Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"DRM isn't the right to prevent piracy"

There's a very well written and insightful look at the risk of DRM and government efforts to protect it from circumvention.

Here's an excerpt of the article, but you should do yourself a favour and read it all.

DRM isn't the right to prevent piracy: it's the right to make up your own copyright laws. The right to invent things that people aren't allowed to do – even though the law permits it -- and to embed these prohibitions in code that is illegal to violate. Reimerdes also showed us that DRM is the right to suppress speech: the right to stop people from uttering code or keys or other expressions if there is some chance that these utterances will interfere with your made-up copyright laws.

The entertainment industry calls DRM "security" software, because it makes them secure from their customers. Security is not a matter of abstract absolutes, it requires a context. You can't be "secure," generally -- you can only be secure from some risk. For example, having food makes you secure from hunger, but puts you at risk from obesity-related illness.

DRM is designed on the presumption that users don't want it, and if they could turn it off, they would. You only need DRM to stop users from doing things they're trying to do and want to do. If the thing the DRM restricts is something no one wants to do anyway, you don't need the DRM. You don't need a lock on a door that no one ever wants to open.

DRM assumes that the computer's owner is its adversary. For DRM to work, there has to be no obvious way to remove, interrupt or fool it. For DRM to work, it has to reside in a computer whose operating system is designed to obfuscate some of its files and processes: to deliberately hoodwink the computer's owner about what the computer is doing. If you ask your computer to list all the running programs, it has to hide the DRM program from you. If you ask it to show you the files, it has to hide the DRM files from you. Anything less and you, as the computer's owner, would kill the program and delete its associated files at the first sign of trouble.

An increase in the security of the companies you buy your media from means a decrease in your own security. When your computer is designed to treat you as an untrusted party, you are at serious risk: anyone who can put malicious software on your computer has only to take advantage of your computer's intentional capacity to disguise its operation from you in order to make it much harder for you to know when and how you've been compromised.

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