FSF-backed DRM protesters don hazmat suits at WinHEC

FSF-backed DRM protesters don hazmat suits at WinHEC

Summary: According to DVD-Recordable.org:As Microsoft developers gathered in Seattle to hear Bill Gates's keynote speech on the future of Microsoft and the coming release of its updated operating system Vista, protesters wearing bright yellow Hazmat suits swarmed the entrance of the city's convention center, delivering an unsettling message to the corporation: your product is defective and hazardous to users....

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TOPICS: Legal
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According to DVD-Recordable.org:

As Microsoft developers gathered in Seattle to hear Bill Gates's keynote speech on the future of Microsoft and the coming release of its updated operating system Vista, protesters wearing bright yellow Hazmat suits swarmed the entrance of the city's convention center, delivering an unsettling message to the corporation: your product is defective and hazardous to users....The surprise protest marked the launch of  DefectiveByDesign.org, a direct-action campaign that will target Big Media and corporations peddling Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). "Flash protests, direct actions, and practical ways that people can get involved and help stop the stupidity of DRM," is how campaign manager Gregory Heller described the grassroots effort....An initiative of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), Defective By Design is urging all technologists to get involved at the start of the campaign.

Here's the photo (see copyright disclaimer regarding this photo at the end of this blog post), courtesy of DefectiveByDesign.org

WinHECstreetscene.jpg

There are two issues here. 

1. Digital rights management is like unsolicted commercial e-mail. UCE was just never an acronym that resulted in awareness or action. UCE needed something sexier that the masses could sink their teeth into.  Something like "spam."  DRM, as acronyms go, isn't going to make Otis turn red in the gills with anger.  And, with all due respect to the Free Software Foundation which is behind DefectiveByDesign.org, I can think of a million things that are defective by design.  DRM needs a special name.  A name that you can sink your teeth into like "spam."  A name like "CRAP."  Even better, Richard Stallman, the leader of the Free Software Foundation, likes the acronym CRAP and came up with a better suggestion than I did for what it should stand for (one that ZDNet's readers approved of)! Stallman wants CRAP to stand for Cancellation, Restriction And Punishment.  Works for me and it's ZDNet-reader approved.  So, to you anti-DRM folks who want that crap out of your lives, use CRAP to get your point across.

2. Here on ZDNet, and in email, I've been taking some heat for my idealism, or in this case, my lack thereof, when it comes to DRM... er... CRAP.   Follow this thread for an example. Some readers would rather see me stick to the hard line of buying and advocating nothing that includes DRM.  In essence, donning a hazmat suit like the CRAP-fighters above (personally, what better metaphor can you ask for..  hazmat suits, crap...get the picture?). So, just to be clear, I haven't personally purchased any DRM-related material since first figuring out the downside for myself (not being able to play 99 cent songs on a $20K whole home audio system).  That said,  I've had people come up to me and ask which MP3 player they should buy for themselves or someone else as a gift and, invariably, they're not open to the idea of not buying one at all, buying one that takes a lot of work (circumventing DRM, digitizing music yourself), or breaking the law.  I know.  They must be from another planet.  Freaks. 

OK, back on Earth, these people exist.  And so, the question is, do you stick to your ideals, walk away, and let them suffer from their own lack of enlightenment.  Or, do you at least try to guide them to something that's a fender bender compared to a fatal accident? I will vote with my dollars.  But, at the same time, if there are people out there that refuse to heed the ultimate advice, I can't let my idealism stand in the way of steering people away from the trainwrecks.  That's why I'll try to guide people like that to solutions like Navio or Project DReaM, only after giving up on convincing them to not buy any of this CRAP.  CRAP is a dirty business and in the end, it's we, the users, who get dumped on.  But there are some things we can do to control the extent to which that happens.

As a side note, I have begun circulating a note internally here at CNET Networks that asks those in a position to do so to take a harder line against DRM than is traditionally taken across all of our Web properties. It includes some concrete editorial measures that can be taken in order to better inform our audience members of the consequences every time they vote for DRM with their dollars.

Copyright notice regarding the photo included with this post: Copyright 2006 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301, USA. Verbatim copying and distribution of site content permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided this notice, and the copyright notice, are preserved.

Topic: Legal

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12 comments
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  • DRM Is Spware Dressed Up In A Suit

    The guys above could emphasize that DRM is one of the worst forms of spyware in their campaign. Therefore they could come with commercials that say e.g., ??Do you know you have one of the worst forms of spyware monitoring you when you use your iPod??? That should get people going. ??

    David,

    If someone asked me if he / she should download music from a music service like iTunes, I would flat out tell him no. I would go on to tell him further that it would be better that he bought CDs and Ripped whatever tracks he wanted from them, since he could do whatever he wanted to do with the tracks privately. If he bought DRM??d content he would run into a lot of long term issues. As for not being able to obtain a particular track on a CD without buying the entire CD: consumers have been dealing with this issue for decades. I do not see it as so big a deal.
    P. Douglas
    • No big deal?

      <i> As for not being able to obtain a particular track on a CD
      without buying the entire CD: consumers have been dealing with
      this issue for decades. I do not see it as so big a deal.</i>

      Really? The success of the iTMS indicates that this <i>has</i>
      been a very big deal all along. Otherwise, why would people buy
      individual songs at the rate they're doing now?
      Jens T.
      • Overall, yes.

        [i]Really? The success of the iTMS indicates that this has been a very big deal all along. Otherwise, why would people buy individual songs at the rate they're doing now?[/i]

        If 6% of music purchases are from downloads, that means that about 94% of music purchases are from CDs (and maybe other means). Therefore quite a lot of people show that they value having the ability to buy CDs, rip them, and be able to freely use their tracks, any way they want to privately. These people can play their tracks on any computer, using just about any music playing program they have. They won?t have to be afraid of what?s going to happen when they get a new computer, or if their computer configuration changes, or if they have to reinstall their OS. They can play their music tracks on just about any device, and they can conceivably keep their tracks for decades ? even as the technology to play music evolves. Therefore there is in fact huge advantages to buying CDs over downloading individual tracks laden DRM spyware. DRM / spyware negates the up front economic advantage of being able to buy individual tracks through music downloads.
        P. Douglas
    • Agree with Jens

      P--

      I'm sorry. You've got it wrong, and Jens has it right, just without the data to back it up In February, iTunes passed it's billionth song purchased. Online sales of individual songs (what I call a la carte purchasing) now makes up 6 percent of the music industries total revenues and it is climbing each year. So the trend is that a la carte music sales is in fact slowly replacing the sales of "collections."

      More importantly, from a usability perspective, Apple has it completely right. Everything that software and the internet are about has to do with using scalable systems to drive inefficiencies, delays, and cost out of process. To us, that means increased productivity at a reduced cost. It's the absolute realization of an end-to-end digital process. Apple proved that bits can flow seamlessly and frictionlessly, practically from the music publisher right into the final resting point (eg: an iPod). We as people deserve to enjoy the full benefits of frictionless scalable systems and greed should not interfere with our interests by requiring friction where "the system" has already proven that such friction isn't needed. It's a step backward to say, go buy the CD and digitize it yourself. The steps involved (buy the CD, unwrap it, put it in the computer, digitize it, transfer it to your devices) are an insult to those of us who know the system is so much more capable.

      It's a step backward to tell me to intercept the transfer of the music from iTMS to an iPod, use JHYMN to not only strip the DRM off but to break the law as well, do a bit of garbage collection, and re-catalog the newly unprotected music in my music client.

      It's a step backwards to tell me to burn to a CD as iTunes allows, and then redigitize from that CD to an unprotected format.

      The technology exists. We deserve better. To tell us to stop crying about it and do a little extra work is just insane. I suppose we should do away with WYSIWYG controls in word processors and return to the old days of WordStar where the formatting codes were plainly visible and invoked with CTRL keystrokes. Or, go buy yourself a car with a handcrank on the front instead of an electric starter? Since when should we accept mediocrity from our solution providers?

      David
      dberlind
      • I'm not going to beg these guys for anything

        [i]The technology exists. We deserve better. To tell us to stop crying about it and do a little extra work is just insane.[/i]

        I'm not telling or suggesting to you that you should not protest against DRM. (After all, am I not doing the same?) What I?m saying is that it is unacceptable to me that a bunch a guys insist that they monitor and actively control the way consumers use stuff that they buy from them. This is just plain galls me! Wasn?t it over something similar that this country fought for independence? That it was unacceptable that England dictate to Americans how they should live their lives? Call me a sucker for American principles of liberty. But I?m sorry: these guys just aren?t going to dictate to me how I should live my life when I use content, while I beg them for mercy. I would rather throw out all my music and make do playing a harmonica or maybe fiddle of some sort.
        P. Douglas
  • At least they demostrated what idiots they are.

    One look at these idiots should be enough to move Congress to tighten DRM down more, maybe it will be just the thing to get the broadcast flag bills passed.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • I'm sure you said that about Civil Rights protests too

      What a bunch of idiots, just standing there getting attacked by dogs and cops with firehoses. It was enough to get Congress to pass lots and lots of anti-Civil Rights bills. Congress always listens to the people and does the opposite of their will.
      tic swayback
      • Civil RIGHTS vs. the right to steal.

        Uh huh, sure...
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • How about the right to our cultural heritage?

          You don't think the collected works of mankind are worth anything much, do you?
          tic swayback
    • Talk to a librarian No_Ax

      To avoid hypocrisy, you must feel the same way about books No_Ax. Go ask a librarian how he or she feels about the potential impact of proprietary DRM on the very philosophy of a library. The fear that electronic book reading technology is going to be stovepiped as a result of the greed of a handful of people is very real. Are you in favor of burning books too? What's the difference between that and restricting access to them?

      Thankfully, the broadcast flag legislation was knocked down. But I'm sure it's not dead yet, or it will be attached to some other unrelated pork so it flies below the radar.

      You call them idiots. Regardless of their views, just their ability to stage such a protest and that they're taking advantage of the freedoms we have here in the US says to me they're not idiots. Whether it's the right to protest or the right to enjoy the full potential of the technology in front of us, or any other right I have a great deal of respect for anybody who doesn't take the freedoms we have for granted.

      db
      dberlind
    • Another Mike C.

      I think that Ax is trying to get in on the Mike Cox phenomenon... because nobody could be that clueless on purpose.
      deej_z
      • correction...

        sorry... I meant to say that nobody could be that clueless UNLESS it was on purpose!
        deej_z