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).

09 December 2008

PCFormat's DRM Article

I am not a regular buyer of PCFormat - but when I saw the DRM article advertised on the cover, I could not resist. Since I do consider myself somewhat of an expert on DRM, I was interested to see what the magazine had to say. And in most respects, it was very much what I thought it would be; although a lot less hysterical and to be fair, a lot more balanced. However, there are a number of points I would like to raise - so here it goes.

Firstly - what is DRM? Strictly speaking - DRM is about the control of usage and access to electronic data. It is not about copy control. In fact, every DRM system that has tried to enforce copy control has been a failure - and are usually led the bad rap - such as Sony-BMG's rootkit. It is physically impossible to restrict copying - computers work by copying data all the time. The way copying is controlled is through restricting the use of electronic data - but not physically restricting copying. It is an important distinction.

Secondly, DRM is not strictly about copyright enforcement - it is about license enforcement. This is the reason that music DRM has failed, and probably will never succeed. Music has never been sold as being licensed to the buyer - instead the buyer has always "bought" an instance of a musical performance. To apply DRM directly to this model was stupid, and has consequently failed.

Software is different - it has always been distributed and used as being licensed. You do not own a game. You own a license to play the game. You do not own a copy of Windows XP. You own a license to use Windows XP. Consequently, DRM fits in a lot better to the model for Software Protection - it is a natural extension to what has always been practiced, but never really been enforced.

But does this mean that the economic and usability models being applied to current software is correct? No. Previously, I could get a license to play a game on unlimited number of machines for R400. Now, I get a license restricted to play on 3 machines for R400. That is not economically justifiable. Likewise, usability of phoning a number, hanging on for 20 minutes while reciting 20 letter numbers is not user-friendly.

In my opinion, DRM was rushed to the market - mainly because the old business models in the music industry could not cope with the new economy. There is a lot of research that needs to be done - a lot of it is being done. There is a lot of use for DRM, and the power it can hand to the user could be immense. If done properly, the user could be in a position to determine, how, who, why, when and where another entity could use their personal data - that is powerful. However, competing DRM standards (there are at least three organisations in the standardisation game: OMA, MPEG and W3C), competing interests and a general fuck up due to the immature introduction of the technology has meant that real progress has been really slow.

07 December 2008

Movie: Synechdoche

In "Being John Malkovich" Charlie Kaufman explored the world through one person's eyes (and a lot more than that). In Synechdoche, he explores a whole city. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a nutty director who has just won a grand prize to put on the most ambitious play ever. So, he tries to replicate New York - and the actors basically start living the play. And through the play, he tries to explore and understand himself - although I think he fails spectacularly.

It is a lot more, and is quite a roller coaster - but is ultimate very complex and hard to unravel. It is a lot more than Being John Malkovich; a lot more than the Truman Show; but ultimately it does not have a clear cut story or purpose. But I did not really expect it to.