Cory Doctorow To Push For Ending DRM
from the good-day-to-announce-this dept
This is Copyright Week, in which various people supporting more reasonable copyright laws highlight some of the problems with existing laws and important concepts that should be in copyright reform efforts. Today’s topic is “you bought it, you own it,” — a concept that is often held back due to bad copyright laws. A few months ago, a bill was introduced in Congress called YODA — the You Own Devices Act — which would allow the owner of computer hardware to sell the devices with the software on it without creating a copyright mess. It was a small attempt to take back basic property rights from copyright law which often stamps out property rights. Hopefully, a similar bill will show up in the new Congress, and become law. Even better would be for copyright law to actually recognize true property rights, rather than limiting them at nearly every turn.
One of the biggest attacks on property rights and ownership is Section 1201 of the DMCA, better known as the Anti-Circumvention clause, that says it’s against the law to circumvent any “technological measures” that were designed to block copying — even if the underlying use is non-infringing. That is, if you break technological measures to access content that is not covered by copyright at all, you’re still violating the law. This is the law that has made DRM so powerful, and which regularly removes your right to own what you bought. It’s a blatant attack on basic property rights, and (even worse) has copyright maximalists pretending that their removal of property rights is actually a move in favor of property rights.
Thus, it’s great to see the announcement today that Cory Doctorow is returning to EFF to help with its new Apollo 1201 Project, a plan to eradicate DRM in our lifetime.
“Apollo was a decade-long plan to do something widely viewed as impossible: go to the moon. Lots of folks think it’s impossible to get rid of DRM. But it needs to be done,” said Doctorow. “Unless we can be sure that our computers do what we tell them, and don’t have sneaky programs designed to take orders from some distant corporation, we can never trust them. It’s the difference between ‘Yes, master’ and ‘I CAN’T LET YOU DO THAT DAVE.'”
Doctorow has been speaking out on this issue for years. If you haven’t watched his 2012 talk at the Chaos Communication Congress on the “war on general purpose computing,” it’s well worth your time. It’s a discussion I’ve gone back to many times in the two and a half years since he first gave that talk. It highlights not only the absurdity of DRM in general, but why this is an issue that goes well beyond just the idea of locking down some content to protect an obsolete business model. As his speech noted, this is a battle over the right to actually own your computer and not to open it up to censorship and surveillance. The fight over DRM on content was just the beginning:
And personally, I can see that there will be programs that run on general purpose computers and peripherals that will even freak me out. So I can believe that people who advocate for limiting general purpose computers will find receptive audience for their positions. But just as we saw with the copyright wars, banning certain instructions, or protocols, or messages, will be wholly ineffective as a means of prevention and remedy; and as we saw in the copyright wars, all attempts at controlling PCs will converge on rootkits; all attempts at controlling the Internet will converge on surveillance and censorship, which is why all this stuff matters. Because we’ve spent the last 10+ years as a body sending our best players out to fight what we thought was the final boss at the end of the game, but it turns out it’s just been the mini-boss at the end of the level, and the stakes are only going to get higher.