Tuesday October 3rd a "Day Against DRM"
Events on Tuesday are being coordinated by DefectiveByDesign.org a campaign of the Free Software Foundation. Executive Director Peter Brown said, "We aim to raise the level of awareness to the threats posed by DRM technology, and we are calling for political action to curb this gradual abolition of our rights".
DRM technology is a growing problem for all computer users and, by extension, for all of society. DRM is typically used to restrict individuals' use of their own copies of published works. To enforce these restrictions, DRM software, and now hardware, must monitor and control computer users' behavior. Frequently it reports on what it sees.
Consumers might be aware that iPod users are restricted from transferring their music to other non-Apple devices because the music downloaded from iTunes is encrypted - locked with DRM. Apple allows you to write an audio CD, but will leave you with very lousy sound quality if you ever want to take your music to a new portable device in a compressed format. These drawbacks are of course there for a reason: customer lock-in. Apple inconveniences its customers into binding themselves to Apple products.
This type of nuisance is but the foreshadow of greater ones to come. Standing behind the technology companies, the film and music industry (Big Media) have set the agenda. To increase their control, they have been demanding that technology companies impose DRM. The technology companies, having themselves become part of Big Media, have stopped resisting. Sony has become a film and music company, Microsoft is an owner of MSNBC, and Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, sits on the board of Disney. These technology companies do not represent the interests of the technology consumer.
Big Media's agenda is to use DRM to deliver for them what their political lobbying to change copyright law never has: they aim to turn every interaction with a published work into a transaction, abolishing fair use and the commons, and making copyright effectively last forever. By accepting DRM technology users surrender their rights. That they are doing this unknowingly or under duress, is irrelevant to the corporations involved.
As an example, the campaign has drawn attention to Amazon's new movie download service called Unbox, as it outlines what DRM implies for the consumer. The user agreement requires that you allow Unbox DRM software to monitor your hard drive and to report activity to Amazon. These reports would thus include a list of: all the software installed; all the music and video you have; all your computer's interaction with other devices. You will surrender your freedom to such an extent that you will be able to regain control only by removing the software. But if you do remove the software, you will remove all your movies along with it. You are restricted even geographically, and will lose your movies if you ever move out of the USA. You of course have to agree that they can change these terms at any time. Microsoft's newly upgraded Windows Media Player 11 (WMP11) user agreement has a similar set of restrictive terms.
The trend we are seeing is that each time a user is forced to upgrade their software, they downgrade the users' rights. Every new DRM system has enforced a harsher control regime. Apple has added more restrictions to their music service, and their new video service is yet more restrictive. This is not happening just with music and video. DRM is being applied to knowledge and information. Libraries, schools and universities are adding DRM, sometimes under duress, often without understanding the consequences.
Brown describes what this will mean for the future, "No fair use. No purchase and resell. No private copies. No sharing. No backup. No swapping. No mix tapes. No privacy. No commons. No control over our computers. No control over our electronic devices. The conversion of our homes into apparatus to monitor our interaction with published works and web sites." Asked why awareness to these threats was so low Brown responded, "If this type of invasion of privacy were coming from any other source, it would not be tolerated. That it is the media and technology companies leading the way, does not make it benign. Getting Big Media to report on the actions of Big Media is one issue we face".
When users hand over control of their computers they invite deeper surveillance. With personal viewing, listening, reading, browsing records on file, it is likely that this information will sooner or later end up as public record.
Users of free software - not controlled by the large technology companies - have been alerted to DRM because of the threat to their community. They can be locked out, and their computers won't play the movies or music under lock. Products can "tivoize" their code (remove their freedom through DRM), delivering it back with malicious features and blocking removal. Groups in the USA like the RIAA and the MPAA are actively lobbying Congress to pass new laws to mandate DRM and outlaw products and computers that don't enforce DRM. DRM is becoming a major threat to the freedom and privacy of computer users.
In September 2005 a Disney executive named Peter Lee told The Economist, "If consumers even know there's a DRM, what it is, and how it works, we've already failed,". A year later, the campaign hopes to make that prediction come true on October 3rd, and is encouraging participation in awareness activities through their website at www.DefectiveByDesign.org
DefectiveByDesign.org is a broad-based, anti-DRM campaign that is targeting Big Media, unhelpful manufacturers and DRM distributors. It aims to make all manufacturers wary about bringing their DRM-enabled products to market. The campaign aims to identify "defective" products for the consumer. Users are being asked to stand up in defense of their existing freedoms and to take action by joining at DefectiveByDesign.org
About the Free Software Foundation
The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software - particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants - and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. Their Web site, located at www.fsf.org , is an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support their work can be made at http://fsf.org/join They are headquartered in Boston, MA, USA.
To schedule an interview about the campaign or for more details about the events, please contact Peter Brown at the Free Software Foundation (+1 617-319-5832) or Gregory Heller at CivicActions (+1 646-705-1604) or email email@example.com