About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

03 March 2006

The Big DRM Mistake?

In his column, Scott Granneman calls DRM a mistake; mainly because of its many current shortcomings and also because of the restrictions posed by DRM to consumers. In my opinion, that is not the big mistake about DRM - the mistake is how badly DRM has essentially been marketed, including its vilification in the GPL 3 draft.

Fundamentally, DRM is a about persistent access control - it is a term for a set of technologies that allow for data to be protected beyond the file system of the original machine. Thus, for example, the read/write/execute access control on most *nix file systems will not only be applicable to the original machine but to all machines. DRM is not perfect yet - that is the reason it is still an active research area; but a claim like "it will never be perfect" should not be a reason to investigate and prove that such a claim is false.

And most of the problems with DRM is not about technological failure - but a failure of communication and bad marketing. Granted The SONY-BMG saga was about technological failure - because fundamentally it was bad technology. But it was also about a miscommunication - customers should be told that they are buying a DRM enabled CD. Similarly, my criticisms on Vodafonelive (which I made to the INDICARE Workshop in Budapest this year, and in a law paper I co-wrote with Thomas Bechle last year) are based on the failure of Vodafone to make the consumer aware.

And fundamentally - many of the fair use issues are not a matter of given right. Just because a traditional CD allows me to give to a friend should not imply that any future format will allow me the same freedoms. Fundamentally, DRM enabled CDs are not the same thing as non DRM enabled CDs and should be labeled as such. It is like selling a German book sealed in an English cover without warning that the contents are in German. It is a case of bad trade practices and bad communication - and if consumers don't like the restrictions, they shouldn't buy it, but they need to be given the choice.

At the end of the day I believe that DRM does have a place - it can be used to protect sensitive data that needs to be highly regulated - for example, your health records. trying to advocate the DRM should not be researched because of possible misuse is just plain wrong.

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