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Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

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

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UK Downsized to Two Strikes

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 26, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

Well, I must say I was sorry to hear that Great Britain has introduced a very scary Digital Economy Bill.

I first learned about it on Cory Doctorow’s Boing Boing Article: Britain’s new Internet law — as bad as everyone’s been saying, and worse. Much, much worse while doing a bit of research for my nearly completed NaNoWriMo novel.  I thought that the concept of a “Three Strikes Law: was insane enough, but we’re still in a global recesssion, so the British version is a slimmed down “Two Strikes” version.

I was particularly saddened to see HRH Queen Elizabeth read out the Bill’s introduction:

“My government will introduce a Bill to ensure the communications infrastructure is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers complicity of communications and enhances public service broadcasting. ”

— HRH Queen Elizabeth in BBC NEWS Government lays out digital plans

I realize that Her Majesty must rely on the advice of her government, but it seems that in the past she has usually demonstrated a better understanding of what is good for her country. Even if her grandchildren haven’t brought her up to speed on this one as far as the cultural aspects go, on a purely political front, this legislation essentially puts British Law enforcement to work as a collection agency for already over powerful media megacorporations.

Perhaps saddest is that this law will essentially do the opposite of what HRH’s remarks promised. This one statement has probably done more harm to the British Monarchy than any challenge faced in the 20th Century. Perhaps Elizabeth won’t have to deal with the after effects, but certainly her grandson will need to deal with the fallout.

Although this law does not directly affect Canada it may in fact turn around and bite us as well. The fact is that this type of foolishness tends to add an appearance of “legitimacy” to wrong headed lawmaking.

The absolute worst thing about all of these laws seems to me the lack of evidence. During the bloodiest Days of the French Revolution, all it took was one voice raised–

“J’accuse”

and ANYONE could wind up being trundled off to Madame Guillotine, guilty or not. Pressuring ISPs to inform on their customers is bad, yet even worse is the apparent lack of requirements for any evidentiary substantiation. The possibilities for abuse of such ill founded laws are staggering. Part of me wonders if this law will apply equally to the politicians and their families. What is really outrageous is that entire families can be made to suffer the punishment for one alleged offender. And the precedent for this is…?

Talk Talk is also challenging the law with this petition http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/dontdisconnectus/.

Telegraph: Stephen Fry backs Digital Economy Bill protests looks at Stephen Fry’s Twitter campaign to support the Talk Talk petition.

BBC NEWS: Security warning over wireless networks British ISP TalkTalk illustrates how easily abuses will be able to happen, potentially implicating innocent users who could be easily targeted due to insecure wireless network connections.

“we’ve got to get over this mindset that peer-to-peer sharing of music is stealing.”

—Don Tapscott: The UK government’s Digital Economy Bill is deeply flawed

Channel 4's The I.T.Crowd cast

“Countries that declare war on copying – and on all those businesses that are born digital – are yielding their economic futures to countries that embrace it, creating a regime that nurtures the net and those who use it.”

—The Guardian’s Cory Doctorow: Why does Mandelson favour the Analogue Economy over the Digital?

Sadly it seems that the British Government isn’t savvy enough to watch Channel Four’s hilarious I.T. Crowd or they might realize the absolute ridiculousness of this type of legislation, as shown in the The I.T. Crowd parody video piracy commercial I found on YouTube.

Open Offer to Our British Cousins:

My BitTorrent post explains how BitTorrent actually works but more importantly it lists information about the many good legal uses for file sharing (and links). Since the blog is in the public domain you can use whatever will help make your case in submissions to your MP’s in challenging this bad law.

[*note:  a few creative commons images which do require attribution… basically anything with a photo-credit]

Speak out loudly.

This law criminalizes personal use copying, equating personal use downloading with professional bootleggers making a profit. This means that individuals will be liable for the £50,000 fine– the same as Joe Bootlegger.

Moving to a different jurisdiction will not help. It might appear to be a good idea short term, but this is happening EVERYWHERE. The only way to put this down is to fight. In every jursidiction. And help educate since the media isn’t about to. The best thing you can do is speak out.

I wish the United Kingdom good luck.

STOP Usage Based Billing

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IGF2009: The Internet Governance Forum Blues

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 16, 2009

Access Controlled poster

Access Controlled poster

This morning Michael Geist tweeted about BBC’s article “UN slated for stifling net debate”, detailing the incident causing the hue and cry which has sprung up about the censorship of the poster at the Internet Governance Forum in Egypt.

The poster was promotional material for the OpenNet Inititiative‘s academic book “Access Comtrolled” on display at the reception held by two of the book’s authors, Ron Deibert and Rafal Rohozinksi at the Internet Governance Forum in Egypt. Apparently “complaints” were made about “The first generation of Internet controls consisted largely of building firewalls at key Internet gateways; China’s famous ‘Great Firewall of China’ is one of the first national Internet filtering systems.”

The book is a global project from the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), a collaboration of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and the SecDev Group.

Global Voices Advocacy: IGF2009: #UNfail? by Renata Avila

“1. We were told that the banner had to be removed because of the reference to China. This was repeated on several occasions, in front of about two dozen witnesses and officials, including the UN Special Rapporteur For Human Rights, who asked that I send in a formal letter of complaint.

2. Earlier, the same officials asked us to stop circulating a small invite to the event because it contained a mention of Tibet. They even underlined it in showing it to me. Because the event was just about to start, we said that we would not be distributing any more of these invitations so it was a moot point.

3. We asked repeatedly to see any rules or regulations governing this act. They did not give us any, only referring to the “objections of a member state.”

4. There were in fact many posters and banners in many of the rooms that I attended, including others in our own. The video itself shows us, at one point, taking one of the other posters we have and offering to cover up the original one. They objected to that and told us this banner must be removed.

On another matter of clarification:

The UN officials did not throw the banner on the ground. They asked us to remove it and one of our staff placed it on the ground for us to consider what to do. That’s where we had the discussion. When we refused to remove it, their security guards bundled it up and took it away.

Hope this helps to clarify.
Ron”

–Ron Deibert’s account of the incident, posted in boingboing comments

My favorite was this comment from Cory Doctorow’s boingboing page:

Antinous / Moderator | #9 | 15:10 on Sun, Nov.15

Why pick Egypt as the venue for a convention on internet governance? Was Mordor booked?

In a statement Reporters Without Borders said: “”It is astonishing that a government that is openly hostile to internet users is assigned the organization of an international meeting on the internet’s future.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8354824.stm

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

[Mordor’s reach was spreading toward the Shire, which was in fact why Frodo and Sam had to head off to fight it. Freedom is always worth fighting for.]

Although it would be breathtakingly easy to point to Egypt as a country where suppression of free speech is endemic, I have to wonder is Canada really any better? The eagerness Canada’s British Columbia government is showing in suppression of free speech in and around the upcoming Vancouver Olympics makes me think it really wouldn’t matter where the Internet Governance Forum was held.

The technological changes to the world brought about by the internet threatens those who forsee an erosion of their power to dominate others. The real problem for them is that the internet makes both supression of free speech and repression of civil liberties more difficult. It’s easier to do bad stuff out of the light of public scrutiny as shown by the flurry of video, articles and blogs about this incident.

This is precisely why net neutrality is so important.

It’s also why Usage Based Billing must not be implemented, since one of the worst things UBB will do to Canada is make the internet less affordable for most Canadian citizens, but even worse, unaffordable for many. Talk about disenfranchisement.

Large version of the Access Controlled poster

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