I’m sure we’re all familiar with what DRM is. It’s the magic that’s placed on a CD to keep evil pirates from pirating the works of good, hardworking citizens like the numerous publishers. However, it represents a serious threat to our rights.
I’m not sure if people are aware, but Sony is a publisher. They’re merged with BMG. Now, Sony’s latest attempt to protect freedom in the United States by stopping the evil pirate terrorists happens to install a rootkit. A rootkit is a program that allows for control of your computer. If you happen to agree to Sony’s license agreement, it’ll install this rootkit onto your computer and make it damn near impossible to remove. If you try to get rid of their ‘protection,’ you’ll be left with a dead CD drive. And according to Ars Technica, malicious hackers are able to use this rootkit to enter your computer.
When this was all discovered, there was an outrage amongst the techies. What was Sony’s response to all of this?
“Most people, I think, don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it,” he asked? “The software is designed to protect our CDs from unauthorized copying, ripping.”
Why should users care that a malicious program that is impossible to remove without breaking their system is being installed on their computers without their knowledge? Those pirates are making us do it anyway. Blame them!
Somewhat hilariously, the DRM, like 90% of software out on the market, does not support Macintosh or Linux. That’s comedy gold, really. All you have to do to avoid this carefully weaved web of deception and pirate a CD is to pop it into an iBook.
At the end of the day, in all their brilliance, Sony gets handed a few lawsuits.
But what do I care? I’m a Linux user and I’m a pirate anyway.
I happen to know quite a few of you who went out and got Switchfoot’s Nothing is Sound. Guess who their publisher is: Sony. I remember a month and a half ago, that the band apologized for the DRM and suggested ways around it. This was before the whole rootkit thing, which was discovered about a week ago.
By now, I’m sure you’re all aware that I have a dislike for this DRM stuff. It stems from this crazy, lunatic ideal I believe in called the “free society.” In a way, the GNU is based on this ideal. That is, freedom of information, freedom of ideas, and freedom of culture. DRM runs antithetical to a free society.
There is a brilliant presentation about free culture by Lawrence Lessig, a Professor of Law at Stanford and founder of the Creative Commons. The presentation is titled “Free Culture.”
If you’re running short on time, it’s all summed up in his ‘thesis,’ if you will. I’ve been doing a crapload of essay analyses for English. Anyway:
- Creativity and innovation always builds on the past.
- The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it.
- Free societies enable the future by limiting this power of the past.
- Ours is less and less a free society.
DRM is all about control. It infringes on your rights to decide where and how you want to use the product. Not only that, but it is also a weapon that allows them to control culture. In controlling culture, they are enabled to limit more and more freedoms. Lessig notes that never has there been such control over our culture, not even before the birth of free culture in 1774, when copyrights were forever.
And we’re seeing it continue today. It’s much more than music, movies, and software. Ever heard of Palladium, or “Trusted Computing”? In short, Trusted Computing is a proposed platform that will essentially control everything that you do with your computer. DRM is only the beginning. Got unlicensed software? Broken. Don’t want to pay for another upgrade? Tough. Wrote an article critical of the current government? Palladium lets them delete it from your computer remotely.
So what do you do about it? Downhill Battle suggests continuing to download MP3s as an act of civil disobedience. Interestingly enough, today in English, we were discussing about the ethicalilty of downloading music. Pretty much everyone agreed that the record companies were gouging us. Since we’d studied an essay titled “Civil Disobedience” a few weeks before, our teacher asks us “So is your downloading music an act of civil disobedience?” Everyone wholeheartedly agreed that it was. Of course, I don’t think any of them realized why this act was so important.
They did it because $20 is a hell of a lot of money for an album. We do it to protect our freedoms.