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Posts Tagged ‘Digital rights management’

DAY against DRM: Video

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 4, 2010

[Note: The subject is Video... sorry, it just occurred to me that folks may come her looking to see video rather than discuss it.]

May 4 - day against DRMTuesday May 4th has been designated the Day Against DRM by the Free Software Foundation.

“Today is about taking time out of your usual routine to speak out in favor of a DRM-free society. We do not have to accept a future where our interactions with computers and published works are monitored and controlled by corporations or governments.”

Defective By Design: Day Against DRM

Most people don’t know what DRM is, even if they’ve heard of it. Yet it is becoming an ever more prevalent component in our electronics, which are in turn becoming ever more prevalent in our lives.

DRM stands for digital rights management.

“Digital rights management (DRM) is a generic term for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices. The term is used to describe any technology that inhibits uses of digital content not desired or intended by the content provider. The term does not generally refer to other forms of copy protection which can be circumvented without modifying the file or device, such as serial numbers or keyfiles. It can also refer to restrictions associated with specific instances of digital works or devices. Digital rights management is used by companies such as Sony, Apple Inc., Microsoft, AOL and the BBC.

The use of digital rights management is controversial. Proponents argue it is needed by copyright holders to prevent unauthorized duplication of their work, either to maintain artistic integrity[1] or to ensure continued revenue streams.[2] Some opponents, such as the Free Software Foundation, maintain that the use of the word “rights” is misleading and suggest that people instead use the term digital restrictions management. Their position is essentially that copyright holders are restricting the use of material in ways that are beyond the scope of existing copyright laws, and should not be covered by future laws.[3] The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other opponents, also consider DRM systems to be anti-competitive practices.[4]”

Wikipedia

Boy sits in a tree reading.

I don’t have (and won’t have) a Kindle, for many reasons, but the Kindle provided one of the most ironic DRM stories. In the mistaken belief that George Orwell’s masterwork 1984 was in the public domain, Amazon released it as a Kindle book. Many people bought it. As it turned out, the book wasn’t in the public domain, so Amazon utilized their ability to access the Kindles of the people who had “purchased” the ebook and summarily removed them. People who hadn’t finished reading their copy suddenly no longer had one. People who had utilized the Kindle’s annotation feature lost their annotations with the ebook. Amazon did reimburse their customers. It was after all an honest mistake on their part; they had not known the book was not really in the public domain. But what this episode clearly illustrates is that the Kindle that people pay hundreds of dollars for, as well as the ebooks that they purchase from Amazon, are not under their own control.

If you were one of these customers who purchased the Kindle ebook reader and ebook, Amazon utilized their DRM capability to reach inside your Kindle and take back the ebook you had purchased in good faith.

ownership

Clearly, there is a failure to communicate. When we buy something, we believe we own it. The person or company we paid should no longer have any right to the product. They certainly should not have the right to come into our homes and take back the product we have purchased.

But DRM exists to allow the seller to control the product, and how we use the product, even after we have paid for it.

No one actually comes out and tells us in the store that we are buying goods that have been deliberately crippled with DRM.

If they did, customers might not buy them. But there is no ambiguity with retailers– they tell us they are selling us things, and we believe we are buying them.

But apparently the concepts of property ownership that have been prevalent in our society for centuries have suddenly changed. Yet people, customers, consumers have not been told about this. But we need to know about it. We need to understand it. And we need to give our informed consent.

But manufacturers, retailers and governments are not discussing it with us.

Over the past decade or so, instead of explaining to consumers that the rules of buying and selling have changed manufacturers have just been quietly putting DRM on products that we purchase. It is easier for them to cripple the technology than try to explain that they’ve changed the rules. After all, if customers know that the rules have changed, the very natural question is: what do we get out of it? The unfortunate answer to that is “shafted”.

video DRM

The first time I heard about DRM, it wasn’t called DRM, it was called “copy protection”. I heard that the Disney corporation had developed a method of preventing customers from copying the pre-recorded Disney video tapes. At the time, video was state of the art, and no one else was copy protecting movies. As near as I can figure it, the process made the signal of the video tapes too weak to copy well. There is just enough power to play on a television, but the signal strength was too weak to make copying possible. This copy protection was ostensibly to prevent bootlegging. The funny thing is, it didn’t. Although consumers are prevented from making a back-up copy of the movie they purchased, bootleggers always have state of the art equipment to get around DRM.

The speech balloon I added to Sita says "No DRM for Me" - Sita created by Nina Paley.

Click for larger image which can be printed as a 4×6 Day Against DRM mini-poster.

Although I never tried dubbing any of the Disney movies that I bought for my family, I came to this realization that this is roughly how VHS copy protection DRM works when I started copying my home movie video tapes onto DVDs on a VHS to DVD burner. If there are glitches in the video signal, or dropout, or “snow”, when I am copying video tapes the recording abruptly ends, the machine stops dubbing and notifies me that I do not have the right to copy this material. This is particularly infuriating because I certainly do have the right to copy my own home movies I have made onto my own DVDs.

computer DRM

My sister had a similar problem with her first VISTA computer. It would not allow her to copy photographs she’d taken of her own family onto her own computer, because VISTA believed she was infringing copyright.

DVD DRM

When video tape first came out, North American video tapes were recorded in NTSC and European tapes were recorded in PAL. This was a way to address the physical problem of different television technology. This was necessary because broadcast signal and the scan lines in television sets varied. Because we were already used to the fact that videotapes were different in different regions, I know I never questioned the idea that there would be region restrictions for DVDs.

But I’ve since learned that there is no physical reason for DVDs to have regional restrictions. This is another form of DRM. If I live in Canada, and purchase hundreds of DVDs, then move to Sweden, all of my DVDs would be worthless. So I would have to purchase them all over again.

cel phone DRM

We bought a set of family cel phones, but although the phones had many really great capabilities, they had been locked down and crippled, so that the customer was forced to do everything through the retailer’s website (very expensive). We returned them and went with a different company.

There are more DRMed products every day. Consumers must begin to tell manufacturers and governments “No DRM.”

Sita Sings the Blues: No DRM

cover art for SITA SINGS THE BLUES dvd

Filmmaker Nina Paley made a wonderful animated film using very old sound recordings that were clearly in the public domain. But big media “copyright reforms” have changed things so radically –by retroactively extending the copyright term which should have ended and placed the recordings in the public domain in the 1980’s– that somebody owns the particular rights – “synch rights” — which you need when using recorded music in a film. “

The long and the short of it is that Nina Paley would have to pay had to pay gigantic sums of money in order to acquire these rights and release her film. Another alternative would be have been to throw out the film (a couple of years worth of classical animation). She instead decided to:

“pay $50,000 in license fees and another $20,000 in legal costs to make it so. That is why I am in debt. …

“Having paid these extortionate fees, I could have gone with conventional distribution, and was invited to. I chose to free the film because I could see that would be most beneficial to me, my film, and culture at large. A CC-SA license does not absolve a creator of compliance with copyright law. The law could have sent me to prison for non-commercial copyright infringement. I was forced to borrow $70,000 to decriminalize my film, regardless of how I chose to release it.

—Nina Paley, CORRECTION


chose the radical course of releasing her film under a creative commons license.

You can download the movie for free on Nina’s website: Sita Sings the Blues

You can learn more about the distribution at the Question Copyright “Sita Sings the Blues” Distribution Project

Just recently Nina Paley was offered an opportunity to distribute Sita on the American streaming site Netflix, who refused to run her film without their standard DRM. You can read all about it on Nina’s blog Although the money would have been helpful in paying off the film’s outstanding debt, Nina Paley turned Netflix down for ethical reasons.

Nina Paley believes that strongly that DRM is bad.


image credit: “No DRM for Me!” is a remix of part of this image from Nina Paley’s wonderful animated film “Sita Sings the Blues”.

A higher resolution version of this re:mix 4×6 mini-poster is available here: http://russwurm.org/bulletin/images/NOdrmFORme.jpg


For more links about Day Against DRM blogs posts and activities from all over the world, visit http://groups.fsf.org/wiki/Group:Day_Against_DRM_2010

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

DRM is BAD

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 22, 2009

It’s awfully close to Christmas but today Michael Geist’s blog looked at Mihály Ficsor’s writings in praise of DRM and anti-circumvention laws. It occurred to me that this season of consumption would be an excellent time to look at DRM from a consumer’s point of view.

After all, most of us don’t even realize that DRM is a deliberate crippling of the products we pay good money to buy.

NoUBBDRM or “Digital Rights Management” describes a variety of methods used to physically limit the way a purchaser may use a product they have purchased. In this way the manufacturer continues to control the product after they have been paid for it. DRM can be applied to many different things. Possibly the most common application for DRM is for DVDs and DVD players. DVDS have DRM coded in to limit what machine it can be played in. Manufacturers have established “Country Codes” so that a DVD manufactured in England can’t be played in Canada.

DVD region code map

Wikipedia DVD Region Code map by Luxo

DVD DRM was accepted by consumers without question because we were used having a similar problem with video tape. Most people still don’t realize that DRM crippling of the things we purchase is done deliberately. Who could imagine that governments would allow manufacturers to deliberately build in defects to the products that they then sell to citizens.

natural limits on video tape

Because of different levels of technology in different parts of the world, there were different formats for video tape. This meant that an NTSC video tape would play in North American VCRs on North American television sets, but if you mailed the same tape to your cousin in the Netherlands she wouldn’t be able to play it because her VCR and television would only play the PAL format. If you wanted to send your home movies abroad you could go to a professional facility and have them converted. Quite expensive, but worth it if you wanted to keep up with geographically distant relatives.

The Internet and improving technology breaks down geographical barriers. DRM deliberately replaces them.

unnatural limits placed on DVDs

This was not the case for DVDs. There was no limiting factor on DVDs. DVD’s can happily play on any DVD player anywhere in the world… or they could were it not for DRM. Because the “country code” on a DVD is an artificial restriction, deliberately achieved through deployment of DRM.

DVDs I can’t buy because of DRM

BBC’s MY FAMILY stars Zoë Wanamaker and Robert Lindsay

About a decade ago I became addicted to a wonderful BBC sitcom called My Family that the Family Channel was airing very late at night (which was good since I certainly didn’t want my innocent child watching it back then). This is a screamingly funny TV series about the breathtakingly dysfunctional Harper family. In North America, only the first few seasons are available on DVD, and the North American distributor apparently has no intention of releasing the later seasons on DVD here.

There is no real reason why I should not be able to purchase the later seasons on DVD because BBC offers them for sale in the UK. But the country code DRM prevents me from buying them without moving to region 2.

This limits consumers to only buying DVDs that are made for our region. As well as causing artificial barriers to customers wanting to buy goods that should be available, it means that BBC is not making the money that they could be making if they could simply ship DVDs direct to those of us who want to purchase them.

I’ve also accidentally purchased a Region 2 DVD. “An Ideal Husband” was a film I very much wanted to see, so I bought it from an Amazon vendor. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t play it. I had assumed that since the vendor was American it would be a region 1 DVD. Fortunately they gave me a refund. How many other wrong region DVDs get thrown out because they won’t play. It would be different if it wasn’t a deliberate crippling of the product.

scanner DRM

EPSON Perfection V500

EPSON Perfection V500

Because I scan a lot of photographs and negatives, I bought a top of the line flat bed scanner, an Epson Perfection V500 Photo to be exact. My brother the professional artist was aghast that I would spend three times as much as he did for my scanner. But when I am scanning it’s a lot, so the faster speed this one offered made a lot of sense.

There are things that really annoy me though. I use the “professional” interface to scan so I have the most control allowed. Yet every time I want to scan at a very high DPI (necessary for enlargements and high quality photo restoration) I get asked if I really want to do this along with a warning that it will take a long time. I KNOW it will take a long time. Presumably a professional (anyone using the “professional” settings) should know this also. There is no reason I need this warning every time, it slows the process down. Why is this non-sentient bit of hardware presuming to dictate to me? I don’t know if that’s DRM or if it is just annoying.

There is for sure some DRM built into the thing. I was disgusted when the scanner’s DRM kicked in and prevented me from scanning Canadian currency. No, I’m not a Counterfeiter, I’m a blogger. I already knew that it is perfectly legal for Canadians to scan money so long as you follow the rules.

“Reproducing anything in the likeness of a current bank note is an offence under the Criminal Code
Section 457 of the Criminal Code provides that anyone one who makes, publishes, prints, executes, issues, distributes or circulates, including by electronic or computer-assisted means, anything in the likeness of a current bank note is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months and a maximum fine of $2,000.

No one shall be convicted of the above offence if the likeness of the Canadian bank note is

1. printed;
2. less than 3/4 or greater than 1 1/2 times the length or width of the bank note; and
3. in black and white or only one-sided.

No one shall be convicted of the above offence if the likeness was produced with the permission of the Bank. ”

Bank of Canada: Bank Notes

HP computer photo quality  printer

HP D7160

My scanner warns me that scanning money may be illegal, and takes me to a website that tells what the scanning laws are for all the countries around the word. And following through to the Canada part it confirmed what I knew: my scanning activities are legal. BUT. The scanner STILL wouldn’t let me scan money.

Obviously the DRM is preventing me from using the scanner to scan material I am legally entitled to scan. For the integral image I needed for my blog post I had to get the image somewhere else. That is ridiculous. This is like a hammer telling me I am not allowed to drive that nail. It is surely the last time I’ll buy an Epson scanner.

printer DRM

There is DRM built in to my beautiful printer and/or ink cartridges. It makes beautiful images but the cartridges say that they are empty after they have printed a set number of pages, not because they are empty but because they are programmed to be empty.

Even more fiendishly clever, the ink cartridges won’t print after a pre-programmed date, even if the ink is still fine. So be careful about buying large stocks of discounted cartridges.

Use the Kindle keyboard to add annotations to text

When you consider that ink jet printer ink is the most expensive liquid in the world you can get an idea of the problem. Because of the DRM not only can I not use ink that won’t come out, I can’t refill the cartridges either. The printer prints beautifully, but it would be less expensive for me to go out to a copy shop to have prints made. Last time I buy an HP printer.

ebook DRM

The most famous case of DRM though was Amazon Kindle‘s withdrawal of the ebook “1984”. People had purchased electronic copies, but it turned out that there was a copyright challenge and the book consumers had purchased was deleted from their Kindle ebook reader the next time the Kindle phoned home.

I don’t know if this is true or an urban legend, but I had heard that a PHD candidate had made great use of the annotation feature for their doctoral dissertation on 1984, and when the ebook was deleted, so were the notes.

video editing DRM

I have bought two different video editing software packages to be able to edit home movies. Since DVDs are so cheap it should be a wonderful and inexpensive way for families to distribute home movies. Unfortunately, although I loved the intuitive interface provided by the first software package I bought I could not successfully burn my home movie to DVD. Which is why I bought a second software package. It’s interface is less intuitive but it does other things better. Yet it too has a hard time burning a DVD. When you want to give home movies to geriatric family members you want them to be able to put it in the DVD player and just be able to play it. However my home movies only play in some DVD players. I am convinced that this is a DRM issue.

I also have a VHS-DVD recorder so I could transfer home movies from VHS and video cam. Unfortunately, when the VHS image breaks up, my recorder tells me that I am infringing copyright and shuts off. I’m not quite sure whose copyright my family visit to Niagara Falls infringes on… I’d have thought that since it was my camera, and *my* family, it was my own copyright. Funny, the VHS-DVD recorder cost about five times what buying a VHS and a DVD recorder would have cost. I bought it for convenience of transferring my home movies, but it would have been better to have bought better quality units and cabled them together. I realize that Big Copyright doesn’t put a high dollar value on my home movies, but let me tell you, to me they have far more value than anything Hollywood has produced.

picture of a forest

DRM is bad for Nature

DRM and the environment

As an environmentally aware citizen I am horrified at how much material is being consigned to our garbage dumps due to DRM.

DRM and consumers

When consumers buy goods we expect them to work. DRM allows manufacturers to deliberately cripple the machines and media we buy and prevent us from having them work the way that they should. The justification for this is that we are going to behave criminally if these controls are not put in place. Further, laws like ACTA and the EU agreement strive to make it illegal to circumvent the DRM.

That is wrong.

On the assumption that consumers are going to steal from them, the products we are purchase in good faith are deliberately crippled. From a consumer’s point of view, it certainly looks as though manufacturers are committing fraud against me on the assumption that I am a criminal.

That is wrong.

STOP Usage Based Billing

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

 
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