Recent research suggests the world would be a better place without DRM in reducing piracy, but would that research also prove that having no police would make us all law abiding? Perhaps too narrow an analysis is unsound...
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I find it very helpful to be reminded from time to time that there are many perceptions as to what is (or is not) DRM, and what DRM can be applied to, so I was fascinated to read an article by Anthony Dhanendran, Computeractive 16 Aug 2010 that made the bold statement, "DRM only applies to 'digital' products, that is music, video, ebooks (digital books that can be loaded onto a handheld PC to read), games and other software - there's no way to apply DRM to a physical product such as a paperback book."
Is that right?
Anthony then goes on to remark that the problem is all with digital works and the ability to make copies easily, and that’s the problem with the digital environment.
So I guess that my taking a paperback over to the photocopier (there are some big ones that will copy a book automatically) and getting a copy simply does not happen, or that I can scan the book in using the scanning function kindly provided by the manufacturer and bingo – instant digital copy of the physical!
Now we're cooking with gas.
It has always been possible to copy works in a physical form. Fact. In the past, what stopped people was difficulty, time and effort to do it, and most importantly - the cost. Whilst it was significantly cheaper to buy another original than to get a copy then the originals won. (What is really what is going on today with the big music players going in and out of DRM - is best revenue achieved from either model, given that copying is a problem.)
So let's talk a bit about copying.
When the right to make a copy for personal study (and that meant you making a copy for only you, not making it for anybody else) was granted under 'fair use' it was not intended to be a copier's charter. Generally you made a copy by drawing or handwriting what you wanted to copy – the concept of 'push button copying' was impossible, and so never thought about (yes, I know that lawyers will tell you that the law is perfect and needs no change, and is fully up to date, thank you). And whilst the technology people have rushed ahead and buried the ability (but not the right) to copy deep into every possible aspect of computing itself (nothing in memory or on disk you see or use is an original, they're all copies) the law is still updating itself.
You can make a copy of the Three Graces (by Canova, Raphael or whoever, there's no monopoly on original interpretations) but you need to be jolly clever and skilled to make it worthwhile, just as you can make a copy of a piece of music by performing all the parts and then pulling the whole work together.
So maybe all we need is a small modification to the law to clarify that if you make a copy using 'sweat of the brow' or old fashioned hard work, then that is a qualifying use for personal study, but not otherwise. All that would do is confirm the original intent and would not alter anything that DRM is doing, merely bring into line rules of the physical and the digital worlds.
If you look back to the mid 1990's, the great dreams of the security technologists were that you could prove beyond any possible doubt the authenticity of a document by giving it a digital signature, and exactly and precisely when it was created by a timestamp.
So what happened? If that was the proof beyond all possible, probable shadow of doubt (Gilbert & Sullivan: Gondoliers) that whatever it was could not be implemented, then the deafening silence of more than 10 years is proof positive enough.
Of course there continue to be people, or even large companies, who want you to open a significantly large (wallet, checking account) commitment to the PKI pipe dream of what life would be like if everything is perfect and computer manufacturers behave like model gentlemen and a Hacker is the permanent secretary to the British Prime Minister (please see the famous series Yes Minister for further details).
Or maybe not.
Lewis Carroll once famously said in the persona of the White Queen, "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." But it does take more than a little practice!
Digital signatures are fine provided you believe absolutely the people who gave them, and they are financially warranted up to the hilt if what you are doing fails (and btw as you were reading this I just revoked my digital signature - so does that make this a pack of lies?).
Timestamping? I know people who have patents over the measuring and allocating of time. Poor old Lewis Carroll as the Mad Hatter was condemned to perpetual tea time when accused of 'Murdering the time,' and so it was always half past three (sounds a bit like Jeremy Clarkson?). We have plenty of law to establish when something happened that has nothing at all to do with the concept of the atomic clock, let alone the claims of timestamping systems.
Yes, it is true, that if you personally commit yourself to digital signatures and timestamps then you can live in a world that Lewis Carroll could well have identified with, if not sympathised with, but that was Wonderland.
And if you do spot a Snark, please, please, please check it isn’t a Boojum (!?).
So, although it's frightfully technologically clever, just pause for a moment and ask yourself if it sounds more like a banker offering you subordinated debt as a Grade A profitable investment. You know what I mean.
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In our own little backwater of the United Kingdom we have seen the government move through regulations that mean you cannot open a bank or ...
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Whilst we are not ashamed to be significant suppliers of DRM enforcing mechanisms and systems, we are convinced that the original reasons for creating copyright law, as demonstrated by the debates in the British parliament, were correct, and should be observed.
Although the origins of copyright might be argued to go back to ancient China and the right to reproduce official forms, modern copyright was determined to make sure that authors (creators) of works would be able to enjoy the fruits of their labours, just as those who created physical goods. Because if they ...<< MORE >>
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