DRM - in a nutshell

DRM - in a nutshell

Summary: For years now I've been trying to define DRM and how commercial companies use it to lock consumers into a buying cycle. Finally I've found a definition that's just perfect.

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TOPICS: Security
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For years now I've been trying to define DRM and how commercial companies use it to lock consumers into a buying cycle.  Finally I've found a definition that's just perfect.

The definition comes from security guru Bruce Schneier:

In my last column, I talked about the security-versus-privacy debate, and how it's actually a debate about liberty versus control. Here we see the same dynamic, but in a commercial setting. By confusing control and security, companies are able to force control measures that work against our interests by convincing us they are doing it for our own safety. [emphasis added]

Wow!  I've been trying for years to come up with such a succinct definition for DRM and never managed it (and for that reason I'm glad that it was a much smarter person that I who came up with it!), but this is perfect.  The key word here is control. 

Schneier also accurately points out who this security benefits:

Mostly, companies increase their lock-in through security mechanisms. Sometimes patents preserve lock-in, but more often it's copy protection, digital rights management (DRM), code signing or other security mechanisms. These security features aren't what we normally think of as security: They don't protect us from some outside threat, they protect the companies from us. [emphasis added]

Sure, there are hackers that would be very interested in taking control of a few million iPhones, and there are without a doubt plenty of people who indulge in piracy, either by making copyrighted content available (for free or for a profit) or by downloading that same content, but these points are overshadowed by the fact that companies want control over everyone, not just those with bad intentions.

The main problem with all this is that consumers, on the whole, don't see this control until they try to exercise their right to move to a different platform or provider.  By then it's too late.

Thoughts?

Topic: Security

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37 comments
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  • One link explains it all

    I think that this will sum up my feelings on the matter:
    http://www.mininova.org/tor/807591

    information is freedom. done.
    nintendoeats
  • RE: DRM - in a nutshell

    Wow! Had to do a double-take to make sure
    I'm actually reading ZDNet - I thought facts
    were forbidden here.

    Anyways, top-notch article - thanks!
    smartguy2@...
  • Right?

    [i]The main problem with all this is that consumers, on the whole, don?t see this control until they try to exercise their right to move to a different platform or provider.[/i]

    Preference, maybe. In Europe it's a legal right, but in the USA it's not, and unlikely to become one.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • DRM definition

    You begin your subject by saying you have at last found a good definition for DRM, and you end up quoting a direct refutation of DRMs, and a denouncement of industry motives. By doing so you do exactly what you accuse th e industry of doing : volontarilly confuse things.

    When trying to define DRMs we must absolutly keep seprated the technical capability, which is DRM, and the policy of today most visible DRM users, content owner. As P2P advocates like to point out technology is neutral, only the use is biased.


    So what is DRM. looking for a definition I wandered a little in CiteSeer, to look for definition given by academics, after a few minutes search I came out with this, which begins to ressemble a definition:

    [b]DRM systems ensure that digital goods [...] are consumed (i.e., viewed or played) according to the contracts associated with them.[/b]

    I personnaly would have preferred [b]accessed[/b] rather than [b]consumed[/b], but we are going in the direction of a definition.

    You say that the consuler do not directly gain with the use of DRM, you are completly right, because DRM is there to ensure that the licensee is in th ebound of his license. DRM is there to procet licenser, not licensee.i-e content owner, not content user. The user benefit is second hand, because once controlled, content is not so much difficult to access.


    This said, we have only delt with the technology definition. The user of that technology can still be biased, unfair, whatever you want, but then that is en entirely different discussion.
    s_souche
    • Re: DRM definition

      [i]DRM systems ensure that digital goods [...] are consumed (i.e., viewed or played) according to the contracts associated with them.[/i]

      What contract is associated with a DVD?



      :)
      none none
      • I could answer

        but we would then once again be mixing technology and its usage by once party.

        DRM used on DVD has nothing to do with DRM technology or DRM definition. Its one usage of a technology.
        s_souche
        • I'd go as far as to not call that DRM on DVD

          To me DVDs don't have DRM. The encryption on a DVD doesn't really manage your rights. It really doesn't do much at all really. You can burn a copy with out breaking the encryption, you can play them in players that can play any DVD depending on the player you have. So I'd say there is not DRM on a DVD. There is however some DRM in some DVD players such as ones that only allow you to play region 1 DVDs. Personally I just pay a bit more and buy multi-region code players or region code free players.
          voska1
          • I almost agree with you

            i fact there is DRM, but it is not linked with the user, it is linked to the hardware manufacturer.

            What a DVD protection sheme does in just check that the player the correct credential. The protection does not check that the user has any rights.

            So, IMHA, as a user I can say there is no DRM, but the manufacturer cannot say so. Howwever such conclusions would mean that DMCA does not protect DVD, or HD discs for that matter, from being copied, which is ceertainly the position of content owners :-)

            However very few people are of such a mind.... we can feel lonely sometimes...
            s_souche
          • Re: I almost agree with you

            [i]So, IMHA, as a user I can say there is no DRM[/i]

            I use DVDs and I can say with certainty they have DRM. There is no way you can say you have used a DVD and not seen a message on your TV screen that the operation you communicated to the player via the remote is not allowed.

            Any time the player forces you to view something and will not allow you to skip it, it is because the player is honoring the instructions on the disk itself to force you to view the message.

            The blog author's point is well-made.




            :)
            none none
          • nothing to do with DRM

            The fact that you cannot bypass certain messages has nothing to do with DRM; just like you have to complete a game to see the final animation. the DVD structure is a sofwtare of sort ( it's actually a state machine the transitions of which have been determined by the designer of the menu ).
            s_souche
          • Re: nothing to do with DRM

            [i]The fact that you cannot bypass certain messages has nothing to do with DRM[/i]

            You are limiting your understanding of DRM to the software aspect. What I am saying is you cannot ignore the law that undergirds DRM because the technology is feeble. It's the law that closed 321 Studios. It's the law that keeps anyone else from moving into that space. It's the law that forces the DVD players to honor the instructions on the disk.

            When a publisher applies DRM to his products what he really is doing is giving the products a legal status that is far more difficult to overcome than any DRM technology.




            :)
            none none
          • Re: nothing to do with DRM

            [i]The fact that you cannot bypass certain messages has nothing to do with DRM ... the DVD structure is a sofwtare of sort ... the transitions of which have been determined by the designer[/i]


            It is not a fact that you [u]can not[/u] bypass certain messages. There is no technical reason the playback device must honor, for example, UOP markers.

            What is a fact is that you [u]may not[/u] bypass certain messages. There are legal and political reasons the players virtually all honor UOP markers.

            So, you in fact [u]can[/u] bypass certain messages if you are willing to break the law.

            Hence, DRM is law, not code, and the reason you can't bypass a message in a compliant player is *not* because the designer put UOPs in the menu structure but because the lawyers would eat alive the player manufacturer who gave its customers the choice to obey UOP markers.

            I think we're done now.











            :)
            none none
          • Re: I'd go as far as to not call that DRM on DVD

            [i]To me DVDs don't have DRM.[/i]

            The DMCA says DRM is anything that effectively protects a copyrighted work. But it means [i]have the effect of[/i]. It doesn't mean it does it well.

            You could use ROT13 to encrypt a copyrighted document and no legitimate business is going to go near providing readers that descramble ROT13. The reason why is lawyers. 321 Studios went out of business precisely because of the DRM on DVDs. It's there from a legal standpoint no matter how easy it was to break.



            :)
            none none
          • 321 Studio went under because to the DMCA

            DRM had nothing to do with it. It was the encryption cracking that go them into trouble. Encryption is not DRM to me. It's just encryption.

            As for not being able to skip that's purely a function of DVD creation. If you don't put in points to skip to you can't skip but you can fast forward just fine. This isn't DRM at all.

            The only thing that I see even remotely close to DRM is region coding and that's a purely a hardware thing. The DRM is the hard not the DVD since you can buy region free players that don't have this issue.
            voska1
      • Its a licensing agreement.

        When you buy a DVD, you don't buy the "content" nor the intellectual property rights to the content. You get a license (permission) to use it at home.

        The contract is:
        To pay price to get license and piece of media with content.
        The license is limited. That's why you cannot copy and sell DVD copies, even thought you could technologically do so.
        Counselorleo
  • RE: DRM - in a nutshell

    [i]it???s actually a debate about liberty versus control. [/i]

    Bingo. Like I've said elsewhere, DRM on DVDs is about controlling how you navigate the disk and, through the license terms to decode the DRM, about controlling what DVD player functionality is available to consumers.

    It never was about piracy. That was the snow job to get DRM laws passed.




    :)
    none none
    • Region Codes

      Correct me if I'm wrong here but (DRM) region codes were used because media prices vary widely from country to country, especially in the EU.

      This was how the media companies were going to assure folks in England bought titles priced for the EU and not import cheaper titles from elsewhere.

      -Mike
      SpikeyMike
      • Nope

        Region codes were used because at the time release dates varied a lot, with movies being released in mainland europe theaters after the DVD was released in the US. things have change a little with theatrical release dates less far appart.
        s_souche
        • Re: Nope

          [i]Region codes were used because at the time release dates varied a lot, with movies being released in mainland europe theaters after the DVD was released in the US.[/i]

          The problem is region coding, or the effect the studios have with it, is not a right of a copyright holder. Again, you are making the blog author's point for him. Region coding does nothing to enforce the limted rights of a copyright holder, and everything to control the uses of the works.



          :)
          none none
      • Re: Region Codes

        [i]Correct me if I'm wrong...[/i]

        No, you are not wrong. Region coding is another example of DRM being used to control, not protect copyright interests.



        :)
        none none