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’.”
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.