Linux 'needs DRM support' for consumer success

Linux 'needs DRM support' for consumer success

Summary: But the Free Software Foundation Europe argues it's not users that want DRM - it's record companies and the like


A RealNetworks executive has claimed that Linux risks being excluded from the consumer market if it does not add support for copy-restriction technologies.

But the Free Software Foundation Europe countered this claim on Thursday, saying that consumers have made it clear that they do not want DRM restricting their use of digital media.

Jeff Ayars, a vice-president at Real Networks, said in a talk at LinuxWorld in Boston on Tuesday that if Linux does not offer support for DRM, people will not be able to run restricted digital content on the operating system, which will damage its success in the consumer market.

"The consequences of Linux not supporting DRM would be that fixed-purpose consumer electronics and Windows PC's would be the sole entertainment platforms available," he said. "Linux would be further relegated to use in servers and business computers, since it would not be providing the multimedia technologies demanded by consumers."

He pointed out that Microsoft Vista is implementing a number of digital rights technologies, such as Protected Media Path, Protected Video Path and Protected User Mode Audio. "I would like Linux to be able to do that as well," he said. The support must be included in the Linux operating system, as a DRM system would not be able to trust drivers that were separately installed, according to Ayars.

But Georg Greve, the president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), disagreed with Ayars claim that Linux risks being excluded from the consumer market, arguing that users dislike DRM.

"The Sony rootkit case made it quite clear why DRM is not accepted by consumers, and why there is no successful business case for DRM," he said in an email. "Apple iTunes allows people to burn their tracks on regular CDs, which can then be re-encoded and file-shared easily — so is better described as 'digital inconvenience management' only. offers clean audio tracks without any restrictions. No DRM platform comes close to either of these in popularity."

"So fortunately it is up to the consumer to decide what the consumer market wants. And its answer is clear: It does not want DRM!" he said. "The sooner we bury the foolish notion of putting each and every use of a computer under control of the media industry, the sooner we can start looking for real alternatives."

Although Ayars refused to discuss what he termed the "philosophical" objections to using DRM, he admitted that there were "potential" negative consequences of supporting DRM in Linux, such as the risk of innovation being stifled.

"There are limits on the innovation that is possible around protected media," he said. "With protected content you wouldn't be able to create a new business model like Tivo did with time-shifting television — it was able to do that because there was no protection on signal," he said.

Although much of the open source community is likely to object to the addition of DRM to Linux, commercial Linux vendors may be more willing.

"When I talk with Red Hat, Novell, or Linspire — these distributions are in the business of creating software for consumers — they are interested in people who buy their products being able to [view DRM-protected multimedia]," he said.

Linspire's chief technical officer, Tom Welch, agreed that his company would definitely consider DRM.

"Linspire has not added DRM into our distro yet, but would like to add it if we are given the opportunity, provided it is a DRM that is being used by consumer products (such as Apple's FairPlay or Microsoft's PlaysForSure). If someone comes out with an open source DRM, we'd be behind it, but we need major content providers to support it as well," said Welch.

Novell said it is keen to support more media formats, but did not mention support for DRM.

"We are looking forward to the time when Linux users will have access to media in all formats. We obviously support open media formats in our offerings now, and we're currently in discussions with vendors who control proprietary formats to include support for them, as well," said Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, Novell's director of Linux product marketing.

Red Hat was unable to provide comment at the time of writing.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

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  • DRM software will be placed on my computer over my dead body.

    It's MY computer and I will control what goes onto it, thank you. The day that I am required to place DRM software on it is the day it gets trucked off to the landfill site.
  • Well, considering that my hi definition monitors and my graphics cards are perfeclty acceptable for the next few years, but they don't support HDCP, it is pretty irrelevant whether I upgrade to Vista or go DRM free - unless Hollywood are going to come round and retro-fit all my hardware...

    I've used DRM in the past and it just gets in the way, the best was Microsofts WMA, after getting around 20GB's of WMA's, Windows trashed itself and I had to re-install, WMP complained that all of my media wasn't mine, so I had to go and get it all again - the second time I made sure it was all in a non-DRMed format, never again!

    I think it is time the music and film industries stopped treating their customers as potential thieves and started concentrating on the bad guys...

    The root-kitting of the "Mr & Mrs Smith" DVD by Kinowelt was the last straw for me. No more Windows for playing media!
  • Consumers do NOT want DRM. The only people on the planet who want DRM are the media companies making an indecent amount of profit from art they didn't create while giving as little as possible back to the rightfull owners.

    DRM is a scheme to prevent art from going directly to the consumer without having to pay the tollbooth of the media industry.

    DRM is a system design to work AGAINST the consumer, not for them.

    NOBODY wants DRM.

    And when DRM is everywhere in Windows, it'll be one more reason why I DONT use it and plan to work as hard as I can to remove it everywhere I can,

    I am not a thief, stop treating me like one.
  • I echo the first two posters here. Digital Restrictions Management and Treacherous Computing will end up on my computer over my dead body. If studios insist on putting DRM on their content such that I cannot play it on my truly Free platforms of choice (both GNU/Linux and OpenBSD at the moment), then I simply will not view that content. It is MY choice.

    Any time I see any "Windows Media only" content, I treat it like the bubonic plague and avoid it as such. Same applies for RealMedia. I grudgingly tolerate .MOV (the older formats) because there are Free Software players for it that use Free Software (usually GPL'd) codecs.

  • Ya know, if consumers would simply put their foot down and stop letting the businesses "tell us" what we have to have there wouldn't be this problem. The way I see our society (here in the U.S.) is that when Uncle bill gates says he's putting DRM in his package and you're gonna like or lump it ... if enough people would have the kahoona's to NOT buy his product, guess what? He's gonna change his mind! It's the same way with gas prices, if enough people want lower prices, they will stop buying it. Enough people stop buying it and looky there, lower gas prices! Isn't it funny how that works? Too bad that American society in general are a bunch of whimps and can't stand the though of either riding with someone or walking ... it truly would make a huge difference! Is WIndows Vista that much better that you want to take the DRM up the hind end just so you can say that you have the latest and greatest? Do you really want the government telling you how to live your life? This is exactly the kind of thing that they are setting you up for. Here, I want to pay you to invade my private space ... sigh ... I can't believe that we supposedly the proud of america are letting this go on ... makes me want to move out of the country as our rights are diminishing before our very eyes and you're all just sitting around watchin it happen like a bunch of stool pigeons.
    Sorry, I'm definitely not for the DRM or sensorship which is where it's going to take us. I'm glad that Linux at this point is saying no!
  • Make no mistake. DRM is about much more then just ripping out your wallet as far as music is concerned.
    It's supposed to get in between video, application, someone elses data and your own personal data as well. And likely anything else they can find. Like Internet browsing experience for instance. Vendor lock-in to the max because how many alternatives exactly are out there, in use and supported by "the industry" in reality? One. Some consumer choice eh? And just see how much our politicians are concerned about that really. Ignorance is bless. Stupidity rules. Are consumers truly, completely and in full informed each and every time? No. I rest my case.

    Stop jumping to the hoops you'll encounter over time and say bye-bye to be able to access your data or someone elses. Wow, it's like the bank taking the keys of your house and car because you refused to agree to their latest price increasing contract adjustment. No, we're not there yet because we're just starting this game but what's stopping them from doing so in the future? Market demands? Politicians? Court rooms? Laws? Yeah right, where have you been the last ten years?

    As a Dutch citizen I've the legal right to download and use as I see fit whatever music I desire as long as its for personal use. Same goes for video. In return I pay extra whenever I purchase some blank storage medium like a CD-R. In all the music industry and the like are well composated for their "losses". But does that satisfy the greed of the happy few? It seems not. How 80's.

    The French and the Germans suckered into the lobbiest game and now their consumers (I should say: voters) will pay the price. I wonder how many more (EU) politicians will sell out existing laws and consumer privileges because of ignorance on their part. Hopefully the favour will be returned with the coming elections. Remember, you're voting to power the same "bright lights" that didn't booted out software patents (as if there's something seriously wrong with existing copyright laws when compared to suggested software patent legistation) the first time it was suggested and a whole bunch of other things.

    So no, Open Source (e.g. Linux) should boot out DRM and what it stands for at the moment. Don't cry along with the wolves. Make a stand on issues that matter. Stand up for your rights. Let history be the judge who was right in retrospect.

    Concerning Linux. The only thing it's lacking is mainstream game support. That's all that's stopping it from taking the (home) markets within two years from then. Do some research if you disagree.
  • DRM is the rich protecting their licence to print money.

    It's not about the "consumer experience", it's not about protecting the income of artists, it's about the record company "middle-men" protecting their bloated profits.

    These people add NOTHING creative to the content, but just charge huge amounts for burning the CD/DVD and putting a shiny lable on them. It's about time they went out of business - then the world would be a better place.
  • "DRM on Linux" is an oxymoron. DRM and Linux don't mix because Linux is the exact opposite of DRM: it gives total freedom to the user. For an OS to have effective DRM it must have "protected paths" and be "tamper proof", all meaning the system is binary, closed, and uses cryptography to resist any attempt by the user to change it.

    There are two problems with these demands with regards to Linux: the first is a legal problem. The license terms of the Linux kernel and the entire GNU environment simply forbid the distribution of binary compilations without access to the code. So the code body currently comprising Linux cannot be the basis for a DRM-enabled OS.

    The second problem is market positioning: who would use such a Linux? Freedom is at the heart of the Linux experience. No one would want a crippled Linux that restricts them and allows others to dictate what they are allowed or not allowed to do. Anyone willing to accept such restrictions would (and should) use the existing proprietary operating systems, like OS X or Windows.
  • There's nothing stopping someone from creating a program (open or closed source) to run DRMed content on Linux. The fact that no one has shows that Linux users don't want it (and the companies that make DRMed contentwon't make one because they don't seem to care about the potential buying power of people that haven't spent a few hundred on an OS, and therefore have more to spend on DVDs/CDs, etc.).

    DRM isn't the thing that'll make Linux take off; the only thing that'll make most people that don't currently use Linux consider it is killer games that won't run on Windows.
  • (Yes I know this post violates DMCA, please don't read further if you can't accept this. DMCA doesn't apply in my country)

    Please understand that such thing as "trusted drivers" simply doesn't work if you are going to mark SoundBlaster drivers as trusted. Step-by-step guide for circumventing arbitrary type of audio DRM based on the concept of trusted drivers:

    1) Download QEMU from

    2) Install any OS inside QEMU, including the sound driver (this is the same driver as for the real SB PCI hardware, so non-marking this as "trusted" will result in lawsuits from Creative Labs)

    3) Install the DRMed player inside QEMU

    4) Reboot QEMU, tell it to use ALSA for sound output, tell ALSA to mirror the sound stream to a wav file. Alternatively, tell QEMU to write the wav file iteslf.

    5) Play the DRMed audio inside QEMU. The DRM software will have to trust the driver, because it has no way to determine that it is not a real SB PCI. However, QEMU will dump the raw audio stream to a wav file that has absolutely no sign of DRM.
  • Alexander you naughty naughty boy ! :) This is just one of a hundred ways around the technology folks. People don't go to these lengths unless they are motivated. If the songs and films that people are breaking open were available at sensible prices with sensible fair use policies, then people simply wouldn't bother .. or at least not in the sort of numbers that would make any difference. Home taping didn't kill music, it just kept the media industry honest for a while.