Is open DRM possible, or even desirable?

Is open DRM possible, or even desirable?

Summary: Is Sun's "open" DRM a desirable alternative to proprietary DRM systems, or yet another nail in the casket of fair use?

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Sun has announced the "Open Media Commons," a standard for DRM that's supposed to be neutral and "open."

Of course, there are a few minor hurdles. First of all, while customers (note I'm not using "consumers") might like the idea of a unified DRM standard (though they'd certainly prefer no DRM at all...) it doesn't fit with the well-mannered marketplace that many companies are seeking.

If we must have DRM, however, I'd prefer it under an open and royalty-free regime such as Sun is proposing -- but I'm still not convinced that we have to have it.I hope that when people find out that they have to buy new monitors just to watch DRM'ed content at its full resolution on Windows Vista, they'll reject DRM'ed content the same way they rejected Divx DVDs.The entertainment industry, along with quite a few software companies, are trying to convince the public that DRM is inevitable.

It isn't, if the public rejects it. The entertainment industry is perfectly capable of turning a profit without having absolute control over their content, and if people refuse to pony up for DRM-hobbled content long enough, the entertainment industry will have to back off.

I'm not objecting to DRM because I want to snag movies off of P2P networks (as some posters have suggested) but because I can see the writing on the wall: Once DRM becomes entrenched, we're looking at a pay-per-play future. I don't really relish the idea of having to ante up every time I want to watch Young Frankenstein, rather than just being able to purchase it outright -- and, with near-absolute control over content -- what's to stop a company from simply removing a work from circulation altogether?

Right now, we have physical copies of movies and other works, so if a company goes out of business, or puts a title out of print, there are still copies to be had legitimately. In an all-digital, all-DRM future, if a company takes a work out of circulation, it would be next-to-impossible to get it legitimately. For example, if I'd like to get a copy of Star Wars as I saw in theaters, and not George Lucas' butchered version that was released on DVD, I could check around on eBay for a VHS or LaserDisc copy of the theatrical release. In the all-digital, all-DRM future, that may not be possible.

I'm also not sure that an open DRM scheme is technically feasible. There's not a lot up on Open Media Commons website just yet, so it's hard to say how this is going to work on the technical level -- but if it's completely open under Sun's favorite license, the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), what's to stop someone from simply re-writing the software and changing it to ignore DRM restrictions? 

Sun's "Dream" is obviously the lesser of two evils, but I'm wondering if it's a good idea to support it. If DRM is inevitable, I'd prefer to be able to watch new formats on my Linux box rather than having to use Windows to do so. But, I'm wondering if backing Sun's scheme will have the effect of making DRM inevitable after all.

Topic: Open Source

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  • DRM is inevitable ...

    but I don't think that necessarily means it will be successful. As far as the term 'open' goes, I think it is very clear in the minds of most that DRM is the antithesis of open. The two won't even fit together in the same sentence let alone cooperate. But it certainly makes for good marketing speak. Having said that, I think it is also inevitable that we will see DRM used under Linux, but it will be via proprietary modules, not via open source software. And I think this will be good. I suspect that DRM along with TCP will carve itself a niche. I also think that it may well be relagated to that niche as consumers vote with their cash.
    George Mitchell
    • DRM only hurts the good guys

      Whatever DRM they cook up, it *will* be cracked. This isn't speculation, it's a mathematical fact. Encryption doesn't work unless there's a secret somewhere and inside a PC there's no secrets, all of memory is visble to a cracker.

      So, given that it will be cracked, who does it hurt? Who will be the people who have to throw away their brand new monitors because they bought the "wrong" model? The good guys, that's who. The people the MPAA should be protecting, not punishing.

      What kind of business model is this which makes the best customers pay more?

      Hopefully all this DRM crap will go the way of DivX disks and customers will vote with their wallets. I certainly won't be buying into anything which restricts how/when/where I can play it.
      figgle
      • DRM is something of a feel good security blanket ...

        You seem to understand that if you can play it, you can copy it. Thats the nasty little fact that the folks in Hollywood and beyond don't seem to get. So you go and rent one of those hi-tech, encrypted, self destroying DVDs. You just bring it home, immediately copy it to permanent media and then figure out how to decrypt it. Thats an over simplification of course, but its also a fairly obvious course of action that anybody with a shred of intelligence could figure out. But, as I stated in my post above, the content industry will insist on continuing to play their 'feel good' games. Meanwhile, smart content vendors will continue to sell conventional unprotected content and make a killing on the good will that generates. Oh well ... life goes on.
        George Mitchell
        • Copy "protected" CDs?

          How are copy protected CDs fairing in the marketplace?

          I know at one point there was a pretty big splash, complete with lawsuits, but how are they doing now? Does their success (or failure) in the marketplace foreshadow the fate of copy protected video?
          __howard__
          • How is their protection working?

            Perhaps a better question is, how is their DRM doing? Copy
            protected cd's seem to sell fairly well, as the songs immediately
            turn up on p2p networks where people can download them. Not a
            single one has actually been "protected".
            tic swayback
    • "inevitable" means it will happen.

      Remember the discussion of a hardware DRM. Over time, pc's will all come to have DRM built in.

      Of course anything published after the date DRM is finalized will have DRM. Anything prior to the date will be grandfathered, necessarily, but any inappropriate use will be subject to penalty, with the FBI given full resources to track down 12 year olds and prosecute them with the full majesty of the law.

      This isn't a competitive factor. It's an effort by the media companies to control what people do. And the US government is pleased to help.

      Bad, isn't it.


      You wrote:

      I suspect that DRM along with TCP will carve itself a niche. I also think that it may well be relagated to that niche as consumers vote with their cash.

      If almost every entertainment product comes with DRM and if the hardware on which its played looks for DRM, I wouldn't call that a niche.
      Anton Philidor
      • Re: "inevitable" means it will happen.

        [i]...track down 12 year olds and prosecute them with the full majesty of the law.[/i]

        Here we go again with the florid prose and gross exaggeration to make a point.

        In this case, I wish I had said that.

        One small disagreement: old formats [i]won't[/i] be grandfathered in because, out of necessity, DRM is an all-or-nothing proposition. It wouldn't be able to tell the difference between an old format from pre-DRM and a post-DRM file that's been cracked and converted to evade the DRM.


        :)
        none none
        • Prior purchases can't be disabled...

          ... because of the later addition of DRM.
          If you paid for something and have lived up to the terms under which you bought it, the original conditions can't be changed subsequently by one party.

          Beware what you sign in EULAs and product registrations, but I don't think DRM's backers would find trying to modify older materials worthwhile.

          That means, of course, that the inevitable hacked versions will still flow freely. The human spirit exults in freedom even while the sense of social responsibility is bothered. Only slightly.

          Wadda ya mean florid?
          Anton Philidor
          • Re: Prior purchases can't be disabled...

            [i]... because of the later addition of DRM.
            If you paid for something and have lived up to the terms under which you bought it, the original conditions can't be changed subsequently by one party.[/i]

            But that's the thing. No content I have except for some proprietary software came with any "terms." Among the proprietary software titles, I expect I'd agreed to let the vendor change the terms at any time.


            :)
            none none
          • Every music CD and movie DVD you've bought...

            ... is subject to legal restrictions and rights.

            Terms come with everything.
            Anton Philidor
          • Re: Every music CD and movie DVD you've bought...

            [i]Terms come with everything.[/i]

            I guess when you say, "If you paid for something and have lived up to the terms under which you bought it..." I take it to mean terms you've agreed to, like in a EULA. Because, when I buy a DVD there are no "terms" as the notion is commonly understood.

            I think that's proper to do, rather than make the word as expansive as to include law, etiquette, ritual... just about everything junder the sun, no?

            Unless I'm wrong and most people understand robbing a liquor store to be a violation of "terms," we needn't torture the use of a word to support our point.


            :)
            none none
          • DRM is an example of the "terms"...

            ... under which you've purchased a CD or DVD.

            By terms I mean the list of things you have the right to do with what you've purchased, as well as the (longer) list of things you may not do.

            The terms may not appear in a contract you have to sign when you make the purchase, usually, but that doesn't make the provisions accepted by the act of purchase any less clear.
            Anton Philidor
          • Re: DRM is an example of the "terms"...

            [i]The terms may not appear in a contract you have to sign when you make the purchase, usually, but that doesn't make the provisions accepted by the act of purchase any less clear.[/i]

            That's stretching it beyond recognition. If they don't appear in a contract that I sign or otherwise affermatively accept, then there aren't any terms - there's only law. Absent a contract that i've accepted all there is is law. And I can do anything that is legal.

            That's why I made a disparaging reference to the liquor store hold up being thought of in terms of "terms."

            If "DRM is an example of the 'terms'" then so is a catalytic converter a "term" of buying a car. It's just as against the law to circumvent pollution technology as to circumvent DRM. It's silly to equate buying a car or a DVD with a promise not to break the law.


            :)
            none none
      • OK ...

        "with the FBI given full resources to track down 12 year olds and prosecute them with the full majesty of the law."

        So ... they can do that now, and in fact are doing it and all the evidence seems to indicate that it is not helping a whole lot. Throwing even more technology at the problem is not going to help. But what I can guarantee is that if you prosecute enough 12 year olds, it will generate a ton of bad will and the public will eventually become fed up enough to express their outrage. Indeed, this fact alone, does not bode well for the success of DRM.

        "If almost every entertainment product comes with DRM and if the hardware on which its played looks for DRM, I wouldn't call that a niche."

        Almost every entertainment product today comes with a V-Chip, but in reality very few people are making use of it. If major content providers boycott DRM, which just might happen, it will make DRM advocates look silly and indeed relagate DRM to a niche. At this point, all we know is that the big money is backing DRM. That does not necessarily mean that the artists are. There is still plenty of media being distributed that is not copy protected. Why should one expect that DRM is going to change that?
        George Mitchell
        • Huh?

          The "major content providers" are the ones advocating DRM. Why would they boycott it?

          You wrote:
          If major content providers boycott DRM, which just might happen, it will make DRM advocates look silly and indeed relagate DRM to a niche.


          The artists usually don't own (or control) their copyrights, and many who do support attempts to restrict file sharing. Think Metallica, and, referring to an unusually apposite revenge for an attempt to reduce the value of file sharing, Madonna.

          You wrote:
          At this point, all we know is that the big money is backing DRM. That does not necessarily mean that the artists are.

          The artists do have to be concerned about their contracts, at least until they can set up their own record labels. But maybe some of them do see restrictions on use of their material as good.
          Anton Philidor
          • So how will they enforce this?

            Enforcemnent has met with mixed success in the case of music downloading where the downloads themselves can be traced. So how is DRM going to be enforced when the issue is what someone is doing in their own private space on their own PC? I suspect the content industry will discover fairly early on that this is no panacea as piracy continues to increase despite DRM. That alone would be a good reason for the industry abandoning DRM just like they have abandoned one copyright protection scheme after another. Simply put, it is just very likely to fail as all previous attempts have. All of you dreamers who think that the end of crime is just around the corner as a result of technological advances are indeed dreaming. Technology tends to abet piracy as much or more than it facilitates enforcement. But I do think that content providers will push this to the point that they generate a massive backlash resulting in a reformation of IP law itself.
            George Mitchell
          • We know that they can't enforce it.

            Though some people making policy for the industry may believe that a magic bullet may be found.

            A primary purpose is to intimidate and coerce the public to restrict disapproved behavior.

            Another purpose is to gain sympathy and interest from government. The support created on this issue can be used for other issues.
            One of the most important effects is assuring that US copyright and patent requirements are pushed in any agreement with other countries.

            Another purpose is to gain influence over the electronics industry. The ability to make credible the threat of laws which would restrict the electronics industry is a major advantage in negotiation.

            Even though losing technologically, the content industry can gain valuable influence which might be worth the investment.

            The effect is the opposite of what you were thinking possible:

            But I do think that content providers will push this to the point that they generate a massive backlash resulting in a reformation of IP law itself.

            What we're seeing is an effusion of sympathy for the industry that gives them a larger degree of control over IP law. Right now, if it were to be changed, IP law would change in the direction of the content companies.
            Anton Philidor
          • Actualy I think...

            ...label records are an obsolete buisiness model and way of getting anyone's media off to the streets. With the amount of technology available nowadays, virtually anyone who would become an artist, can distribute their material electronically to the people that would actually care to have such material. Any profits made off the sales are fully for the artist.

            How could that be done? Well, if [b]and only if[/b] anyone would be willing to take the risk, it would be possible to ensamble a recording studio with all the gear necessary for a profesionally made record, which would be [i]rented[/i] to the artist for a given period of time so s/he can record some tracks, master them, add some post-production and then simply release them. Of course under such a model, it would be up to the artists to come up with all the advertising, promotion, and maybe production apartus on their own, which is part of what they get from a big records label (amongst other things). In my view, there are too many hands in the way of an artist to their fans, and all these intermediates are the ones seeking to fully control content and media distribution, the reason? Quite simple: Greed. They already make foruntes with the [i]conventional[/i] way of doing entertainment business, problem is that they want more... [b]MUCH[/b] more... [i]It never is enough[/i]...

            My 2?
            thetargos
  • freebie

    why is that you want everything free. Do you want to be violating copy rights. Do you want the artists to not make any money. I really understand your logic.
    zzz1234567890
    • You obviously haven't heard of 'fair use'.

      I remember the days when the content vendors hadn't yet come up with a way to charge me every time I reread a book or to impose a charge when I loaned that book to a friend or to impose a charge when I borrowed that book from a library. The current trend runs totally against the historical application of IP law into a brave new world of IP control. And trust me, the intended beneficiarie are NOT artists. They are big time IP investors who are no great model when it comes to ethics. So artists will continue to starve, but the fat ones will enjoy their power trip at the expense of everyone else.
      George Mitchell