From his article:
With enough lock-in, a company can protect its market share even as it reduces customer service, raises prices, refuses to innovate and otherwise abuses its customer base. It should be no surprise that this sounds like pretty much every experience you've had with IT companies: Once the industry discovered lock-in, everyone started figuring out how to get as much of it as they can.Almost all proprietary software vendors are guilty of this, with Apple and Microsoft being the true 'champions' of this practice.
Schneier comments on how DRM is marketed as a 'security feature', but that instead it is just used to give vendors control over us:
Mostly, companies increase their lock-in through security mechanisms. Sometimes patents preserve lock-in, but more often it's copy protection, digital rights management (DRM), code signing or other security mechanisms. These security features aren't what we normally think of as security: They don't protect us from some outside threat, they protect the companies from us.The last sentence is what's really important: Everytime you knowingly purchase a DRM infected product, or a DRM supporting operating system, you are willingly trading away part of your freedom, for pretty much nothing in return. DRM is there to protect vendor bottom lines, not your security or your free will.
... I talked [in the past] about the security-versus-privacy debate, and how it's actually a debate about liberty versus control. Here we see the same dynamic, but in a commercial setting. By confusing control and security, companies are able to force control measures that work against our interests by convincing us they are doing it for our own safety.DRM is bad for you and me, any way you turn it or look at it. But there is a way out: Free, open source software (FOSS) cannot implememt DRM that can't be trivially circumvented. Imagine: If Linux would suddenly come with DRM built-in, over night someone would have made a fork of the project, which had all those features removed. In the open source world, DRM would be nothing more than a bug, which would quickly be fixed (removed). With proprietary, closed source software you never know what you are going to get, and you certainly cannot 'fix' the problem by removing any DRM related components. It's closed. You have no control.
The operating system of our computers, and the systems that maintain our personal data should not be closed sourced for exactly that reason: You loose control over what happens with your data and what you can do on your own computer. Computers have become too important in our lives to give up our control over them just like that.
I don't have an iPhone, since I can make phone calls just fine with my $40 pre-paid mobile. I don't have an iPod, because there are plenty of non-DRM encumbered mp3 players out there, which work just as well. I don't run Windows, because Linux satisfies all my computing and application needs. As a result, I can keep more of my money and my freedom.
Other related posts:
UK government supports open source
25 open source projects for software development
Dabbling in OpenSolaris
Comment by tonyhughes, on 9-Feb-2008 11:49
I have an iPod, with no DRM encumbered music on it...
Comment by freitasm, on 9-Feb-2008 12:43
Itneresting but I don't agree with "Almost all proprietary software vendors are guilty of this, with Apple and Microsoft being the true 'champions' of this practice." when in context with the quote "With enough lock-in, a company can protect its market share even as it reduces customer service, raises prices, refuses to innovate and otherwise abuses its customer base"
I see both Microsoft and Apple creating innovative software, with new versions always bringing more functionality. Windows Home Server? Apple Time Machine? Windows Media Center? Apple Frontrow?
What about research in user interfaces? I met a few people from Redmond and had sessions on how user interfaces are designed from their point of view - with research data collected from users, designers creating and testing new metaphors, even feature usage data collected (with user approval) being used to determine which features are used most, etc.
That's why Office 2007 doesn't have those long menus we used to see in Office 2003 and before.
As for customer service, a couple of times I contacted Micosoft to have problems fixed and the service was excellent, with one occasion even having some of their technicians using LogMeIn (note, not their remote desktop tool!) to connect to one of my machines.
In another occasion I wrote about a problem in my blog, and a day later someone from their server team cotacted me to see if the problem was solved - even though I had not created a ticket or contacted their support!
Comment by freitasm, on 9-Feb-2008 12:59
I think people should read this then:
"if it were up to Torvalds, beauty and intuition would take a backseat to functionality. But when you look at distributions like Ubuntu or OpenSuse, it looks like no one is paying attention. 'An OS should never have been something that people (in general) really care about: it should be completely invisible and nobody should give a flying [expletive] about it except the technical people.' Sure, that statement makes some sense, but in the grand scheme of things, it's the design and usability factor that makes the operating system much easier to use. And while both Mac OS X and Windows have their issues, for the average person, it makes more sense to use those than Linux."
There you go...
Comment by BarneyC, on 9-Feb-2008 13:49
Oh dear. Another cracking example of where the conflation of DRM and LockIn just serve to help the incumbents in maintaining their poorly implemented models. To label DRM as evil or bad, based on the lack of “fair use” by the recording industry demonstrates a poor understanding of rights, be they digital or otherwise.
DRM is a good thing. It actually does nothing more than lay down a contractual agreement that is both human and machine readable (and therefore machine enforceable) as to how a work of art should or should not be used.
As a keen photographer and frequent poster to Flickr I want to be assured that my photos are used in only the way in which I intended. I don’t want a large corporate using a photo of my kids to promote their products or business – at least not without i) my express permission, ii) some assurance of privacy for my kids and iii) a monetary consideration where appropriate. That as the artist is my right, I own the works.
DRM merely sets out to enforce those rights. So for Flickr and me this is handled under the Creative Commons license.
The rights therefore need to be afforded to say the recording industry that “owns” the rights to or distributes an artist’s music. The have a right to recompense if they so wish along with a right to dictate by whom and how that music can be used.
So when you buy a CD you purchase a license that allows you the individual to listen to the music personally (what personally means is a whole different argument), but not to publically perform or claim the works in any way as your own. Fair stuff most reasonable people would agree.
The problem is that technology has afforded users the ability to easily break that license and redistribute those works without any part compensating the company or artist.
And this is where DRM comes in to play. DRM is there to enforce those rights preventing uncompensated distribution. BUT (and it’s a big but) in my opinion the current implementations of DRM are too restrictive on the reasonable user. If I purchase a license for music I believe I should have the right to use it in a personal environment upon any device I choose; so I should be able to copy it to my home media server, my phone, my pc or iPod as I choose.
Current DRM often restricts this “fair use” to a single or limited group of devices. This is NOT LockIn in the product sense, rather Lock Down in the capability sense.
There are plenty of good examples of where DRM is implemented in sensible ways, such as in a recent Aboriginal heritage archive project detailed by the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7214240.stm).
As a further note, the notion that Free Open Source Software is the antithesis to DRM is a flawed argument. Open Source software is created and distributed under a license, GPL, Apache etc… DRM again is not about enforcing payment, it is about enforcing rights – something which the Open Source community is all to good at doing when works are redistributed without due consideration of said license.
Comment by BarneyC, on 9-Feb-2008 20:25
@foobar: In all fairness I will admit that you did not level anything at the recording industry per se, however if one was to take DRM as a concept it’s most prevalent and abhorrent implementation has been in the use of trying to control the distribution of digital media – the recording industry being the most common example. Therefore please see my use of the recording industry as merely a representative of the usage.
DRM is not a technology it is a philosophy of being able to enforce copyright law and licensing terms through machine readable and therefore actionable contracts. It may have a technical implementation and I suspect it is with particular implementations that you and many others (including myself in several cases) take issue.
This is in essence no different to the manual process that the FOSS movement employs when chasing down license miscreants – and it always has been most vociferous in its efforts to name, shame and where at all possible litigate license infringements. Just to be certain though the FOSS movement is NOT free, this is a terrible misnomer – it is at now financial cost to purchase. Be very sure there is a real cost in financial and attention terms in adhering to any license.
Therefore to state that DRM is a flawed technology that is technically impossible on a free system is factually incorrect. It is eminently possible to create a rights management system, digital or otherwise, on an open source system. What is not possible to do without ramifications, and fairly so, is to reverse engineer the IP that sits behind a proprietary and non-open source technical implementation of DRM – this is a companies “art” and as you say “[you] would also not want anyone to use any picture of [you] or[your] family without [your] consent.” Ergo you actually agree with their rights to pursue those who breach their copyright – as does the Open Source movement as a whole.
Now as to whether or not current technical implementations of DRM are intrusive and flawed I would whole heartidly agree with you. They suck. They suck because the processes of “fair use” are actually quite hard to define in a digital rights agreement and therefore the current exponents of DRM have taken a very heavy handed approach to the whole issue.
Can this be solved – most definitely. Creative Commons and indeed Privacy Commons are two of the founding “technologies” I believe will have a huge impact upon how DRM is implemented in the future. When combined with Digital Identity, in particular User Centric Identity, through which the User can clearly define those places in which they and they alone are using the works then I believe mainstream DRM will become acceptable.
As a thought to ponder upon. Ignore the digital part of DRM and just look at the rights management. After all rights management is merely about being able to control who has access and for what purpose to your stuff. You manage your car keys, only lending them to people you trust would not then in turn lend them to someone else. Is that such an abhorrent concept to 99.99999999% of the population, I suspect not.
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