Sunday, June 04, 2006

DRM and the DMCA

Two days ago I lamented the stupidity of the iSheep(tm) with their swanky iPods(tm). Subjecting its' users to "digital rights management" (managing others rights, not the users'), and the blithe acceptance of this, the iPod has done more to erode consumer rights in the western world than just about anything else. I'll argue that it's sad that the music industry failed in its attempt to deprive the iSheep of their music, since this would have undone much of the damage.

As far as the legal side is concerned, the DMCA has effectively outlawed research on digital format issues, as a simple XOR 81 on any data would qualify as "encryption" under the law. Discovering that the encryption is worthless gets you five years in jail. All this has done is promote the corporate security through obscurity stance.

Example: You discover that the keys your online banking web site follow a specific pattern, allowing your user credentials to be calculated from the cookies in your browser's cache. For someone based in Russia, it's easy to design web pages in such a way that they can collect all your cookies, and knowing what you do, get to your bank account. So, being a good citizen, you go to your bank, and they ignore you. Now 25,000 customers of that bank get ripped off. You'll have the FBI at your door, guaranteed, and you'll likely be charged with the above, plus "circumventing preventive measures protecting content" or something to that effect. Never mind that the money was transferred to another bank account at your bank, and that this money was subsequently transferred to a foreign account. Something like this happened to a student and a professor at a prestigious US University, and the same could happen to you. Luckily, it became pretty clear to the FBI people that the prof and student did not do this, but the message is clear.

So how does this affect you? You're deprived of the rights to defend your digital identity, and you're deprived of any sort of fair use of the music you buy (erm, "license"). Companies can hold YOU accountable for their mismanagement of YOUR digital information.

Should you care?

Some links to go with this: Chilling Effects, article about 2004 incident like the above. I can't find the story on the professor and the student, so I guess that did not happen.

Oh, the political spin: I find it so sad that the 'raw-raw freedom!' right wing is not behind this. Either their definition of freedom is more corporate, or they are unable to swallow working with people that lean a bit more to the left to achieve goals for the common good. United we stand, divided we fall.


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