BSA, RIAA, MPAA don’t care if their DRM might cause you harm.

Yet another reason to oppose DRM: Ed Felton of the blog Freedom To Tinker tells us about the U.S. Copyright Office’s triennial DMCA exemption rulemaking that’s currently ongoing and how a coalition of big copyright owners put forth an amazing argument in their latest submission in which they object to a provision to allow users to remove DRM that might potentially “employ access control measures which threaten critical infrastructure and potentially endanger lives.”

Their objections to these two requests (and others) consist mostly of lawyerly parsing, but at the end of their argument about our request comes this (from pp. 22-23 of the document, if you’re reading along at home):

    Furthermore, the claimed beneficial impact of recognition of the exemption — that it would “provide an incentive for the creation of protection measures that respect the security of consumers’ computers while protecting the interests of the record labels” ([citation to our request]) — would be fundamentally undermined if copyright owners — and everyone else — were left in such serious doubt about which measures were or were not subject to circumvention under the exemption.

Hanging from the end of the above-quoted excerpt is a footnote:

    This uncertainty would be even more severe under the formulations proposed in submissions 2 (in which the terms “privacy or security” are left completely undefined) or 8 [i.e., the CCIA request] (in which the boundaries of the proposed exemption would turn on whether access controls “threaten critical infrastructure and potentially endanger lives” ).

You read that right. They’re worried that there might be “serious doubt” about whether their future DRM access control systems are covered by these exemptions, and they think the doubt “would be even more severe” if the “exemption would turn on whether access controls ‘threaten critical infrastructure and potentially endanger lives’.”

Yikes.

One would have thought they’d make awfully sure that a DRM measure didn’t threaten critical infrastructure or endanger lives, before they deployed that measure. But apparently they want to keep open the option of deploying DRM even when there are severe doubts about whether it threatens critical infrastructure and potentially endangers lives.

And here’s the really amazing part. In order to protect their ability to deploy this dangerous DRM, they want the Copyright Office to withhold from users permission to uninstall DRM software that actually does threaten critical infrastructure and endanger lives.

I admit that I’m harping on this issue in part because of the rather surprising advocacy for DRM that my friend Daryl Cantrell has put forward here on SEB as of late. He seems to be of the opinion that it will hearald in a new era of lower-cost media with no negative impact on consumers because all these poor abused companies want is to be paid for their products and they only have our best interests at heart. They’d never think to try and charge for features we currently enjoy for free, or try to limit our Fair Use rights, or take away control of our devices on a whim, right? They love us and would never do anything like deploy a seriously flawed DRM rootkit that comprised a few millions PCs in homes, businesses, and government offices with a serious security risk. You’ve got nothing to worry about so why should we allow you to remove our DRM just because you think it might be endangering lives or something silly like that? Silly liberals, just trust us and we’ll take care of you.

With friends like that…

Apologies to Ed Felton for quoting so much of his entry, but he brings the point home very well. Link found via Boing Boing.

10 thoughts on “BSA, RIAA, MPAA don’t care if their DRM might cause you harm.

  1. Of course they don’t care what it fucks up, it’s not their problem.  They seem to have a habit of trying to make others do the hard work of protecting their interests. 

    The more they do shit like this, the more they encourage piracy.  And after watching cd prices remain scarcely unchanged since the 1980’s, I have no belief whatsoever that this media cartel will let prices drop.  You’ll see purchase prices drop only when they have a way of making you pay more down the line, like yearly liscense fees.

    Someone had an article comparing the losses due to piracy, crime, and other lost work hours to money made by businesses.  Came out the losses were greater than the amount of money available.  I just can’t remember where I found it.

  2. Les: I admit that I’m harping on this issue in part because of the rather surprising advocacy for DRM that my friend Daryl Cantrell has put forward here on SEB as of late. He seems to be of the opinion that it will hearald in a new era of lower-cost media with no negative impact on consumers because all these poor abused companies want is to be paid for their products and they only have our best interests at heart.

    Now you are fighting with straw men.  If you can find a place where I’ve ever implied that corporations have consumers’ best interests at heart, by all means post a link.

    The great thing about free market economies is that they work well when companies only have their own interests at heart and don’t give a rat’s ass about consumers except as revenue streams.

    Contrast that with left-leaning, proto-socialist economies: wherein the consumer can only hope that the government has his best interests at heart, because the government has no competitors looking to steal customers by undercutting prices or offering better service.

    Les: They’d never think to try and charge for features we currently enjoy for free, or try to limit our Fair Use rights, or take away control of our devices on a whim, right?

    They wouldn’t?  I find that hard to believe.  I imagine they’re thinking about new ways to make money right now, before DRM is even viable.  They’re corporations: thinking about how to make money is what they do.

    Of course, there’s a great difference between “thinking” and “doing”.  Big corporations think of new ways to make money all the time: It’s getting consumers to pay that’s the problem.  Sellers love to charge for stuff, and buyers love to get stuff for free.  Somewhere between these two extremes lies “commerce”.

    Tell me something, Les.  Wal*Mart charges less for CDs today than they did 5 years ago.  They are also muscling in on the music download scene, charging 88¢ to undercut iTunes’ 99¢ price point and steal Apple’s customers.

    Do you think that Wal*Mart is lowering the price of CDs and music downloads because they have consumers’ best interests at heart?  Perhaps Wal*Mart just doesn’t like money?

    Heck, forget Wal*Mart.  Let’s talk about something I really care about: Daryl Cantrell.  Daryl wants DRM to succeed.  Why?  Because effective copy protections will shift costs away from people who buy their software, music and videos.  Those costs won’t disappear: they will be shifted towards people who currently “freeload”—copying from friends, or downloading from BitTorrent.  Anything that shifts costs away from me and onto freeloaders is something I can support.

  3. Wal*Mart charges less for CDs today than they did 5 years ago.

    And 5 years ago, they charged MORE than they did 14 years ago. 

    charging 88¢ to undercut iTunes’ 99¢ price point and steal Apple’s customers.

      I thought iPods wouldn’t play anything but iTunes downloads?  Kinda hard to steal a customer who has a proprietary kit. 

    Anyway, if they’re buying iPods and wanting those blazing white accessories, they’re likely not THAT concerned by a $0.11 price difference.  They’re paying for a status symbol.

  4. Daryl writes…

    Now you are fighting with straw men.  If you can find a place where I’ve ever implied that corporations have consumers’ best interests at heart, by all means post a link.

    That’s the implication I take away from your comments to date and I said as much in my entry. You keep listing off all these wonderful benefits to DRM as though the companies aren’t so much as considering the possible ways they could use it against us in the long run.

    The great thing about free market economies is that they work well when companies only have their own interests at heart and don’t give a rat’s ass about consumers except as revenue streams.

    Yep, Enron sure proved how great that line of thinking works.

    Contrast that with left-leaning, proto-socialist economies: wherein the consumer can only hope that the government has his best interests at heart, because the government has no competitors looking to steal customers by undercutting prices or offering better service.

    Don’t see any reason why private enterprise can’t try to offer better services at cheaper prices than what the Government does. If they did there’s little reason for folks not to make use of it.

    Tell me something, Les.  Wal*Mart charges less for CDs today than they did 5 years ago.  They are also muscling in on the music download scene, charging 88¢ to undercut iTunes’ 99¢ price point and steal Apple’s customers.

    Do you think that Wal*Mart is lowering the price of CDs and music downloads because they have consumers’ best interests at heart?  Perhaps Wal*Mart just doesn’t like money?

    The problem with your whole Wal*Mart analogy is that it’s not reflective of the attempts to get DRM mandated by federal law into all electronic devices.

    There’s not going to be a lot of competition among DRM providers in the future if these laws get passed. You won’t be able to decide to buy a digital device that doesn’t have DRM if you find it too restrictive or go with a device with a less-restrictive form of DRM because it’ll all be the same crap foisted upon us from the likes of Intel.

    You keep hyping the idea of free market competition all the while ignoring the fact that it doesn’t apply to the DRM they’re trying to get mandated by law.

    Heck, forget Wal*Mart.  Let’s talk about something I really care about: Daryl Cantrell.  Daryl wants DRM to succeed.  Why?  Because effective copy protections will shift costs away from people who buy their software, music and videos.  Those costs won’t disappear: they will be shifted towards people who currently “freeload

  5. If you own an iPod and buy music files from Wal*Mart and want to use the two together you’ll have to strip the DRM from the files and convert them to standard MP3s, essentially committing a FELONY in the process thanks to the DMCA.

    My bad on wally world’s encoding.  You are allowed to make audio cds from the WMA files you get from wallyworld, but I don’t know what the DRM would do at that point.  I haven’t tried ripping one back from cd.  All my wally wurld downloads are burnt to audio cd anyways, in case the DRM fucks up and locks me out of my music.  And so I can listen in the car.

  6. The great thing about free market economies is that they work well when companies only have their own interests at heart and don’t give a rat’s ass about consumers except as revenue streams.

    What works even better is when the cost of entry or ownership of property for the product is sufficiently restrictive that you get into an oligarchical relationship with your “competitors”, and agree to all abide by anti-consumer practices that make everybody more money—again without having to give a rat’s ass about comumers except as revenue streams.

    It works especially well when the resource isn’t optional, like gasoline—then you can have fun things like the recent 25% increase in prices over a month (with no external rationale for it), and nobody can do anything but pay.

    But since infotainment isn’t mandatory, certainly it’s better to go for government regulations to maintain the current level of revenue, as an alternative to actually providing content value.

    I wish I could participate more in the selling side of that free market oligarcy economy. I wouldn’t have to commute as far.

  7. Les: Don’t see any reason why private enterprise can’t try to offer better services at cheaper prices than what the Government does.

    By far the most common reason is that the government makes such competition illegal.

    I can glance out my window from where I’m sitting and see an example of this: The city I live in recently cut the amount of trash you can put on the curb by two-thirds, with no reduction in monthly charges.  This would be an ideal situation where another company could come in and steal their business, but it won’t happen: the city made private trash-hauling illegal.

    Les: The problem with your whole Wal*Mart analogy is that it’s not reflective of the attempts to get DRM mandated by federal law into all electronic devices.

    DRM mandated by US law wouldn’t actually work, because some other countries wouldn’t go along with the scheme.  Anyway, I’m not aware of any attempt on the part of Intel or the Trusted Computing Group to “require” anyone to implement their ideas.  Up to this point, Apple doesn’t seem interested.  That might change if more TCG-only content starts to appear.

    Les: Except that you have no real basis for that conclusion as it’s a best-case scenario. Which do you honestly think is more likely if a truly robust DRM comes to pass: That everyone who was freeloading will suddenly start paying for their content and the companies will be so happy that they drop prices? Or they just decide to keep prices where they are and pocket the extra cash? You’re already used to paying the higher prices now so why bother to lower them?

    Once again, your post betrays a rather naïve understanding of how free-market economies operate.  Companies don’t drop prices because they’re “happy”, and yes they would certainly be more than willing to pocket the extra cash.  And some more cash on top of that, if they can find it.

    You seem to think that companies need some sort of benevolent urge in order to lower prices.  Let me assure you this is not the case: most large companies are devoid of benevolence.  They grudgingly lower their prices because they want people to keep buying their products rather than those of their competitors.  That’s all.

    Producers won’t keep prices of uncopyable software high for the same exact reason they don’t keep prices of uncopyable gasoline, uncopyable kiwi fruit, or uncopyable beer high: because their competitors would undercut them and eventually drive them out of business.

    Les, it’s already impossible download a Big Mac or a pair of Air Jordans from BitTorrent.  It’s impossible to burn a copy from your buddy who already has one—does that mean the companies selling them can suddenly charge as much as they want and everyone will just have to pay???  Of course not.

    Les: There’s also nothing that says the freeloaders will start paying for the content once it’s no longer copyable. While some may start coughing up the dough it’s entirely possible that many more of them may just live without it resulting in a less than substantial increase in revenue for the content owners giving them no real reason to adjust prices assuming they’re inclined to do so in the first place.

    Some will decide they don’t want to pay for content, and would rather do without.  Their choice—it’s their money.

    In fact, many people are willing to pay for content, they’d just prefer to get it for free.  In any case, more people will be paying for software, moveis, and music.  This will divide the costs of production across more people, which means the my share of those costs will get smaller.

    JethricOne: What works even better is when the cost of entry or ownership of property for the product is sufficiently restrictive that you get into an oligarchical relationship with your “competitors

  8. Some will decide they don’t want to pay for content, and would rather do without.  Their choice—it’s their money.

    I have to second the preceded point. When I was back in highschool a lot of kids used filesharing systems, as did I. I never listened to music before that – except the Metallica and Pantera my brothers listened to. Now that I have disposable income, I own probably 30 CDs, many of which are bands I never realized existed back then.

    When it comes to data, it’s hard to ‘steal’ something you’d never pay for. In my case, it netted the companies involved a few hundred bucks, years down the road.

    The “oligarchy

  9. Daryl writes…

    By far the most common reason is that the government makes such competition illegal.

    I can glance out my window from where I’m sitting and see an example of this: The city I live in recently cut the amount of trash you can put on the curb by two-thirds, with no reduction in monthly charges.  This would be an ideal situation where another company could come in and steal their business, but it won’t happen: the city made private trash-hauling illegal.

    In many places I’m sure that’s true, but not all. Kinda supports my argument against government mandated DRM though.

    DRM mandated by US law wouldn’t actually work, because some other countries wouldn’t go along with the scheme.  Anyway, I’m not aware of any attempt on the part of Intel or the Trusted Computing Group to “require

  10. One thing to remember about free markets is that there is no such thing.  The fundamental definition of property is either “You have it, and can defend it, it’s yours” or “You can seize it, and then defend it, it’s yours”.  The fundamental transaction is “You can take it, and the other can’t do anything about it”.  Societies cannot really depelop like this so we got “Adhere to these rules, and we help you defend it”.  There must be some regulation, the degree is a matter of taste and practicality.

    Copyright law gives legal protection to creative works in exchange to the work falling into public domain after a limited time period, and some fair use rights.

    I have no problem with DRM – I don’t feel I have the right to demand my music on 8-tracks, so why should I have the right to demand it in non DRM format, if the copyright holder doesn’t want to sell it like that.  I have the option of not buying, of course, and have done so with “copy control” CDs.

    I _DO_ have a problem with legistlation that restricts my ability to circumvent that DRM to exercise my fair use rights.  You don’t respect my fair use rights, you better not expect me to respect your copyright.

    I don’t think that eliminating copyright infringment would bring media prices down.  If you want that latest American Idol winner album, I don’t think that an album from competing artist “John Smith” would do.  Also, people who use fixed amount of money on their media would bring in less money – more products(more cost), same money.  And people whose media consumption is limited by time rather than money would also bring in less money – same amount of products, less money.

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