Pot to Kettle: You are Black

I don’t get it. How can Real possibly criticize Apple for its tying the iPod to its own proprietary DRM? Sean Ryan pulled the same crap at the Digital Music Forum.  Real is introducing its own proprietary Helix DRM into the market – they’re pursuing the exact same strategy.  Sounds like it’s just sour grapes that they didn’t get to the market first.

Lessig, Kahle, and Co. Challenging Copyright Extension Again

First, Lessig and Co survived the Golan motion to dismiss. Now check this out.  Very exciting and, most of all, very ambitious.  I have no ability right now to speak to the possibility for success.  At the least, it will further explore the “traditional contours” aspect of Eldred.  See previous discussion here and here.

An intro to DRM

Public Knowledge’s Mike Godwin wrote an interesting citizen’s guide to DRM.  The most interesting bit for me was the semi-technical explanations of different techniques, how they work, why they might be infeasible, etc.  Overall, it’s a good intro to the various issues involved with DRM. 

One criticism: take a close look at his concluding section and suggestions – they didn’t make much sense to me. He discusses how content holders could release more content into the public domain, or sell public domain content without DRM restrictions, so that “consumers become educated that it’s not [in his example]e-books or digital-media formats that are inherently limited – it’s that the limitations have been insisted upon by particular publishers or artists.”  Do consumers not get that?  What evidence does he have that this is a core problem?  Doesn’t the high traffic over P2P and usage of MP3 players suggest that consumers know fully well that digital-media formats are not “inherently limited”?  Don’t consumers already prefer less restricted content, and isn’t that already obvious from iTunes doing well and from survey data? His particular example deals with e-books, and he suggests that market isn’t succeeding because of DRM restrictions – but isn’t it a bigger problem that consumers still are not accustomed to digital reading devices (and that such devices are not yet of a high enough quality)?

What does he mean that this will lead to a more “rational market”?  He suggests that this will lead to “humane DRM” but he never really defines what this would be.  He says that this will lead to less restrictive and thus more humane DRM, but not what would be optimal.

And given all the time Godwin spends discussing why DRM won’t prevent infringement, I’m left wondering why DRM is a good idea at all.  What does he mean by “The question before us, then, is how to harness both the technical ingenuity behind DRM and the human drive to share the works that we enjoy in a way that leverages the best from both”?  Might a better solution simply be no DRM at all?

Light Weight DRM?

That’s what Fraunhofer is calling their new project.  See this fawning Wired article (gotta be a stringer) for the dumbed down version – the site is pretty straightforward.

The basics: Light Weight DRM (LWDRM) itself does not directly impede the manipulation and copying of copyrighted content.  Instead, to make certain uses (as determined by copyright holders), users will have to include a certificate, provided by a third party, that both links the file to the user and includes the necessary decryption key. In addition, Fraunhofer intends to implement watermarks, though this seems like a minor part of LWDRM.  Regardless, the point is to allow copyright holders to identify the origin of content distributed in an infringing manner.  Those users could then be sued for infringement.  LWDRM accepts and expects that infringement will still occur on a small scale, alongside perfectly legitimate copying for family and friends.  Fraunhofer only expects that LWDRM will help stop large scale infringement, particularly over P2P networks.

Notably, Fraunhofer says that this will encourage people to share only with trustworthy parties – sound a lot like Clay Shirky’s File-Sharing Goes Social (in addition to those saying “share with friends not with strangers”).

Sounds good, at least at the outset, but it’s got problems.  Some may be technical – though I’m no expert, I know that at least watermarking is difficult (see summary in this interesting doc).  The public key infrastructure part seems plausible and interesting, but everything is evadable (see Darknet paper).  I can’t imagine being much harder to evade than your typical music store’s DRM.  There are also some privacy issues, though Fraunhofer intends the key signing to be pseudonymous and all done with a “trusted” third party.

I’m also not sure how much it will actually achieve its aim. LWDRM’s tries to stop infringement before the fact by enhancing the after infringement threat of a lawsuit.  Just like other DRM, it does nothing to actually stop the spread of the copy once its on P2P; the only difference between this and other DRM is that LWDRM actually lets you spread a functioning copy over P2P.  With this in mind, does this add anything to the current threat of lawsuits?  Does the possibility of having downstream infringements traced back to you really add to people’s fears?  Moreover, it is unclear to what extent LWDRM would make it more likely that one could be successfully sued.  Some uses that involve sharing with friends will be perfectly legitimate.  If the first user’s sharing is legitimate, but the receiving second user decides to share the file, it doesn’t help that you know where the copy originated – the initial sharing could still be legit.  There’s room for some plausible deniability.  Even if the first sharing was infringing, that does not necessarily make the the first user responsible for the second person’s infringement, and thus LWDRM won’t necessarily lead to enhanced penalties.

A Killer Blog

It’s attack of the killer blob … I mean, blog!  The new Copyfight blog has consumed Donna, Elizabeth, Ernest, Jason, Wendy, and Aaron.  Their collective wisdom will make for most convenient, one-stop copyfight reading (though they’ll still maintain their own pages, too).  Good luck to all, and update your blog rolls accordingly.