March 16, 2005

ETech day 3: Cory Doctorow

All complex eco-systems have parasites. Email, for example. We could fix this in various ways – tolls, rigorous identity checking, etc. But you would also break much of the value of email. Hollywood wants to control digital devices that use or even just touch video by requiring permission to release such a device. DVD players work like this today, but CDs don't, which is why you can convert CD data to ringtones, MP3s, remixed CDs, etc, but do nothing with DVDs except watch it in a player. Trusted Computing would extend the DVD model to all aspects of computing. But in practice, someone always leaks the keys or figures out how to crack the system, and that renders the whole system useless. It happened with DVDs and it would happen with any other rights management system.

And the trouble is that DRM doesn't stop infringement; it doesn't even reduce it. It's a 100% failure system. Parasite elimination never works, but the erroneous conclusion drawn by people like Hollywood is that they just haven't tried hard enough and if only the laws were more draconian, the encryption was more rigorous, the problem would be solved. But simplifying the eco-system never works. There will always be parasites.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. In almost all cases i've seen, so-called "advance" Copy protection only succeeds in hurting the legitimate consumer.

    Any security system to protect a product will be cracked, so any system only serves to reduce a consumer's rights rather than stop any theft.

    Half-Life 2 is a popular example. The Steam system was designed to deliver content securely to a customers machine, making updates easier. It also serves as a product key validation system. Once a key has been used once, it can't be used again. This system has two massive flaws:

    1 – The system was cracked within a day of Half-Life 2's release, and it's simply a matter of finding a warez site to download and play the game, bypassing Steam's protection altogether.

    2 – Some pirates have just been copying the keys off the boxes of the game instore and using these with non-cracked downloads of the game. This means that when legitimate customers buy these same instore copies, they'll find themselves unable to play the game. Combine this with some store's very strict refund policies and they're left with a useless product. The only way to use the game is to send the disc to Valve along with $10 and get a replacement disc and key.

    16 Mar 2005, 18:07

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