Are content and open source incompatible?

Are content and open source incompatible?

Summary: The end result is to largely shut open source software out of the media playing arena, and thus, if you believe in the convergence of media playing devices and computering devices, out of the general purpose home computer arena.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Brad TempletonAre content and open source incompatible? It would seem so.

Brad Templeton (left), who is chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, brought up this point to Dave Farber's Interesting People list yesterday and, for some reason, it brought me up short.

Because he's right.

One of the core beliefs of open source is that users must be able to see and change their software.

This is incompatible with the idea of Digital Rights Management (DRM), something that is now mandated under the law for use in all content systems. Current exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) anti-circumvention provisions, while laudable, do not allow the creation of new open source content displays.

The idea behind open source is you must have access to the source code. The fundamental idea of a DRM is you can't. Now you can put the DRM into hardware and then write an open source controller for it, but that then limits an open source programmer to doing whatever the hardware was designed for. Closed source programmers do not have this limitation on their creativity.

Brad put this so well I have to quote it directly:
 

The end result is to largely shut open source software out of the media playing arena, and thus, if you believe in the convergence of media playing devices and computering devices, out of the general purpose home computer arena.

The DMCA was not crafted to maintain the monopolies of Microsoft or anyone else in the computer space. But that is exactly the impact it does have. [Editor's note: See David Berlind's Unstoppable? The Microsoft media juggernaut.] 'You can't make "the next Tivo" using open source. You can't innovate anything relating to content playing or content display using open source.

The conflict between content and innovation, long prophesied by DMCA opponents, is here.

Topic: Open Source

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32 comments
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  • Digital rights management on a chip

    If they really want digital rights management to
    be secure, fair, and work reliably then they
    should package the whole thing on a chip, a
    "digital rights engine" that you aim the
    datastream at (and then sends it directly to the
    output bus) anytime you need to decode a movie or
    other encrypted media, and leave operating
    systems, bios, and other functions of the PC
    alone. Digital rights needs to be a hardware
    solution to work.
    pesky_z
    • It's coming...

      Intel, AMD, IBM, Transmetta have all said they are putting DRM in their CPUs.
      No_Ax_to_Grind
  • It's not the DMCA, it's open source itself.

    Do NOT try to blame others for the open source limitations. It is their CHOICE to use the GPL, no one else's.

    The fact the content OWNERS don't want to simply give things away has no bearing on what open source defines as it's limitations in it's license.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • I find it amusing

      The whole concept of having to cater to open source by making everything freely available -- witness open source's complaints in the EC-Microsoft scuffle. Even though the EC ruled that MS must provide access to its APIs under "reasonable and non-discriminatory" (not "free") terms, that's not enough. Since a basic tenet of the OSS movement is that IP should be freely shared, open-source therefore declare that any terms at all on Microsoft's IP are "discriminatory" to themselves. Pretty convenient, huh?

      I have an idea: why don't we start a new religion that is based on all material goods being free. Then, we can complain when someone tries to charge us for something like a car or a house. It's against our religion, and we're being discriminated against!

      Carl Rapson
      rapson
      • RAND

        [i]Even though the EC ruled that MS must provide access to its APIs under "reasonable and non-discriminatory" (not "free") terms, that's not enough.[/i]

        So what are reasonable terms for disclosure of non-patented and non-copyrightable interfaces?
        Yagotta B. Kidding
        • Reasonable

          Reasonable is whatever the two sides decide upon. If I want to provide a service for $X, and you only want to pay $Y (or nothing), must I be forced to sell to you at $Y (or give to you for no cost) just because you don't want to pay $X? The law may require that I provide the service to you at the same terms as I do to everyone else, but can (or should) the law require that I provide the service under YOUR terms instead of my own?

          Why must it be "free" just because it isn't patented or copyrighted? That's like saying that, since housing must be non-discriminatory, poor people should be charged less (or nothing) for the same house because they can't pay as much as a richer person can. Or, housing should be provided free to anyone who declares that his beliefs preclude paying for housing. Hence my call for a new religion above.

          Carl Rapson
          rapson
        • No such thing, any code can be copyrighted.

          But the fact is, no one is talking bout code ot Microsoft here.
          No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Did I write "code?"

            No, I wrote "interfaces." In particular, the interface specifications that allow interoperability. The same kind of interface specs that IBM was required to publish (no strings attached) as part of one of their many antitrust settlements.

            Now, the question is, what is a "reasonable term" for disclosing the specifications of a network protocol (to pick an arbitrary example, SNA)?

            Note that as a functional requirement, the protocol itself [b]can't[/b] be copyrighted and as a matter of record, the protocol is not patented.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Ah, and there is the rub isn't it?

            They have indeed made this information available to the competition, with the exclusion of those unable or unwilling to pay for it or to enter into a contractual agreement. (license)

            What the EU seems to really be after is that MS be forced to simply give it away to the public domain. I don't see that ever happening.
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • License what?

            [i]They have indeed made this information available to the competition, with the exclusion of those unable or unwilling to pay for it or to enter into a contractual agreement. (license)[/i]

            License what? A contract concerns an exchange of considerations. What, exactly, would a "licensee" be getting in return for the terms imposed by Microsoft?

            GedankenExperiment: if an employee upon leaving the "licensee" wrote a specification for a GPL library interoperating with the MS software and someone else (Richard Stallman, for instance) were to implement that library, would it be legal? If not, who would be doing what illegal act?

            No hadwaving, please, Don. Simple reference to actual law. For instance, would there be a violation of USC17 or its European equivalent?
            Yagotta B. Kidding
        • RAND is based on the market.

          You want to buy "X", I want to sell it. Now we decide what a reasonable price for "X" is. If the majority of the buyers agree it's a reasonable price, then that's where the price sits. It matters not a bit if there is one small buyer that doesn't want to pay the price, the market has already established it as reasonable.
          No_Ax_to_Grind
          • False premise

            [i]You want to buy "X", I want to sell it.[/i]

            No, as a matter of record you [b]don't[/b] want to sell it.

            [i]If the majority of the buyers agree it's a reasonable price, then that's where the price sits.[/i]

            You do realize that you're arguing a tautology here, don't you?
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • How is it false?

            Owners often change thier minds on selling their property. Sometimes it's for the bucks, sometimes it's to gain leverage, sometimes it's an order, the cause makes no real difference.

            You do realize that you're arguing a tautology here, don't you?

            How so? By simply stating that value perception resides with the *majority* of buyers?
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Tautology

            [i]You do realize that you're arguing a tautology here, don't you?

            How so? By simply stating that value perception resides with the *majority* of buyers?[/i]

            Please explain how a "*majority* of buyers" could ever find that the price was unacceptably high? (Barring coercion -- I do presume that we're not talking coerced purchase, aren't we?)
            Yagotta B. Kidding
      • SPOT ON!!!

        Could not have said it better myself.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
    • What does the GPL have to do with it?

      The programs being used are covered by the GPL. The content it creates or decodes does not have to be. There's no reason why there can't be DRM support in GPL products (in fact many people like Linus Torvalds understand this and support it).

      Now the GPL can discriminate against a specific form of DRM due to patent issues, but there's no reason why the content owners can't use a form of DRM that anyone can use regardless of what software they use. That's the DMCA's choice to use patented DRM schemes which lock unlicensed software out.

      The DMCA can indeed meet their customer's reasonable demands while protecting their own interests at the same time if that was their goal. But since the DMCA has been screwed by unscrupulous people in the past (i.e. pirates) they are in backlash mode, to the point that they are blind to the fact that it really is possible to fully protect their interests while meeting their customers halfway.

      The fact is that if they don't meet me halfway, I'm not losing out on much anyway. They just don't get my money. Somebody else does.
      Michael Kelly
      • Your preaching to the wrong group.

        Tell the open source crowd to change their views.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • Who's the boss?

          The customer or the provider?

          I say the customer. Obviously you think the provider.
          Michael Kelly
          • The customer gets what they want... With Windows.

            Or at least the vast majority seem to think it's right.

            Curious thet you ask who's the boss? Obviously the owner is always the "boss". All they need do is find a method acceptable to the *majority* of consumers, Windows (and Apple) seems to do just that.
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • I'll agree in one respect

            Which is that all they need to do is find a method acceptable enough maximize their profits. I wouldn't say simply being able to reach "majority of their consumers", because I think even you would agree that if they were only able to reach 50% plus one of their customers that it would be unacceptable, especially if it were possible to reach a good deal more.

            However, if you are a stockholder, and you can see that they are catering to ~95% of the market (a realistic number) but that with one small change you can reach ~100% of them while still retaining the protection you desire (and keep in mind that most of that extra revenue will be pure profit in this industry), wouldn't you ask why?

            Now of course if the reason why is that F/OSS does not have the product available to protect your work and it would be too expensive to produce yourself, then say no more, F/OSS would be purely at fault. But if it is available, then why not use it? Wouldn't they be maximizing their profits by doing so?
            Michael Kelly