DRM technology and policy

Andreas Bogk andreas at andreas.org
Tue Apr 22 17:43:43 EDT 2003

"John S. Denker" <jsd at monmouth.com> writes:

>> Making a copy of something is no longer a
>> scarce resource.  DRM is nothing but a try to keep it scarce for a
>> little longer.
> Please get a clue.  Copyright isn't about the
> scarcity of copying or the marginal cost thereof.
> Never has been.

I think it's time you get a clue too.  Back when the copyright law was
invented, the scarcity of copying generated a market for books.
Printers could sustain a business on it, because it was cheaper for
people to buy a book than to copy it.  Coupling the income of the
author to that money stream was just the most logical thing to do.

With the advent of digital computers and telecommunication, we
suddenly see the cost per copy dramatically shrinking.  At the same
time, we see a music industry charging ridiculous prices for CDs, and
a meager 5-10% of that money going to the artist.  People start to
wonder what use they are getting out of the other 90%.

> Copyright is about recouping the _fixed_ costs.  This

Right.  In the P2P world, the only remaining fixed costs are the costs
of living of the author, plus a computer.

> is necessary in general, and particularly important
> when the market is of limited size, so that the fixed
> cost per unit is significant in absolute terms.

No, this is only sufficient, not necessary.  It would as well be
possible to view the work itself as the unit, and talk about recouping
the cost of that single item, without regard for the number of copies.
This is especially true with the marginal cost approaching zero for
the case of an artist distributing his music using P2P, or a software
writer with an open source project on the 'net.

You know, I have stopped cracking games about ten years ago.  It was a
nice intellectual challenge, and besides meant unlimited downloads
from the BBSes with all the software released on the planet.  I wanted
to learn, and access to that vast software resource helped with that.

But I had discovered open source software, and that's there much more
to learn than you can when given just the binary.  I got bored with
the challenge, and was no longer interested in binary windows

Over time, this became a conscious decision: I would not pirate any
software anymore.  If you don't want me to make a copy, I will make
copies of the stuff people want me to copy.  There's plenty of it, and
they deserve my support.

At the moment, both worlds can happily coexist on the same computer.
And I have full control over this computer.  If I had to choose
between being able to view certain content on a "trusted" computer,
and not being able on a free computer, I'd choose the latter.  Let's
see whose files will still be readable 50 years from now.

DRM would be just fine if it was a standardized way of marking
authorship of a document.  Just couple a digital signature with a
timestamping service.  Put a header field in it with the bank account,
and one could implement a "I like this, send the guy a dollar" button
in your favourite MP3 player. Charge ten cent extra for a blank CD,
and provide a nonce to donate that to the author.

It is *not* acceptable in any form where I need to give up control
over my computer, in the futile attempt to prevent unwanted copies,
even if they were legal!

I'd like to make a litte gedanken experiment here.  How would a world
look like, where perfect DRM were available?  These days, there are so
many physical copies of newspapers that it is hard to remove some
information from a back issue.  It's hard to modify past.  On the
other hand, with an online newspaper where it was impossible to save a
copy of the article, modification of history boils down to changing a
single file on a single server.  Orwell, we're only 20 years late.

Would DRM save your private data from falling into the wrong hands?
Certainly not, when the government can go in through the front door,
armed with the Patriot Act.

> http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.articlei.html#section8

I sincerely hope that there are still people in your country that
uphold the values of this document.  You know, from the outside it
sometimes looks like the terrorists had already won: fundamental
rights like freedom of religion, freedom of press, right to due
process, right to confront and to counsel, right against unreasonable
searches and probably even more, are given up in the name of fight
against terrorism.  Or, even more appalling, in the name of Good
against Bad on the side of God.

But I digress.  I do not propose giving up copyright.  I merely
suggest that there might be business models for authors that work in
the presence of easy copying, and I insist that there should be no
change to copyright law that harms any of my fundamental freedoms.

Unfortunately, DMCA is already doing it's damage.  I'm afraid we will
see the same with the European Union Copyright Directive here.


"Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality."
  -- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso

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