Intel's DRM by any other name is still DRM

Summary:In calling a spade a spade, Cory Doctorow refers to Intel's DTCP-IP technology for what it really is: Digital Rights Management Technology.  Only I wish he'd start using my acronym for DRM: CRAP (see the video for why I call it that).

In calling a spade a spade, Cory Doctorow refers to Intel's DTCP-IP technology for what it really is: Digital Rights Management Technology.  Only I wish he'd start using my acronym for DRM: CRAP (see the video for why I call it that).  That way, the headline could have read something like "Just when you were hoping you didn't have to take any more CRAP, along comes more of it from Intel."  Anyway, back to Intel's DTCP-IP: Intel gave a presentation of the technology at the Intel Developer Forum taking place in San Francisco this week.  Not only did Doctorow call a space a spade, he pointed out the most hard-to-believe part of Intel's licensing terms for the technology:

Scariest of all, though, is slide 25, shown here [viewable in Cory's blog], which explains what happens if your DTCP-IP implementation results in a breach: $8m in fines, more fines from copyright holders, and revocation of your devices in the field (meaning potential lawsuits from your customers)....The presentation ends with a bunch of "call-to-action" slides for the people in the audience who are supposed to go out and add this to their products. But none of those slides says this: "If you subtract value from your products by adding our crippleware, we might reward you by bankrupting you when the inevitable breach occurs."

If I'm not mistaken, this outrageously high fine sort of cuts to the chase of why DRM and open source are incompatible with each other.  In other words, you can't have an open source implementation of DRM.  Take for example the actual computer code that's used to take the layer of CRAP off an iTune Music Store-purchased song.  The reason that DRM works is that Apple is the only one with access to that code.  Because of this, Apple can also, in it's code, decide what can and can't happen once the layer of CRAP is removed.  It can be played back.  It can be burned to a certain number of CDs.  It can't be uploaded to the Internet in MP3 format in a way that everyone else can download it for free unless the person who purchased the song breaks the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by circumventing Apple's CRAP (punishable by jail-time). 

It's a closed system where Apple can guarantee the record labels that, as long as Apple is the only one with the code that removes the CRAP, it's the only one that controls the rules regarding what happens once the layer of CRAP is removed.  Now consider what happens in the open source world.  If no one controls the code and it's freely accessible to anyone, then the rules regarding what happens can't be controlled either.  The same day an open source implementation of DRM shows up, so too will some software that automatically removes that DRM from a song and uploads the song in MP3 format to Bittorrent.   So, when Intel says it has DRM technology that it will license to others, it's also attaching a stiff penalty to any breach.  In other words, if you let this code into the wild and it results in a breach, we're going to fine the daylights out of you.  It's real incentive to the licensee to keep that code under very tight lock and key.  And it's proof positive of why something like DRM is totally incompatible with open source.

Topics: Software Development

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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