interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

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 »

D: BitTorrent

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 24, 2009

No Usage Based Billing
No Usage Based Billing

[The First Part of this series was <<A: Open Source. The second installment of the Stop Usage Based Billing alphabet series was <<B: Packets and the Internet. The third installment was <a href="<<C: Deep Packet Inspection, and the final installment will be E: Open Source Deep Packet Inspection]

What is BitTorrent Anyway??

“BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol used for distributing large amounts of data. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and it has been estimated that it accounts for approximately 27-55% of all Internet traffic (depending on geographical location) as of February 2009.”

Wikipedia on BitTorrent

BitTorrent is an extremely fast and efficient means of uploading and downloading. BitTorrent is an excellent way to distribute large materials to many people via the internet.

Radical Ideas

Like so many of the radical new ways to do things that technology and the internet have made possible, BitTorrent can only work through co-operation. BitTorrent requires a network of “peers”, or other people’s computers who are willing to share the file. This is referred to as “peer to peer” or “p2p.

If I have a large file I want to transfer, the first step is to “seed” the file, transferring portions of the file to multiple members of the p2p network.

BitTorrent begins seeding portions of the file for transfer

Diagram 1: Seeding

It only takes a small fraction of the file to be passed along before the process speeds up enormously.

Seeding continues, but peers have begun exchanging data

Diagram 2: Seeding and Sharing

Once I have a small portion, i pass it along at the same time as I’m receiving new bits of the same file, either from the original seed source of another peer.

uploading and downloading

Diagram 3: Upload + Download = Speed

With many participants (peers) uploading and downloading at the same time, large files can be distributed very quickly indeed.

Diagram 4: Finish Fast

Bell Canada “Throttles” BitTorrent

Bell Canada

When Bell Canada was first caught “throttling” internet traffic to the Independent ISP customers, Bell Canada’s justification to the CRTC was that the internet was too crowded, and that it was necessary to “manage” the traffic. Bell claimed that they needed to employ Deep Packet Inspection to identify BitTorrent Traffic so that they can “throttle” it.

Mandate:
“The CRTC’s mandate is to ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public. ”

CRTC Role, CRTC Website

Amazingly, the CRTC had nothing to say about Bell Canada’s plans to discriminate against particular Canadian internet users.

The CRTC has accepted Bell’s unsubstantiated contention that this discrimination was necessary, and in approving it they have allowed Bell Canada to think that this discrimination is acceptable. In no way does this serve the Canadian public.

You might almost think that the CRTC mandate was to suppress Canadian creativity and the creation of Canadian movies and music. The availability of the technologies that exist to make it easy to create our own movies and music should be welcomed as an opportunity to add to and help grow our Canadian Culture.

Why single out BitTorrent traffic for throttling if it is an efficient use of the available bandwidth?

One of Bell Canada’s arguments for implementation of Usage Based Billing is that Canadian internet bandwidth is in short supply, making it necessary for them to “manage” bandwidth by penalizing heavy users.

So how could anything as efficient as BitTorrent possibly be seen as a bad thing if the Internet is so crowded?

It doesn’t make sense to discriminate against BitTorrent use. There is nothing inherently bad about BitTorrent use or BitTorrent internet traffic. But Bell Canada’s contention is that BitTorrent is bad because people use it to download movies and music.

Which begs the question: how does that make BitTorrent bad?

The Copyright Red Herring

The “Copyright Lobby”, which consists of large media producers and distributors (like Disney), and corporations and organizations (like MPAA), who distribute commercial movies and music, want us to believe that this is a bad thing.

This corporate special interest group has spent a great deal of time, energy and cash trying to promote the “pravda” that any digital copying of copyright works is bad. Making no distinction between commercial bootleggers who distribute illegal copies for profit and legal purchasers who seek to make a back-up copy or digital format shift for personal use, the Copyright Lobby has been pressuring governments the world over to criminalize personal use copying.

The problem for ordinary citizens is that these corporate interests have vast quantities of money to spend and a great deal of media power. This makes it incredibly difficult for governments to stand up to their onslaught. In some parts of the world this persistent advocacy has paid off for the Copyright Lobby, as lawmakers knuckle under and legislate to the detriment of their own citizens by making it illegal even to copy or download movies or music for personal use.

Here in Canada the Copyright Lobby is seeking to influence our lawmakers to criminalize personal use copying. They are trying to make Canadians think that people who make copies for personal use are performing criminal acts, and should be penalized the same as a a bootlegger who films the latest theatrical release off a theatre screen and proceeds to sell hundreds of thousands of bootleg DVDs.

Once again, Channel Four’s hilarious I.T. Crowd puts this question in perspective with this send-up of a video piracy commercial I found on YouTube.

Strong and free?

Strong and free?

Canadian Law says

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, personal use copying is simply not illegal.

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, use of the BitTorrent file transfer protocol is also perfectly legal.

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, peer to peer (p2p) file sharing is legal; Canadians break no laws simply by joining in a p2p network.

The Copyright Lobby’s smear tactics have gone a long way toward making the world believe that BitTorrent is inherently bad.

Bell Canada has convinced the CRTC that it is acceptable to “throttle” BitTorrent, because of BitTorrent’s reputed connection with possible copyright infringement. So although BitTorrent is perfectly legal, Canadian internet users are paying the price for the success of this Copyright Lobby propaganda.

Myth: All BitTorrent/p2p internet traffic consists of copyright movies and music

The Corporate world doesn’t understand radical ideas like Open Source software and p2p file sharing because these concepts are so different from anything appearing in the old business models. Even more incomprehensible to the outdated business models is the fact that it may or may not generate a direct monetary profit.

International Business Machines

The classic example of corporate myopia is:

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. ”

—attributed to Thomas J. Watson, president of International Business Machines, circa 1943

IBM For many years IBM has taken the rap for this quote whether or not Mr. Watson really did say it. (Most likely not.) Maybe proving it wrong is part of why IBM is such a going concern in the 21st Century. Having weathered the storms of fortune today’s IBM is a world leader by continuing to innovate and adapt alongside evolving attitudes and technologies. IBM has been steadily increasing their participation and involvement with Open Source software in this new century.

The reality is that IBM not only understands the importance of open source, the corporation has actively supported and promoted adoption of Linux and Open Office in the corporate world. And naturally BitTorrent is a part of the equation because it is such an efficient means to distribute large files (like for instance, Canonical’s Ubuntu.)

“Think.”

—Thomas J. Watson, president of International Business Machines

Seems IBM actually does heed their most enduring slogan (which definitely was coined by Mr. Watson). Sadly, this type of foresight is uncommon. Because BitTorrent is such a radical idea, most entrenched corporations simply aren’t capable of understanding it.

There are other uses for BitTorrent that are not only legal, but even perfectly acceptable in polite society.

The Nightingale and the Rose
Probably my favorite use of BitTorrent is the amazing Project Gutenberg. This organization has been digitizing books in the public domain and distributing them freely… via BitTorrent, since this is such an efficient method of digital distribution. After all, BitTorrent is used for transferring very large files like music and movies because it is very efficient.
firefox logo

BitTorrent file sharing is not all movies and music. Like IBM, many people actually use p2p to help distribute open source software like OpenOffice via p2p. There is a growing body of open source software available, for instance my favorite web browser is Mozilla’s Firefox.

In fact, there the awesome SourceForge website which provides a place to find all manner of open source software, or where you can release your own.

When a new distribution of Ubuntu is released, people around the world gather together and have Ubuntu Release Parties making more good use of BitTorrent

And of course the Pirate Party of Canada has established Captain: the Canadian Pirate Tracker, their own BitTorrent site where Recording Artists and Filmmakers (and I imagine novelists, and software creators as well would be welcome to utilize this) to freely distribute their work.

Every bit of music and every movie transferred is not a copyright infringement. If I get to the point where my home made movies may prove marketable, I would certainly be looking at BitTorrent Distribution. In fact it would probably be easier to distribute home movies to family via BitTorrent than it would be to try to burn DVDs. (DRM makes the two commercial movie making software packages I’ve purchased almost unusable. Of course it doesn’t slow down the bootleggers.) If YouTube is an indicator, I’m not the only person who wants to transfer music and movies freely … not as copyright infringements. I have paid levies to the music industry for home movies I have made and burrned to CD for distribution to friends and family. If I choose to transfer them via BitTorrent now I can avoid the levy but instead suffer the added expense of Bell Canada’s deliberate throttling inflation?

Another really good legal use of BitTorrents are the actual commercial websites where people can go to to purchase downloads of music. So far no one seems to have found anything wrong with this practice.

But that’s not all. Canada’s own CBC Television Network tried their own experiment by releasing an episode of their program Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister via BitTorrent. Unfortunately the BitTorrent didn’t work so well because of Bell Canada’s CRTC approved BitTorrent “throttling”.

Geist tweets about the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation

Which is not to say it wasn’t a good idea. Not too long ago Michael Geist tweeted about the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation‘s foray into BitTorrent use. All accounts indicate that their experiment was very successful indeed, which is having a big impact in the way they do business.

Ink Poster

The sad tale of a pirated Independent film can be found in this TorrentFreak article Indie Movie Explodes on BitTorrent, Makers Bless Piracy.

I guess it isn’t such a sad story after all.  

Thanks to piracy this Indie film called INK was has been achieving a distribution level that the filmmakers had never dreamed of.  They are of course extraordinarily pleased.

I think what is being called piracy here is BitTorrent p2p personal use sharing. Friends sharing with friends is one of the most effective ways to achieve recognition. They used to call it a “grass roots” movement. This is one of the major issues for the large movie studios. This is the place where they complain of being ripped off. What they don’t seem to realize is that this is a good thing. Exposure garners fans, makes a “name”. Fans buy stuff.

BitTorrent Traffic is not the only thing Bell Canada is Throttling

keys
Rumour has it that there are people who actually work from home.

Time was the government encouraged the idea of people working from home. There are all sorts of advantages to society, like reduced congestion on actual highways, less wear and tear on our roads, a decrease in commuting based pollutants in our environment, a reduction of human depletion of fossil fuels.

But if you work from home, you are probably going to have to transfer files back and forth between your home and workplace. Chances are good that you are going to encrypt this type of traffic for security reasons. Although Bell Canada says they are only “throttling” BitTorrent traffic, in fact there have been instances of Bell throttling encrypted internet traffic on the assumption that if it’s encrypted, it must be BitTorrent traffic.

Bell places the onus on the customer to prove their “innocence” before they will consider stopping throttling.

Since the CRTC gave Bell Canada permission to use Deep Packet Inspection to inspect our packets, the only way to ensure that our private information remains private is through encryption. And in Canada any encrypted internet traffic will most likely to be throttled.

Canadian Copyright Consultation

The Canadian Government is looking at updating Canadian copyright law. They held a copyright consultation process this year, traveling around Canada soliciting opinions of stakeholders. Even better, they set up a website where they accepted submissions from any Canadian who wished to contribute. This website was flooded with thousands of submissions. Some are simply a few lines, some are extensive essays covering all sorts of topics, but all I’ve read are heartfelt. Because of the overwhelming response it took a long time to get all the submissions posted. (My own submission finally made online.)

This process led a lot of Canadians, including me, to believe that the copycon process might actually mean that our elected representatives were listening to us.

Unfortunately there is currently a lot of pressure on our government to make copying movies, software and music for personal use illegal. The secret ACTA meetings have caused a feeling of dread to settle over most Canadians. There has been deprecating talk about weak Canadian copyright law.

Except it isn’t true.canadian copyright

If anything, Canadian copyright law is probably more robust than is good for us.

The essential problem that the copyright lobby is attempting to overcome the problem of suing their own customers for what they imagine are infringements. They have noticed that fighting personal use copying garners bad publicity. This problem can be neatly solved by passing the responsibility for finding and prosecuting copyright infringement to governments. And of course the only was to get government to take ob the responsibility is to convince them that the copyright infringement is a criminal offense.

Regardless, currently copyright law is imprecise as regards personal use copying. So we’ll just have to wait for an actual law to be passed before it becomes illegal. (This pressure is actually largely from foreign owned interests– like Disney. It will be interesting to see if our government caves to this outside pressure.)

mixed messages


The government mandated levy we pay every time we purchase a blank CD is a tacit governmental admission that it is legal to burn CDs of our own music.

In the pre-Tivo era, Canadian cable networks actively encouraged Canadians to videotape the movies that they showed so we could watch them when it was convenient. They called it “time shifting” in their massive advertising campaigns. But no media giants took our cable companies to court back then. For the same reason artists will lend or give away their work for free when they’re starting out (because they need to build and audience– exactly like the INK producers mentioned above), back then even Disney didn’t have a channel in Canada. So Disney didn’t kick up a fuss even though they had to have known this was happening. They let it go because it was in their best interests to allow time shifting (i.e personal use copying). Disney knew this was in their best interests because it would help the Canadian cable companies build their market.

Of course now Disney doesn’t want us to record their movies for personal use. Disney would be happy if our government decided personal use copying was illegal. They would be happier still if our government spent time and energy searching out and charging people who download Disney movies.

Disney would be happy they no longer had to expend time and energy chasing down copyright infringements. They would be ecstatic if our Mounties were to do it for them. Gratis.

But this precedent indicates copying movies for personal use is also legal in Canada

So even though p2p networks or copying movies and music are not actually illegal in Canada, our friends the CRTC gave Bell Canada permission to “throttle” anyone using BitTorrent transfers. Because the assumption is that even if you’re not technically performing criminal acts, per se, anyone who uses BitTorrent can’t be very nice.

The CRTC, the government body that is supposed to safeguard Canadian telecommunication consumers, gave Bell Canada legal permission to mess with BitTorrent traffic. Its discriminatory for one thing. If there are copyright infringements happening, there are laws to handle them. It isn’t any of Bell Canada’s business. Or the CRTC’s.

[More on copyright in my other blog-- in the wind: Personal Use Copying vs. Bootlegging]

Dudley Do-Right?

Eirik Solheim's metaphorical image of the internet is the best I've seen: The internet is a series of tubes

Even if it were true that Canadian consumers were downloading music or movies, and even if it had been made illegal under Canadian Law, it should not make a whit of difference.

Because Internet Service Providers or Internet Carriers are NOT branches of Canadian law enforcement. They have not been deputized to enforce the law by the RCMP. If Bell Canada was in fact a Law Enforcement entity they would not be allowed to peek in any citizen’s packets without first acquiring a search warrant. Corporations don’t exist to uphold laws, they exist to make money.

The internet has been called dumb pipes, or a series of tubes, or a highway. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, what is most important is access for all.  
The people who control the pipes should not be allowed to discriminate against particular users for ANY reason. Net Neutrality is so important: the internet should be accessible to all.

revolutionary ideas

In the United Kingdom The Times Online Do music artists fare better in a world with illegal file-sharing? article looked at the benefits of personal use copying applied as peer to peer file sharing with some dramatic results.

Canada’s own ThisMagazine presented this thought provoking article Pay indie artists and break the music monopoly — Legalize Music Piracy which advocates making the law serve the artists and consumers rather than just the corporations.

Further rumblings about changing the way we look at this issue were reported recently by the The Globe and Mail blogs article NDP, Billy Bragg make case for free music


http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/
sign the petition!
10227 signatures

 

STOP Usage Based Billing

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