Posts filed under ‘TUR-DRM’

Tech Privacy Rights As Fundamental As Gun Rights

Your private data isn’t a physical product. If someone steals your laptop, you can get a new laptop, or get it returned. It may have sentimental value, but it’s just a replaceable physical item. Information is not something that can be returned.

The value is not in the laptop, it’s in the private data contained within it. Do you have images or videos only meant for your eyes or your partners? If your laptop is stolen, count on those being shared online, count on the fact that anyone you see in your day-to-day life may have seen them, and recognize you from them. Still think that can be reversed and no harm done if you get your laptop back or get a replacement?

Continue Reading Wednesday, 2012-August-15 at 13:26 1 comment

Copyright As Presently Defined Is Unconstitutional

Movie/record industry rep says that you shouldn’t expect to be able to play your media for as long as you own it – Boing Boing

“We reject the view,” he writes in a letter to the top legal advisor at the Copyright Office, “that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works. No other product or service providers are held to such lofty standards. No one expects computers or other electronics devices to work properly in perpetuity, and there is no reason that any particular mode of distributing copyrighted works should be required to do so.”

The context is a discussion over whether it should be legal for users to strip off TUR (technological usage restrictions), also known as DRM, when the validation servers for their legally-purchased content (that is, music, video, and software) are shut down. Should Windows XP stop working when Microsoft shuts down its Genuine Disadvantage servers? Should people who bought “protected” music lose when Wal-Mart or Microsoft or Apple decide to shut down their authorization servers?

But the real issue is whether “intellectual property” as we currently know it is even allowed under our Constitution.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
….
(US Constitution, Article I, Section 8)

A simple reading of the Constitution (and the only reading that makes sense) tells us a few things about patents and copyrights. First of all, the purpose is to promote progress, to benefit society as a whole. In order to do so, a monopoly may be granted for a limited period of time, to authors and inventors, creators. Wikipedia has some background on the subject.

Now, nothing is created, except through the efforts of individual humans or groups of individual humans. Corporations have no creative ability, save their ability to help fund and organize the efforts of humans. Therefore, I will make my first shocking statement: the provision of copyright and patent benefits to any entity other than the specific individuals involved in creating the thing protected is a clear violation of the US Constitution and ought to be legally prohibited. Corporations, by the Constitution, have no authority to own or acquire copyrights or patents for themselves, and Congress cannot grant that authority.

Secondly, the specific purpose of copyright and patents is to motivate creators to continue creating things for the benefit of society as a whole. Therefore, there are no grounds in the Constitution for copyright or patent to last longer than the life (or lives) of the specific individuals involved in creation of said invention or artistic work. To be more direct, the lifetime (s) of the creators is the limit of the time that Congress (and by extension the government as a whole) is allowed to grant these monopoly rights. The day you die, you can no longer write music, nor invent new things. Thus, it is clearly impossible for copyright or patent to motivate you to continue creating things after that date.

Now, we must understand that copyright and patents do not exist to enrich media and technology companies, but only to benefit society as a whole. The RIAA, the MPAA, and the BSA consist mostly of large and rich corporations. They are large and rich, I surmise, because misinterpretation of a simple clause of the Constitution into a near-perpetual right to compensation has enabled corporations and “stars” to get very high returns for their efforts. The bad thing about those ultra-high returns is the belief that they are entitled to them, which was the reason behind technological usage restrictions in the first place.

In the days of vinyl records, for example, it was relatively difficult to copy and illegally distribute albums. To be sure, it went on, but it wasn’t some high school kid sharing free music with strangers. This made it easy for record companies to control music distribution. Because they controlled distribution, they then had an important service to offer artists. But now? They still control the courts, for now. What happens in ten years when the current under-30 group starts joining the judicial bench? They’ve grown up in an era where music “sharing” is easy and painless, because it doesn’t affect your ability to use the product. They’ve seen online services where music is rented. They know that the current “intellectual property” regime is a scam.

IMPORTANT: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. If you get crossways with the music, movie, or software companies, you are on your own. Your best bet is to obey the law as currently interpreted, while working to bring the law back to its Constitutional basis.

Hat tip: Jim Robertson

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UPDATE: 2012-01-22: Another article about similar subject matter, this one sparked by something that Joel Spolsky wrote.

Saturday, 2009-August-01 at 07:46 1 comment

Why You Should Avoid Buying Music With TUR/DRM

The day the music died [dive into mark]

Mark Pilgrim captures perfectly the reasons why it is self-defeating to buy your “content” with TUR, which the music and movie industries love to euphemize as DRM. Where previously, there was not really an example showing that customers lose access to the products they purchased once the vendor loses interest in that line of business, we now get to see an object lesson.

Now, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as MSN Music. I generally buy my music on CD for just such a reason. When I just want a single song, I have MJ buy it through iTunes and burn it to CD for me. It is a sale that would otherwise not have taken place.

It really isn’t about Microsoft, because other music and movie vendors will do the same thing sometime. It is about people like you and I, and about the music we buy. It is about the move to openness that promises a brighter future, and about the entrenched corporate interests that are using any possible means to stay in control.

I had an important lesson in this area when my nephew was unable to renew his music on his MP3 player before it expired. All his bought and paid for music became unplayable. What a way to promote legal purchasing, rather than the music-stealing networks.

Tuesday, 2008-May-06 at 19:35

Vista Not Spurring Computer Sales

Bob Sutor brings a link to a Yahoo! News story.

“The release of Microsoft Windows Vista operating system at the end of January has, so far, failed to stimulate the market in the way many hoped,” Gartner analyst George Shiffler said in a statement. “Our market data suggest Vista has had very limited impact on PC demand or replacement activity.”

In what I'm sure is just a coincidence, the Windows Genuine Disadvantage (WGA) license-checking snoopware recently became mandatory.  Even on WinXP computers that had been blocked from installing that "update", it is now installing.  It surely can not be a way to force WinXP users to switch to WinVista.  I am sure no one in Redmond has thought of that.

But I have serious questions about this WGA snoopware.  Is the Dept. of Defense excluded from this?  Or is the nation's safety in the hands of a group of power-obsessed and money-obsessed managers in the Northwest?  Why hasn't anyone else mentioned this?  False verification failures were common last year.  Has WGA become more accurate since then?  Perhaps our government needs to adopt FLOSS instead of putting public safety at risk because of someone's greed and power-lust.  If I may make a recommendation, Ubuntu Linux or Linux Mint are wonderful desktops.  Xandros is said to be pretty compliant with Active Directory.  Ubuntu Studio is enhanced for multimedia creation and would be a great addition to the PR branch.

Many users of computers where this update had previously been blocked report seeing the gold shield saying that important updates were ready to be installed, including WGA.  Others reported that they went to the updates site and had to install it in order to get any other updates. 

Can mandating OGA for MS Office 2000/XP/2002/2003 users be far behind?  Will users soon find themselves forced to use Not-so-open XML for their documents?  No one outside of Redmond knows for sure.

You can also read the original Information Week article.

Sunday, 2007-July-01 at 08:10 3 comments

A Few Conflicts In A Longer Struggle

Several other places have chronicled Microsoft's temporary successes in blocking states from adopting OpenDocument Format for their office documents, even though ODF is a better choice than NSOOXML from both a technical and a social perspective.  Brian Cronmiller tells us about a parallel situation in history.  I think the remedy used there would be helpful in this situation as well.

The struggle of openness against closedness is just beginning, really.  I foresee a time coming when only a few niche software products will use closed source and proprietary licensing.  The bulk of the market will use FLOSS.  Even our media will be licensed with openness and without TUR, often euphemized as DRM.  This will not occur without a drawn-out fight, as the industries that made easy wealth under the old regime fight to continue making it.

Look for continued use of "undue political influence" (which is often another word for bribery) to enforce high profits for a few software and media giants, but look for continued erosion of their markets, their income, and their power.  Suddenly, almost overnight, senators and representatives will pretend to have consciences and pass laws to finish the transfer of power from the elite to consumers.

The forward motion continues.  A year ago, California would never have considered an open standard file format for office documents.  This year, they considered it, even though it died in committee.  Perhaps next year, the state will adopt it, putting the interests of the state and its residents above those of a wealthy campaign donor.

For Microsoft, the future lies in breaking the company into about five competing companies.  In their few profitable businesses, they have just about saturated the market, so growing market share is not possible.  Yet, their unprofitable businesses will fold if they have to stand on their own, while the profitable businesses are facing pressure from open competitors.  The only solution (pay attention Softies, this may save your company) is to break each business into three to five competing companies with each of the companies getting ownership of the current state of existing technologies, then pair some of the profitable companies with some of the unprofitable companies.

This would mean that there would be three to five companies producing Windows operating systems, but it could also mean that some of them would produce a Windows built upon FreeBSD, for example. This would take time to accomplish, but some of the enduring bugs and security holes that come from decisions made during the early versions of NT could finally be retired from the product. 

Most of all, though, the way forward for Microsoft is to adopt the way of openness.  Patent foolishness and politicking can only go so far before they produce a backlash.  Signing contracts that attempt to force suicide upon companies like Novell and Xandros is a self-limiting proposition.  At the very least, the agreements force some fiscal costs upon them that their competitors do not have.  More likely, a major patent action will lead to invalidation of the patents or to the nuclear option (companies like IBM using their extensive patent portfolios to enjoin distribution of Windows, SQL Server, and other key Microsoft products).  If said restrictions exist for a couple of years, Microsoft is doomed, even if it means the end of Novell and Xandros as well.

Sunday, 2007-June-10 at 12:36

Gather Your Thoughts Again

In reply to Get together my thoughts on OOXML/ODF

From what I understand of the market, you have a number of (free)add-on ODF plugins for Microsoft Office. This means that the simple requirement being able to read and write the format will be satisfied to the level of quality of the plugins and the ability of the interoperable aspects of the ODF standard to handle office semantics. I feel that the blogoshpere has made it clear that the only way ODF will be able to handle the body of existing office documents (Bugs and features) at full fidelity is for there to be a large number of extensions that would render ODF something not ODF anymore, especially from the standpoint of other ODF implementations. It might be in the vaguely “right” looking container, but it would not beinteroperable. Any movement in this space would (rightly?) be branded Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

Read the blog of the ODF-to-OOXML conversion plug-in. Read their list of unsupported features. The MCAN (Microsoft-Clever Age-Novell) plug-in is pretty poor in what it does. Now, Sun’s translator should be as good as the current versions of OpenOffice.org, which is fairly good for less complex documents. And da Vinci, once it comes out, should make things even better.

What you’re missing is that ODF already can represent everything known to be stored in the legacy binary formats, and that it is both evolving and extensible. It would have to be so in order to enable any currently or formerly-used format’s content (including formats of multiple vendors) to be represented. This claim that ODF is the one that isn’t interoperable is a straight-out lie.

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Tuesday, 2007-February-13 at 09:37 1 comment

Vista’s TUR-DRM In Action

Vista’s “Reduced Functionality” – Faster Forward

This blog posting at the Washington Post describes exactly the reason why so many people will be switching to Mac OS X and Linux over the next couple of years. A known legitimate installation of Windows Vista suddenly went into Reduced Functionality Mode. Now, I am not sure what programs are blocked in this mode, but I think it is most of them.

Now imagine this: Your timesheet or invoice or something else that is critical to your wallet is due at 5 PM today, with its supporting data that is saved on your hard drive, but when you arrive at work, your computer has switched into this mode and the only thing you are allowed to do with it is login to pay-me-again.microsoft.com with your credit card number. The IT staff cannot help you, except to call the supplier of the computer and wait for them to decide how to fix things without wrecking all of your saved data.

How Vista came to this conclusion was not clear. The Gateway laptop didn’t have the company’s standard configuration; Gateway’s PR department had put a stock install of Vista on the thing. But Vista had not alerted me of any problems prior to flipping into the “reducedfunctionality” pay-up-or-else mode. (What a great phrase that is! The operating system didn’t kneecap the machine, it merely “reduced” its “functionality.”)

Anyway, Gateway’s publicists had no idea how this could have happenedeither, so the only thing I could do was ship the laptop back to thecompany and let their folks figure it out.

You know that Microsoft isn’t going to be concerned about getting you access to your computer. They just want to warn you to pay up “or you could get hoit!”

So you see? Somewhere, someone high up in that company decided that end-users and support staff like you and I are their enemies. Surely they check to see whether the software is stolen when you first activate it. So why do they feel the need to come along after the fact and revoke your license?

They like to call this “digital rights management,” or DRM. I think it is more accurately called “technological usage restrictions,” or TUR. In either case, this is NOT going to affect the organized rings of thieves that breaking through this kind of “protection” and then selling the products for greatly-reduced prices. They could, of course, reduce their pricing, so that the thieves make less money selling stolen software (and perhaps even have to get honest jobs). But instead, they choose to take it out on innocent users like the Russian teacher that has been in the news.

Hopefully, more and more people will awaken from their slumber this year and the next, choosing to purchase computers that come pre-installed with Linux, Mac OS X, or even PC-BSD.  In this way, the pirates at the helm in Redmond may see that it is end-users that they need to court and please, not the content cartels.

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Saturday, 2007-February-10 at 16:19 1 comment

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