Anti-DRM day set for next month

Sub-group under the Free Software Foundation has earmarked Oct. 3 for a global protest against digital rights management technology.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

An awareness day to highlight the fight against digital rights management (DRM) will be held on Oct. 3.

Organized by DefectiveByDesign.org, a sub-group of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), Anti-DRM day will involve a "worldwide day of action…to raise the stakes and attempt to increase awareness to the threats of DRM".

The technology is being increasingly embedded in software and music CDs to prevent users from making unauthorized copies. However, incidents such as last year's Sony rootkit debacle — when people who played certain CDs on their computers unwittingly downloaded software that made them more vulnerable to viruses and spyware--highlighted the serious risks involved in overzealous DRM implementation.

"Media companies should be embracing the new possibilities that digital technology brings," said Dr Ian Brown, an expert for the Open Rights Group and academic working at UCL and the Cambridge-MIT Insitute, last week.

"Instead, most are trying to lock us all into their 20th century business models, using faulty technology that will stop consumers from making legitimate uses of copyright works," he told ZDNet UK.

DRM has, by its nature, proved an attractive challenge to hackers and programmers, some of whom have achieved success in circumventing it. The most recent case saw Microsoft scramble to patch its Windows Media DRM after someone released a utility which would see it effectively bypassed.

The issue has also caused vigorous debate in the run-up to the third version of the General Public License (GPL), the document--currently being revised by the FSF--which underpins much of the open source movement. Many have argued for anti-DRM provisions to be included, saying DRM runs contrary to the spirit of open source. But Linux creator Linus Torvalds has said DRM can play an integral role in security, and claimed that proposed revisions to the GPL go too far.

Earlier this year several organizations complained to MPs about DRM. The British Library said the technology was hampering its ability to use digitized material within the context of a library, and the Royal National Institute for the Blind claimed DRM stopped certain e-books working with software designed to make computers read text out loud.

In July, DefectiveByDesign.org organized a petition to persuade U2 frontman and longstanding rights campaigner Bono to join the anti-DRM movement. It remains to be seen whether he will join its ranks.

The organization is also concerned about DRM functionality which it says will be included in new high-definition DVD formats, to allow unprecedented monitoring and control over usage habits.

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