Cory Doctorow: Microsoft Research DRM talk

This is an excellent talk on DRM and is right on the money all the way through. It is a shame that Microsoft didn’t take it seriously.

If you have any questions about DRM (Digital Rights Media) and why it really is a very bad approach, check out the entire article.

Here’s just one excerpt from section 2. DRM systems are bad for society:

Here’s the social reason that DRM fails: keeping an honest user honest is like keeping a tall user tall. DRM vendors tell us that their technology is meant to be proof against average users, not organized criminal gangs like the Ukranian pirates who stamp out millions of high-quality counterfeits. It’s not meant to be proof against sophisticated college kids. It’s not meant to be proof against anyone who knows how to edit her registry, or hold down the shift key at the right moment, or use a search engine. At the end of the day, the user DRM is meant to defend against is the most unsophisticated and least capable among us.

Here’s a true story about a user I know who was stopped by DRM. She’s smart, college educated, and knows nothing about electronics. She has three kids. She has a DVD in the living room and an old VHS deck in the kids’ playroom. One day, she brought home the Toy Story DVD for the kids. That’s a substantial investment, and given the generally jam-smeared character of everything the kids get their paws on, she decided to tape the DVD off to VHS and give that to the kids — that way she could make a fresh VHS copy when the first one went south. She cabled her DVD into her VHS and pressed play on the DVD and record on the VCR and waited.

Before I go farther, I want us all to stop a moment and marvel at this. Here is someone who is practically technophobic, but who was able to construct a mental model of sufficient accuracy that she figured out that she could connect her cables in the right order and dub her digital disc off to analog tape. I imagine that everyone in this room is the front-line tech support for someone in her or his family: would it be great if all our non-geek friends and relatives were this clever and imaginative?

I also want to point out that this is the proverbial honest user. She’s not making a copy for the next door neighbors. She’s not making a copy and selling it on a blanket on Canal Street. She’s not ripping it to her hard-drive, DivX encoding it and putting it in her Kazaa sharepoint. She’s doing something *honest* — moving it from one format to another. She’s home taping.

Except she fails. There’s a DRM system called Macrovision embedded — by law — in every DVD player and VHS that messes with the vertical blanking interval in the signal and causes any tape made in this fashion to fail. Macrovision can be defeated for about $10 with a gadget readily available on eBay. But our infringer doesn’t know that. She’s “honest.” Technically unsophisticated. Not stupid, mind you — just naive.

The Darknet paper addresses this possibility: it even predicts what this person will do in the long run: she’ll find out about Kazaa and the next time she wants to get a movie for the kids, she’ll download it from the net and burn it for them.

In order to delay that day for as long as possible, our lawmakers and big rightsholder interests have come up with a disastrous policy called anticircumvention.

I really think this is a must read for anyone who has an interest in music, movies, software, operating systems, printers, you name it. Or maybe just have a curiosity about what DRM is all about and how far reaching it can be and already is. DRM is no where near limited to just the music and movies we buy….but that is a big part.

Thanks so much Cory for such a wonderful discussion on DRM. It was not a lack of being able to get your point across that has kept Microsoft from acting on the truth in what you said. And as you showed on the BoingBoing article link (see below) they know it is doomed to failure. But they have allowed themselves to be blinded by their own greed and desire for control … just as the RIAA, the MPAA and so many other other corporations.

They care more for their bottom line than for the people who make that bottom line possible. They care not about our fair use of what we buy. It is a very sad thing indeed.

More here at BoingBoing – MSFT’s Darknet Paper – must read.

Comments on: "Cory Doctorow: Microsoft Research DRM talk" (2)

  1. […] hem actually confirm what we all already knew. DRM is doomed to failure as pointed out by Cory Doctorow at and Microsoft themselves in the Darknet Papers linked on BoingBoing. As I hav […]

  2. […] it.) And more DRM information in my previous DRM, DMCA, Copyright entries – particularly Cory Doctorow: Microsoft Research DRM talk and Ars Technica’s Ken “Cæsar” Fisher’s When pla […]

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