Push for cell phone DRM in Japan – by “Michael C”

Cell phone DRM
Cell phone DRM

With Apple’s announcement at the beginning of the year that the iTunes Store, the biggest online music store, was removing its FairPlay DRM from all of its music, it seems like  DRM-restricted music may be coming to an end, in the US at least. However, the situation is very different in  Japan, where the RIAJ (Recording Industry Association of Japan, essentially Japan’s version of the RIAA) is pushing to implement DRM on all cell phones in Japan.

Five years ago, the idea of DRM cell phones would not be a huge deal, as most people had separate MP3 players and did not use their phones for music. However, as cell phones, MP3 players, and PDAs are increasingly meshed into portable all-in-one devices, like the iPhone and Palm Pre, many people are playing music on these devices.

The proposed DRM will work on the server-side, which means that every time a person wishes to play a song on their cell phone, the cell phone will communicate with a server to check if the file was legally purchased. If it is, the server will send the proper response back to the cell phone, allowing the song to be played. If everything goes according to the RIAJ’s plan, the system can be in place as early as 2011.

This DRM system raises a number of questions. There are many online music stores out there, and the DRM would have  to work with music purchased from every single one. This seems somewhat unlikely, as the current online music store  trend is a move away from DRM, not towards it. Would global online music stores like the iTunes Store be willing to  implement some form of DRM into their songs just to appease the RIAJ? Such a measure would probably be quite costly, since DRM files (for the Japanese market) would have to be created, while maintaining the non-DRM files for the rest of the world. Another important note is that not everyone gets their music from an online music store. How would the system handle songs ripped from a purchased audio CD? How would it deal with MP3s released by fledging artists for free? In both of these cases, DRM would probably be absent from the MP3 file. How would the service  verify these tracks? If the DRM were implemented perfectly, it would be a good way to reduce piracy. Yet, it is hard to believe that the DRM implementation will be perfect, and it is inevitable that some users will be unable to play their legitimately purchased songs. Ultimately, then, it seems like this system will cause more frustration and problems than it will attempt to solve, and should be avoided for the benefit of the average user who just  wants to listen to a few songs on the go.

DRM and HDCP – Apple’s contradictory stance – by “Stephen D”

When Apple rolled introduced their new line of unibody aluminum Macbooks in late 2008, they introduced a new type of display connection: Mini DisplayPort. This new format supported was developed by Apple, and is simply a miniaturized version of DisplayPort, an open standard put forth by the Video Electronics Standards Association. Its main purpose is to either connect a laptop to monitor, or a computer to a television. However, the introduction of this connection as the sole video output in the unibody Macbooks was a significant blow to consumers by limiting the potential choices for what they can watch certain content on. The DisplayPort standard off which this connection is based includes support for High-bandwith Digital Content Protection, or HDCP. What this means is that high-definition (HD) content is protected while traveling between the source and the screen, effectively closing the “analog hole” that pirates sometimes take advantage of. In practice this means that certain iTunes content, when purchased legally through the iTunes store, will not necessarily play on a given TV, monitor or projector. Instead of your desired movie, you will see a dialog box similar to the following:

Apple HDCP warning
Apple HDCP warning

Courtesy of arstechnica.com. http://media.arstechnica.com/journals/apple.media/iTunesHDCP-large540.png

This is a controversial action on Apple’s part, as it requires you to purchase a compatible display in order to watch any movies purchased, since the new Macbooks don’t have a VGA output. Additionally, consumers are not informed that iTunes movies and rentals are laced with DRM. The only clue that consumers have to this, before getting the warning message above, is a footnote that states “Requires HDMI with HDCP or component video.” (http://support.apple.com/kb/SP19) Apple is effectively tricking customers into buying DRM protected media, then dictating how they it.

Bringing HDCP to the new Macbook line is a step backwards for Apple, and forcing consumers to watch their legally purchased movies is not a right Apple should be able to dictate. In the same month that Apple started selling the new unibody Macbooks, they arranged a deal to provide DRM-free music with the four major labels for the iTunes music store. This was a big step forward for Apple, so it’s surprising to see that Apple chose a conflicting view for movies. It is a foolish move for Apple to punish customers who attempt to purchase movies legally. By making the process harder for legitimate customers, Apple is in fact driving more users to piracy. Instead, Apple should use a protected mp4 file, in the same way they use protected AACC files. That way, Apple could protect the content by making sure that the files are linked to an authenticated user, and customers could watch movies however they pleased. However, Apple has ended up treating customers poorly, and the following XKCD seems truer than ever:

Courtesy xkcd.com. http://xkcd.com/488/

A Threat to Freedom, Democracy, and Puppies – by “Francesca S”

it's easier to find pictures of puppies than freedom or democracy
it’s easier to find pictures of puppies than freedom or democracy

It strikes me as an odd situation where you essentially are in the business of making and distributing skeleton keys, and Mr. Boback will help everybody buy new locks, and then, with your business plan of remaining one step ahead of the law, then you will probably make and distribute burglar tools, and then Mr. Boback or someone else will further improve the locks …

If I were you—and obviously I am not—I would feel more than a shade of guilt at this point for having made the laptop a dangerous weapon against the security of the United States. The 9/11 Commission reported that the central failure was a failure of imagination. Mr. Gorton, you, in particular, seem to lack imagination for how your company and its product can be deliberately misused by evildoers against this country.

This quote is taken from a Congressional hearing in 2007 on national security. The threat in question is not some biological weapon, or high tech explosive. No, the “dangerous weapon against the security of the United States” is peer-to-peer networks. Congressman Jim Cooper’s is addressing Mark Gorton, the CEO of Limewire, and expressing his concern for the national security threats caused by file sharing programs.

Testimony in the hearing details how classified documents had been accidentally shared on P2P networks by an expert on information system security. Other witnesses described the ease with which one can find mistakenly shared tax returns, medical records, or credit card numbers. The conclusion drawn is that those creating the programs are to blame, they are “distributing skeleton keys,” in an attempt to subvert our personal freedoms.

The Congressman argues that it is the responsibility of the software makers to regulate how their software is used. Limewire should anticipate its user’s incompetence, and protect them against themselves. Another congressman brings up the fact that Limewire is the only one of numerous file sharing programs (Imesh, BearShare, and Kazza for example) which did not, following the Grokster decision, implement mandatory copyright material filtering. Limewire instead implmented an opt-in filter, that gave users the ability to choose whether or not to use the feature.

More recently, this past spring, there have been more hearings on the national security risks due to P2P file sharing, as well as considerable lobbying by the RIAA for stricter regulation of these systems. However, it is difficult to come up with a solution that will monitor the system without limiting the ways in which it can be used. “With great power comes great responsibility.” The internet is a tool with unimagined powers, and I believe the American people can deal with a little responsibility.

RIAA Pursuing Old Suits – by “David K”

An opinion here:  http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/03/hypocrisy-or-necessity-riaa-continues-filing-lawsuits.ars asks why the RIAA continues to pursue lawsuits even after dropping its sue-everybody strategy last summer.   Their reason appears to be that if they just dropped all the cases, the courts would get mad at them and they’d be vulnerable to countersuing, which has happned before in cases like this one: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2007/06/exonerated-defendant-sues-riaa-for-malicious-prosecution.ars, where an annoyed defendent got them for malicious prosecution.   But apparently a suti can simply be dismissed with the plaintiff’s permission, which these frightened plaintiffs would probably give, and the explanation the RIAA spokesman has actually given, of justice needing to be served, seems implausible, as the RIAAs policy until this point has been Thucydides’s “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

I haven’t heard anything in the news about their new strategy, however, which is “voluntary graduated response deals with US ISPS”.  This sounds kind of weak and ineffectual, but that might be because its so vague.  Does this mean the ISPs rather than the users will be asked to answer for what goes through them?  Or the RIAA will somehow be trying to cut access for pathways found to be mosting much pirated music?  Or is it really that ISPs can enforce this only if they’d like to?  It’s not clear, but the fact that we haven’t heard anything in the news recently is significant, since publicizing their efforts has basically been the RIAA’s strategy up to this point.  There’s enough music going around that people who want to pirate will be able to do it, so the way for the RIAA to limit its losses has been to limit the number of people who want to do this.  They can achievet his goal with scare tactics (lawsuits), ethics tactics (anti-piracy propaganda) and knowledge tactics (getting rid of the easiest-to-find and most well-known pirating sites).  But if I haven’t heard much from them, that means others haven’t either, and that means their tactics aren’t working so well.

Then again, I also hadn’t heard that they’d stopped litigating until I read this article.  Why, then does Yale keep running its campaign to stop us from downloading?  I don’t mean they should endorse it, but why are they being so insistent?  There are all these posters and this speech at ST training, and the amount of propaganda about it has actually gone up since last year, even though the danger of getting sued seems to have gone down.  Maybe Yale is just extra paranoid, or extra-ethical, or maybe they know something I don’t, or maybe they just haven’t read this article yet, either.  I’d like to know.

DRM and DMCA – by “Ben L”

So as we learned, there can be a huge variety of derivative music produced from any given source, like the Amen Break. In fact, you can find 40 variations right here, a testament to remixing. Today, sampling is increasingly restricted, as are attempts around DRM software and copying for use without modification. What seems to be happening, however, is a tug of war on both the legal issues and the technology issues. In both media and software, when is it prohibitively difficult or expensive to get something, people will look for another way. For example, if Girl Talk wants to sell music sampling from 300 songs, that’s going to be a lat of licensing fees and time. The solution is to simply not get the licensing. At the same time, games and all sorts of other software are pirated at some loss to the producer. While the argument “I would never pay for that anyway, and the company hasn’t actually lost anything,” works to some extent, there are certainly a significant number of people who refuse to pay precisely and only because they can get it for free. The balancing act here is to have law and software that allows fair use without letting piracy run amok, that maintains profitability without stifling new work or legitimate use.

This seems to be resulting in a software and legal conflict that, to me at lease, looks like it will continue to turn out well. While youtube keeps up its content identification tool to automatically block, track, or add ads, Maxis has taken the controversial SecuROM software off of Sim 3 , and it looks like they will stay away from hijacking software in the future. Incidentally, I have Spore installed and was displeased to learn about SecuROM from the reading. I wondered how I could not have known about it, until I looked at one of the few non-specialized news stories with an article. Either the LA times reporter, but more likely EA, has mischaracterized the issue. I don’t think it was ever about how many computers Spore could be on, since they likely correctly predicted only a few users might legitimately need more than 3. It was about control of the machine, which nobody wants to give up. Once you lose control of your machine, you lose the ability to innovate, and compete for legitimate uses of products, such as watching DVDs on Linux. But if big companies can neither profitably nor reliably (haiku deCSS anyone?) control their works once they are purchased, nor confidently sue artists such as Girl Talk, then I think we’re doing pretty well. I predict Congress will quickly realize that the pitfalls of passing law that is both unenforceable and against the wishes of a large group of people (prohibition?) apply to the DMCA, and that record companies will learn to put up with remixes. We can’t lose the right to read quickly – there is circular problem. As long as people have machines they control, and there are a lot of them, then it just won’t be practical or profitable to try and control everything.

So SecuROM gets taken off and Linux users still find ways to watch DVDs, but how do companies maintain profit? They seem to be having some success – nobodies stopped making music and software – so I guess they will just have to keep making things people want to buy, and shutting down the biggest of legitimate pirates.

Sharing On The Internet – by “Glen M”

As people become more familiar with the different technologies that are available because of the Internet, it is clear that more and more businesses and different forums for sharing files will become available to consumers, including websites like www.zshare.netwww.rapidshare.com, andwww.megaupload.com. Using these tools, people can upload and share pictures, music, videos and many more types of files. Peer to peer file sharing is an amazing way to both create new goods as distribute existing goods. There are many different organizations that are focusing on the legal and technological issues of these peer-to-peer networks. For instance, thePeer-to-Peer Foundation is attempting to increase the availability of peer-to-peer technologies, and “aim[s] to be a pluralist network to document, research, and promote peer to peer alternatives.”

Michel Bauwens is the founder of the Peer-to-Peer Foundation, and he strongly believes in the ability of people to create and innovate without incentives, such as being paid for one’s actions. Bauwens understands that people will be developing new innovations based on a personal interest and not necessarily on money or personal gain. In addition, due to the collapse of the world economy in late 2008, there are those who begin to wonder if the current economic system is the best possible one, and some people think that peer-to-peer sharing, free software movements, and information projects, such as Wikipedia, are the way of the future and a way to create a better and more secure world.

I believe that individuals will continue to create and develop even their creations are not covered by copyright. In fact, I believe that copyright is something that will hinder that ability of peer-to-peer networks to grow and will limit the growth of information that is freely available on the Internet. For example, the legal cases that have been brought against Napster in the past and The Pirate Bay more recently, in addition to others as well, demonstrate the issues relevant to file sharing networks. The ultimate goal of copyright protection should not be to limit the ability of individual users to get access to files or information they need. Copyright should be intended to protect those who have created from being abused by large groups or corporations. Thus, file sharing networks between individuals would grow and the there would be a mass of information available on the Internet in public domain.