Comments on: So much for “don’t be evil” http://www.plaintivemewling.com/articles/so-much-for-dont-be-evil Incessant chatterings of a young fart Thu, 22 Jun 2006 03:45:55 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.0.2 by: koreth http://www.plaintivemewling.com/articles/so-much-for-dont-be-evil#comment-311 Fri, 17 Mar 2006 20:08:38 +0000 http://www.plaintivemewling.com/articles/so-much-for-dont-be-evil#comment-311 In my opinion DRM is evil for two very specific reasons, both of which are eliminated by this idea or variants of it. First, DRM-locked content can't be used in contexts that weren't anticipated when the material was locked up. For example, without cracking the encryption, I can't watch a DVD on my iPod, I can't load a tune from Rhapsody into an audio editor to remix it, and I can't cut a paragraph out of an E-book to quote it in a school book report. Forget making copies for friends; there are plenty of legitimate reasons to want to do unanticipated things with a movie or a song or a book. That means DRMed material is always less useful than its unlocked equivalent, providing an incentive to piracy even when the price is reasonable. I view this as the lesser of the two evils of DRM. The second, greater, evil is the obsolescence problem. Tried playing a DiVX disc lately? You paid good money for it, but DiVX is out of business, so your DiVX player has no way to get an unlock code. People could build new DiVX players to contact a new unlock-code service, but guess what? They didn't release the secret algorithm to produce new codes, so forget that. That's the immediate problem, the one that's easy to explain to people. Some day Napster or Apple or Microsoft or Yahoo could go out of business, rendering your music collection useless the next time you do a major computer upgrade and that old version of iTunes won't run any more. But it's the longer-term version of the obsolescence problem that makes this truly evil. Since I'm prevented from carrying my collection along with me, converting it to new formats as they come into vogue, a hundred years from now, when all the works have fallen into the public domain (if you believe there will ever be such a time), the public domain will be a mere legal technicality. All your previously copyrighted works will still be encrypted or access-restricted. You will have every legal and moral right to do whatever you want with the content: hand out copies on the street corner, E-mail it to all your friends, play it backwards on national TV. But you won't have the actual *ability* to do any of that, because the material will be public-domain in name only. (Even if the company that produced the material intended to unlock it when the time came, they might be out of business by then.) We will thus lose a piece of our cultural heritage, lessening the world for our children. My proposed scheme has neither of those problems. As long as you're keeping it to yourself, you're free to do whatever you want with the content, and when its copyright expires, it's right there in the open for you to do with as you please. On the broader subject of whether allowing for enforcement of bad laws is itself evil: No possible content distribution scheme will cause a bad copyright law to be overturned. If you believe that DRM-related laws are evil (I'd agree with you) then the laws need to be repealed, which has nothing to do with technical measures and everything to do with politics. As for how to monitor the massive numbers of files on various networks, it's not that hard for an end-user to find what he's looking for. I can find any episode of any recent movie online without much effort. That means that the content owners can do the same. There are a lot of files out there, yes, but for any given piece of content there don't tend to be too many different versions of it floating around the pirate networks. And they tend to be produced by a relatively small number of groups. It will be trivially easy to tell who those people are with a good watermarking scheme. In my opinion DRM is evil for two very specific reasons, both of which are eliminated by this idea or variants of it.

First, DRM-locked content can’t be used in contexts that weren’t anticipated when the material was locked up. For example, without cracking the encryption, I can’t watch a DVD on my iPod, I can’t load a tune from Rhapsody into an audio editor to remix it, and I can’t cut a paragraph out of an E-book to quote it in a school book report. Forget making copies for friends; there are plenty of legitimate reasons to want to do unanticipated things with a movie or a song or a book. That means DRMed material is always less useful than its unlocked equivalent, providing an incentive to piracy even when the price is reasonable. I view this as the lesser of the two evils of DRM.

The second, greater, evil is the obsolescence problem. Tried playing a DiVX disc lately? You paid good money for it, but DiVX is out of business, so your DiVX player has no way to get an unlock code. People could build new DiVX players to contact a new unlock-code service, but guess what? They didn’t release the secret algorithm to produce new codes, so forget that. That’s the immediate problem, the one that’s easy to explain to people. Some day Napster or Apple or Microsoft or Yahoo could go out of business, rendering your music collection useless the next time you do a major computer upgrade and that old version of iTunes won’t run any more.

But it’s the longer-term version of the obsolescence problem that makes this truly evil. Since I’m prevented from carrying my collection along with me, converting it to new formats as they come into vogue, a hundred years from now, when all the works have fallen into the public domain (if you believe there will ever be such a time), the public domain will be a mere legal technicality. All your previously copyrighted works will still be encrypted or access-restricted. You will have every legal and moral right to do whatever you want with the content: hand out copies on the street corner, E-mail it to all your friends, play it backwards on national TV. But you won’t have the actual *ability* to do any of that, because the material will be public-domain in name only. (Even if the company that produced the material intended to unlock it when the time came, they might be out of business by then.) We will thus lose a piece of our cultural heritage, lessening the world for our children.

My proposed scheme has neither of those problems. As long as you’re keeping it to yourself, you’re free to do whatever you want with the content, and when its copyright expires, it’s right there in the open for you to do with as you please.

On the broader subject of whether allowing for enforcement of bad laws is itself evil: No possible content distribution scheme will cause a bad copyright law to be overturned. If you believe that DRM-related laws are evil (I’d agree with you) then the laws need to be repealed, which has nothing to do with technical measures and everything to do with politics.

As for how to monitor the massive numbers of files on various networks, it’s not that hard for an end-user to find what he’s looking for. I can find any episode of any recent movie online without much effort. That means that the content owners can do the same. There are a lot of files out there, yes, but for any given piece of content there don’t tend to be too many different versions of it floating around the pirate networks. And they tend to be produced by a relatively small number of groups. It will be trivially easy to tell who those people are with a good watermarking scheme.

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by: Stu8080 http://www.plaintivemewling.com/articles/so-much-for-dont-be-evil#comment-310 Fri, 17 Mar 2006 14:42:02 +0000 http://www.plaintivemewling.com/articles/so-much-for-dont-be-evil#comment-310 Scarily efficient idea! How would you check the massive number of files on various networks? I think if we can think of a sensible solution such as this (which would also apply to music) we can banish some of the more draconian solutions offered by people like Microsoft where Hardware is designed to prevent Piracy. I am a regular user of Bittorrent, because although i agree the situation is starving media companies, i am not morally upstanding enough to decline the easiest cheapest way of obtaining what i want. Make buying the media at a fair cost the easiest option and the vast majority will go for it. Scarily efficient idea!

How would you check the massive number of files on various networks?

I think if we can think of a sensible solution such as this (which would also apply to music) we can banish some of the more draconian solutions offered by people like Microsoft where Hardware is designed to prevent Piracy.

I am a regular user of Bittorrent, because although i agree the situation is starving media companies, i am not morally upstanding enough to decline the easiest cheapest way of obtaining what i want. Make buying the media at a fair cost the easiest option and the vast majority will go for it.

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by: rodger http://www.plaintivemewling.com/articles/so-much-for-dont-be-evil#comment-308 Fri, 17 Mar 2006 04:39:03 +0000 http://www.plaintivemewling.com/articles/so-much-for-dont-be-evil#comment-308 umm... so much for don't be evil, indeed. Your idea sounds interesting, but not any less evil, I'm afraid. Less effective ways of enforcing unreasonable laws are less evil. ;) umm… so much for don’t be evil, indeed. Your idea sounds interesting, but not any less evil, I’m afraid. Less effective ways of enforcing unreasonable laws are less evil. ;)

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