set and get it aimed correctly than could pack into even
      the largest Vaudeville house. MP3s don't come with liner notes,
      they aren't sold to you by a hipper-than-thou record store clerk
      who can help you make your choice, bad rips and truncated files
      abound: I once downloaded a twelve-second copy of "Hey Jude" from
      the original Napster. Yet MP3 is outcompeting the CD. I don't
      know what to do with CDs anymore: I get them, and they're like
      the especially nice garment bag they give you at the fancy suit
      shop: it's nice and you feel like a goof for throwing it out, but
      Christ, how many of these things can you usefully own? I can put
      ten thousand songs on my laptop, but a comparable pile of discs,
      with liner notes and so forth -- that's a liability: it's a piece
      of my monthly storage-locker costs.

      (to be continued)
      a brain cell


      • #4
        Here are the two most important things to know about computers
        and the Internet:

        1. A computer is a machine for rearranging bits

        2. The Internet is a machine for moving bits from one place to
        another very cheaply and quickly

        Any new medium that takes hold on the Internet and with computers
        will embrace these two facts, not regret them. A newspaper press
        is a machine for spitting out cheap and smeary newsprint at
        speed: if you try to make it output fine art lithos, you'll get
        junk. If you try to make it output newspapers, you'll get the
        basis for a free society.

        And so it is with the Internet. At the heyday of Napster, record
        execs used to show up at conferences and tell everyone that
        Napster was doomed because no one wanted lossily compressed MP3s
        with no liner notes and truncated files and misspelled metadata.

        Today we hear ebook publishers tell each other and anyone who'll
        listen that the barrier to ebooks is screen resolution. It's
        bollocks, and so is the whole sermonette about how nice a book
        looks on your bookcase and how nice it smells and how easy it is
        to slip into the tub. These are obvious and untrue things, like
        the idea that radio will catch on once they figure out how to
        sell you hotdogs during the intermission, or that movies will
        really hit their stride when we can figure out how to bring the
        actors out for an encore when the film's run out. Or that what
        the Protestant Reformation really needs is Luther Bibles with
        facsimile illumination in the margin and a rent-a-priest to read
        aloud from your personal Word of God.

        New media don't succeed because they're like the old media, only
        better: they succeed because they're worse than the old media at
        the stuff the old media is good at, and better at the stuff the
        old media are bad at. Books are good at being paperwhite,
        high-resolution, low-infrastructure, cheap and disposable. Ebooks
        are good at being everywhere in the world at the same time for
        free in a form that is so malleable that you can just pastebomb
        it into your IM session or turn it into a page-a-day mailing

        The only really successful epublishing -- I mean, hundreds of
        thousands, millions of copies distributed and read -- is the
        bookwarez scene, where scanned-and-OCR'd books are distributed on
        the darknet. The only legit publishers with any success at
        epublishing are the ones whose books cross the Internet without
        technological fetter: publishers like Baen Books and my own, Tor,
        who are making some or all of their catalogs available in ASCII
        and HTML and PDF.

        The hardware-dependent ebooks, the DRM use-and-copy-restricted
        ebooks, they're cratering. Sales measured in the tens, sometimes
        the hundreds. Science fiction is a niche business, but when
        you're selling copies by the ten, that's not even a business,
        it's a hobby.

        Every one of you has been riding a curve where you read more and
        more words off of more and more screens every day through most of
        your professional careers. It's zero-sum: you've also been
        reading fewer words off of fewer pages as time went by: the
        dinosauric executive who prints his email and dictates a reply to
        his secretary is info-roadkill.

        Today, at this very second, people read words off of screens for
        every hour that they can find. Your kids stare at their Game Boys
        until their eyes fall out. Euroteens ring doorbells with their
        hypertrophied, SMS-twitching thumbs instead of their index

        Paper books are the packaging that books come in. Cheap
        printer-binderies like the Internet Bookmobile that can produce a
        full bleed, four color, glossy cover, printed spine,
        perfect-bound book in ten minutes for a dollar are the future of
        paper books: when you need an instance of a paper book, you
        generate one, or part of one, and pitch it out when you're done.
        I landed at SEA-TAC on Monday and burned a couple CDs from my
        music collection to listen to in the rental car. When I drop the
        car off, I'll leave them behind. Who needs 'em?

        Whenever a new technology has disrupted copyright, we've changed
        copyright. Copyright isn't an ethical proposition, it's a
        utilitarian one. There's nothing *moral* about paying a composer
        tuppence for the piano-roll rights, there's nothing *immoral*
        about not paying Hollywood for the right to videotape a movie off
        your TV. They're just the best way of balancing out so that
        people's physical property rights in their VCRs and phonographs
        are respected and so that creators get enough of a dangling
        carrot to go on making shows and music and books and paintings.

        Technology that disrupts copyright does so because it simplifies
        and cheapens creation, reproduction and distribution. The
        existing copyright businesses exploit inefficiencies in the old
        production, reproduction and distribution system, and they'll be
        weakened by the new technology. But new technology always gives
        us more art with a wider reach: that's what tech is *for*.

        Tech gives us bigger pies that more artists can get a bite out
        of. That's been tacitly acknowledged at every stage of the
        copyfight since the piano roll. When copyright and technology
        collide, it's copyright that changes.

        Which means that today's copyright -- the thing that DRM
        nominally props up -- didn't come down off the mountain on two
        stone tablets. It was created in living memory to accommodate the
        technical reality created by the inventors of the previous
        generation. To abandon invention now robs tomorrow's artists of
        the new businesses and new reach and new audiences that the
        Internet and the PC can give them.


        5. DRM is a bad business-move for MSFT

        When Sony brought out the VCR, it made a record player that could
        play Hollywood's records, even if Hollywood didn't like the idea.
        The industries that grew up on the back of the VCR -- movie
        rentals, home taping, camcorders, even Bar Mitzvah videographers
        -- made billions for Sony and its cohort.

        That was good business -- even if Sony lost the Betamax-VHS
        format wars, the money on the world-with-VCRs table was enough to
        make up for it.

        But then Sony acquired a relatively tiny entertainment company
        and it started to massively screw up. When MP3 rolled around and
        Sony's walkman customers were clamoring for a solid-state MP3
        player, Sony let its music business-unit run its show: instead of
        making a high-capacity MP3 walkman, Sony shipped its Music Clips,
        low-capacity devices that played brain-damaged DRM formats like
        Real and OpenMG. They spent good money engineering "features"
        into these devices that kept their customers from freely moving
        their music back and forth between their devices. Customers
        stayed away in droves.

        Today, Sony is dead in the water when it comes to walkmen. The
        market leaders are poky Singaporean outfits like Creative Labs --
        the kind of company that Sony used to crush like a bug, back
        before it got borged by its entertainment unit -- and PC
        companies like Apple.

        That's because Sony shipped a product that there was no market
        demand for. No Sony customer woke up one morning and said, "Damn,
        I wish Sony would devote some expensive engineering effort in
        order that I may do less with my music." Presented with an
        alternative, Sony's customers enthusiastically jumped ship.

        The same thing happened to a lot of people I know who used to rip
        their CDs to WMA. You guys sold them software that produced
        smaller, better-sounding rips that the MP3 rippers, but you also
        fixed it so that the songs you ripped were device-locked to their
        PCs. What that meant is that when they backed up their music to
        another hard-drive and reinstalled their OS (something that the
        spyware and malware wars has made more common than ever), they
        discovered that after they restored their music that they could
        no longer play it. The player saw the new OS as a different
        machine, and locked them out of their own music.

        There is no market demand for this "feature." None of your
        customers want you to make expensive modifications to your
        products that make backing up and restoring even harder. And
        there is no moment when your customers will be less forgiving
        than the moment that they are recovering from catastrophic
        technology failures.

        I speak from experience. Because I buy a new Powerbook every ten
        months, and because I always order the new models the day they're
        announced, I get a lot of lemons from Apple. That means that I
        hit Apple's three-iTunes-authorized-computers limit pretty early
        on and found myself unable to play the hundreds of dollars' worth
        of iTunes songs I'd bought because one of my authorized machines
        was a lemon that Apple had broken up for parts, one was in the
        shop getting fixed by Apple, and one was my mom's computer, 3,000
        miles away in Toronto.

        If I had been a less good customer for Apple's hardware, I would
        have been fine. If I had been a less enthusiastic evangelist for
        Apple's products -- if I hadn't shown my mom how iTunes Music
        Store worked -- I would have been fine. If I hadn't bought so
        much iTunes music that burning it to CD and re-ripping it and
        re-keying all my metadata was too daunting a task to consider, I
        would have been fine.

        As it was Apple rewarded my trust, evangelism and out-of-control
        spending by treating me like a crook and locking me out of my own
        music, at a time when my Powerbook was in the shop -- i.e., at a
        time when I was hardly disposed to feel charitable to Apple.

        I'm an edge case here, but I'm a *leading edge* case. If Apple
        succeeds in its business plans, it will only be a matter of time
        until even average customers have upgraded enough hardware and
        bought enough music to end up where I am.

        You know what I would totally buy? A record player that let me
        play everybody's records. Right now, the closest I can come to
        that is an open source app called VLC, but it's clunky and buggy
        and it didn't come pre-installed on my computer.

        Sony didn't make a Betamax that only played the movies that
        Hollywood was willing to permit -- Hollywood asked them to do it,
        they proposed an early, analog broadcast flag that VCRs could
        hunt for and respond to by disabling recording. Sony ignored them
        and made the product they thought their customers wanted.

        I'm a Microsoft customer. Like millions of other Microsoft
        customers, I want a player that plays anything I throw at it, and
        I think that you are just the company to give it to me.

        Yes, this would violate copyright law as it stands, but Microsoft
        has been making tools of piracy that change copyright law for
        decades now. Outlook, Exchange and MSN are tools that abet
        widescale digital infringement.

        More significantly, IIS and your caching proxies all make and
        serve copies of documents without their authors' consent,
        something that, if it is legal today, is only legal because
        companies like Microsoft went ahead and did it and dared
        lawmakers to prosecute.

        Microsoft stood up for its customers and for progress, and won so
        decisively that most people never even realized that there was a

        Do it again! This is a company that looks the world's roughest,
        toughest anti-trust regulators in the eye and laughs. Compared to
        anti-trust people, copyright lawmakers are pantywaists. You can
        take them with your arm behind your back.

        In Siva Vaidhyanathan's book The Anarchist in the Library, he
        talks about why the studios are so blind to their customers'
        desires. It's because people like you and me spent the 80s and
        the 90s telling them bad science fiction stories about impossible
        DRM technology that would let them charge a small sum of money
        every time someone looked at a movie -- want to fast-forward?
        That feature costs another penny. Pausing is two cents an hour.
        The mute button will cost you a quarter.

        When Mako Analysis issued their report last month advising phone
        companies to stop supporting Symbian phones, they were just
        writing the latest installment in this story. Mako says that
        phones like my P900, which can play MP3s as ringtones, are bad
        for the cellphone economy, because it'll put the extortionate
        ringtone sellers out of business. What Mako is saying is that
        just because you bought the CD doesn't mean that you should
        expect to have the ability to listen to it on your MP3 player,
        and just because it plays on your MP3 player is no reason to
        expect it to run as a ringtone. I wonder how they feel about
        alarm clocks that will play a CD to wake you up in the morning?
        Is that strangling the nascent "alarm tone" market?

        The phone companies' customers want Symbian phones and for now,
        at least, the phone companies understand that if they don't sell
        them, someone else will.

        The market opportunity for a truly capable devices is enormous.
        There's a company out there charging *$27,000* for a DVD
        jukebox -- go and eat their lunch! Steve Jobs isn't going to do
        it: he's off at the D conference telling studio execs not to
        release hi-def movies until they're sure no one will make a
        hi-def DVD burner that works with a PC.

        Maybe they won't buy into his BS, but they're also not much
        interested in what you have to sell. At the Broadcast Protection
        Discussion Group meetings where the Broadcast Flag was hammered
        out, the studios' position was, "We'll take anyone's DRM except
        Microsoft's and Philips'." When I met with UK broadcast wonks
        about the European version of the Broadcast Flag underway at the
        Digital Video Broadcasters' forum, they told me, "Well, it's
        different in Europe: mostly they're worried that some American
        company like Microsoft will get their claws into European

        American film studios didn't want the Japanese electronics
        companies to get a piece of the movie pie, so they fought the
        VCR. Today, everyone who makes movies agrees that they don't want
        to let you guys get between them and their customers.

        Sony didn't get permission. Neither should you. Go build the
        record player that can play everyone's records.

        Because if you don't do it, someone else will.

        a brain cell


        • #5
          That was too much text to read, but there are two very basic sides here:

          1) "My PC is my instrument and it does all I want and nothing else. Nobody programs my PC to do anything I don't want."

          2) "The customer's PC is our medium, and the PC is protecting our (our our customer's) interlectual property and he dare not mess with it. We decide what is running there and reserve the right to make chnges to it against his will"

          In case you people just click away all the license agreements when installing software and updates, if you installed XP SP1 and agreed to the license you gave Microsoft the right to change your PC's installation anytime and without informing you (which also implies possibly against your will, they don't even ask).

          And in case you don't know, the fraction with standpoint 1) is pretty strong. Not in numbers, but in technical capabilities. For example, the DVD content protection has been broken initially just for the sole purpose of people wanting to watch DVDs on Linux computers. This had nothing to do with copying, most hackers (as in enthusiatic programmers, not break-into-computers people) are actually more willing to obey copyright than the average non-thinker.

          Right now it looks like option number 1) is raising by people just doing what is required to keep control of their PCs, namely with Linux and other OpenSource software.

          And number 2) is taking a hit by commercial vendors being unable to protect their installations, their software that they force on the user, against abuse by third parties.


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