Defective by Design anti-DRM picket at Apple tablet launch

John from the Free Software Foundation sez,
Apple has invited the media to "come see our latest creation" at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater this Wednesday, but given their recent track record with the iPhone's DRM and App Store policies, it's more likely to be "come see our latest restriction."

The anti-DRM Defective by Design campaign will be on-hand to highlight the threats Apple poses to computer user freedom. We're asking people to come out and join us for a little theater of our own, and to help take photos and talk to folks around the event about DRM. We got through to Jobs before on music DRM -- we can do it again with the App Store.

Support DbD at Apple's Jan. 27 "Come see our latest restriction" event in SF (Thanks, John!)


  1. A sincere question: Does apple even need to advertise any more?

    They put out this single, splattered image and every tech blog on the planet has been trying themselves in knots analyzing it. Couple that with the months (years?) they’ve been waiting for the iTab/iSlate thing to launch.

    Now even the protests are keyed into the product launch? And I agree with them, DRM is nonsense. But man, it’s starting to get kind of Monty Python. Apple comes out, says “Boo!” whole world goes mad analyzing just what they meant by that, who this “boo” character is, and so forth.

    In short, Apple is bloody brilliant.

  2. Yeah, you “got through” to Jobs.

    What part of the RIAA WOULD NOT ALLOW the iTunes Store to sell tracks without DRM are you having trouble understanding, John?

    Apple, now owning the online music sales universe, was able to force the RIAA to allow DRM free sales. As Jobs apparently intended all along.

    Don’t like Apple’s policies? Don’t buy anything from Apple.

    That’ll show them!

    Now, DO pay attention:

    YOU are not the target audience for the iPod/iTunes/iPhone app store.

    YOU have never been the target audience for the iPod/iTunes/iPhone app store.

    YOU will never be the target audience for the iPod/iTunes/iPhone app store.

    For at least 95+% of the iPod/iTunes/iPhone app store, DRM means nothing to them and does not affect them in the slightest.

    The seamless and effortless “click and I have music/iPhone app” is what affects the average user. No hassle, no BS. Just instant gratification.

    Want to help humanity? Take all the money EFF is wasting on this silly protest and donate it to any of the Haitian earthquake relief groups.

    1. Well, Chris, this version of events would be a lot more compelling if:

      1. Apple hadn’t dropped DRM in response to Amazon’s MP3 store

      2. Apple wasn’t still insisting on DRM even where major rightholders want it otherwise: Random House Audio (largest publisher in the world) and Audible (largest audiobook publisher in the world) asked Apple to carry my latest audiobook without DRM and were rejected

      1. Cory, do you deny that Jobs wanted the iTunes Music Store to be DRM free from the beginning?

        And how on Earth could Jobs strip DRM from music files without the consent of the RIAA copyright holders?

        Apple is just the shopkeeper, it’s up to the rights holders to determine if a music file will be DRM free, not the putative iTunes shopkeeper, Mr. Jobs.

        Of course, I can see Jobs pointing out the bleeding obvious to the RIAA that Amazon sales are no where near iTunes sales, however, you know guys, if you also allowed Apple to sell unencumbered files you could squeeze even more money out of the buying public, which happens to be the majority of iTunes customers.

        As for audiobook DRM, FSM alone knows WHAT ALL goes through the minds of the lawyers and beancounters. Maybe they’re confusing you with Harlan Ellison and fear the mighty wrath of the author who sued AOL, thinking he was actually suing the Internet.

        Seriously, though, have the Apple legal types made any explanation of why they’re insisting on DRM, other than some perceived need to cover the legal ass of Apple for some reason.

        I can tell you this, neither the Apple lawyers or beancounters cares one little bit about the DbD people or protests.

        1. “Cory, do you deny that Jobs wanted the iTunes Music Store to be DRM free from the beginning?”

          I certainly do. Apple’s DRM was incredibly profitable to them, giving them control over music-pricing (When Bronfman asked them to change the pricing, they said no, and Bronfman couldn’t license to a competing DRM because doing so would require his customers to abandon their investment in iTunes music) and creating a lock-in whereby customers couldn’t switch to competing devices without abandoning their investment, or investing time/money in removing the DRM.

          Apple made no public statements about DRM until they had achieved a very healthy lock-in.

          Even then, as Jobs was calling for the removal of music DRM, he was *giving press conferences* where he advised the film industry to stay away from HD DVD releases until the DRM was perfected. Then, as the single largest shareholder in Disney, he continued to insist upon DRM in Disney releases through the iTunes Store.

          Steve Jobs doesn’t hate DRM. Steve Jobs wants whatever DRM situtation is optimal for locking in his customers. He and his company are presently the single largest DRM vendors in the world.

          “And how on Earth could Jobs strip DRM from music files without the consent of the RIAA copyright holders?”

          By offering them the option. There were plenty of musicians, labels and companies asking for no-DRM for many years before Apple began to allow its suppliers to go DRM free.

          “Apple is just the shopkeeper, ”

          No. Apple is the single largest retail channel for an entire industry, selling in a proprietary format that it controls. It’s “just a shopkeeper” the way WalMart is “just a store” and “China is just a country where they make stuff.”

        2. I’m boggled that you think “Apple mistook you for Harlan Ellison” is more plausible than “Apple things DRM is good for its business.”

          1. Cory, I am equally boggled that such an obvious joke went so far over your head that they had to move the ISS out of its way.

            I agree that Jobs is not some super holy altruist.

            But neither is he the evil, nehru jacket wearing, white cat stroking super villain.

            You, yourself enforce a type of DRM on your books via your CC license.

            No one but yourself is allowed to profit from them, as I understand it. And that is your undisputed right as copyright holder.

            If the actual rights holders to music files wish to exercise their copyright, as they see fit, that’s their right. “Mr. Jobs, thou shalt not allow MY intellectual property to copyable. Keep my copyrighted music secure!” “Sure thing!” (aside from burning ten copies of any playlist to discs, and then re-ripping them to MP3, that is.)

            I am not disagreeing with you at all about the futility of DRM. I have a ton of applications so I can strip that nonsense from whatever I legally obtain. I still have a VHS Macrovision stripper/stabilizer in the closet that’ll pretty much strip Macrovision from any video source with an S-Vid output and send the stripped signal to anything with an S-Vid input.

            Claiming that Jobs had some ulterior locking in motive is akin to claiming Jobs had an ulterior motive in locking in Mac OS to Mac hardware.

            Um… Maybe that’s not the best analogy, perhaps.

            Yes, that was also a joke. not at all intended to be taken seriously.

  3. You know, I just don’t get all this anti-DRM anger. I’ve under iTunes and many other similar programs and sites and have never once been annoyed with DRM or found it restricting to my behaviour. I mean I can still burn CDs and listen to my music and do most everything I would want to. I certainly don’t love the music industries or any restrictions on customer rights, but I’m yet to hear a convincing argument as to why it’s a threat to “computer user freedom” as you say.

  4. I love how the slightest hint of criticism about Apple always brings out the white knights, frothing at the mouth to defend the poor, struggling company.

    They are a corporation. They don’t give a shit about you. They design some good products, no one contests that fact. But ultimately, every move is about getting more market share and more money. Steve Jobs didn’t remove DRM because he’s a hippy, but because it was good for business (see the videos & audio books – no real competition, and the DRM stays).

  5. I’m slightly befuddled by protests like this. This isn’t about CIA secret prisons… it isn’t about illegal wiretapping… it has nothing to do with debt relief for Haiti.

    Let me summarize: this company makes a product, which does a thing. Despite many other options, and many other products that work in different ways, this one particular product is especially popular. Despite this, people who had no part in making this product, who don’t use this product, and who don’t think other people should use this product, nevertheless feel the need to protest the company because their products don’t work like these guys think they should.

    Why? Are they angry that other people like something they don’t? What is the motivation here? It seems like there’s some sort of ideological purity test that I’m just not getting.

    I’m probably overthinking this. Maybe this really is just a shallow attempt by a small group to capitalize on the press swirling around this announcement.

    One thing I’ve kind of always wondered when these things come up… why don’t the people who protest this kind of stuff just come up with a better device of their own that does everything they want, in exactly the way they want? Even today, there should be enough venture capital floating around to make this a reality. Gadget design and creation aren’t exactly secret lost arts, the Crunchpad debacle proved that. Isn’t it logical to compete in the marketplace like everyone else, instead of trying to force other companies to build their devices the way you want them to? I mean, if people didn’t like what they bought, they wouldn’t buy it, would they?

    I swear, I’m not being sarcastic: I honestly don’t understand the motivation.

    1. Why do I protest stuff like this?
      Because I find it inherently offensive.

      Because society is straying in a direction that I strongly disagree with, and I want to have my say.

      Apple, and anyone who pushes DRM, is trying to kill something awesome that I love (freedom, openness, etc)

      I don’t see what’s so complicated about this.

      If the Westboro Baptist church had a hate-rally in my town, I would be out, counter-protesting them.
      By your logic, I should just stay out of it, because it doesn’t directly involve me.

      And yes, I did just compare Steve Jobs to Fred Phelps.
      No, Steve Jobs isn’t as evil.
      But DRM still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

      Everyone in my study group is on-board with this, and I put defective-by-design fliers up around my campus.

      What better reason is there to protest something, than that it offends you?

    2. I’m a librarian and I can tell you that DRM and the arcane pile of hooey that is our copyright code in the US costs students, teachers, schools, universities, businesses and innovators money and time every single day.

      Students pay ridiculous fees for books and materials whose creators are long since dead. They get audio and ebooks that are locked to a paticular gadget or borked program. Teachers choices in what they can expose students to are limited by a minefield of copyright and DRM lockouts. Universities are running scared at being sued by the likes of the MPAA and RIAA, two groups of lawyers who are essentially large scale lawsuit-generating factories. Writers, innovators, artists all suffer when information, music and production is locked away behind paywalls and permissions. It’s ugly, nagging and it does nothing, NOTHING, to protect or defend the creators.

      That’s right, it does not help the creators one iota. DRM benefits the middlemen, it benefits the corporations and record companies, it does nothing to help the artist. The notion that an author can’t even opt out of the system (like Cory) shows you how profoundly silly it all is.

      And don’t even go looking at the mess that the sciences face with all this. It’s obscene.

      I’m angered by it because good ideas should be accessible, shapeable and malleable by all. I want artists and creators to be well compensated. But getting 8% of every book sold is not well-compensated, even though it’s pretty standard for publishing. The fact that big name artists can sell millions of albums and still not even break even with their record companies offends me. I want creative people to remix, reinvent, to flow as freely as their ideas will let them. It’s the difference between an open and a closed society. The former is better on every single level.

      1. An artist can’t opt out of the system? How does that work exactly? Does someone hold a gun to their head to make them put their work on a DRM-laden online store? It seems like if the principle of the thing were the point, you would want to opt out entirely until they are behaving in a way you can live with. If an artist signs a contract that allows the publisher to do things with the artwork that the artist doesn’t agree with, who is to blame? The publisher? The artist? The third party DRM store?

        For example, the company I work for officially refuses to sell to Wal-Mart for a bunch of reasons, one of which is because we think they are evil. (they probably don’t want what we sell, but it’s still our policy.) We’re not really being altruistic, it’s a lot to do with simple self-preservation, but still.

  6. This is awesome. I totally support it. Wish I was on the west coast so I could join in. Either way, I’m glad that there are people like the EFF, and Cory (who really handled the comments above perfectly, in my opinion), to say intelligently and effectively what I have felt more quietly for a while now.

    Thank you for posting this, and I hope other sources pick up on it, too. Imagine if the Times ran an article about something like this. Not necessarily in support of it, but just bringing the issue to light, factually (probably impossible). That would be really good.

  7. What are the alternatives in a DRM world? A Handy Guide would be great. I hate the Apple stronghold (as well as other company’s) as much as anybody but I guess I’m just not clear on who the alternatives are.

  8. Protests are worthwhile for the education, especially in “obscure” cause such as anti-DRM. Here in good old Boston when Sony was selling CDs of rootkit d00m a local Free Culture group set up shop outside of Virgin Records and handed out flyers explaining that there Sony CDs = virus. I spent a few minutes talking with those crazy Free Culture folks and in the few moments I was there saw a pile of people become enlightened, pissed, and turned away.

    I might not take to the streets over Apples latest locked in POS, but I sure as shit will be voting with my wallet. Why buy Apple locked in crapware when you can get a nice unlocked Nexus One? Hopefully more companies will follow Google’s lead and offer open and unlocked phones.

    Eh, in the battle between the evil authoritarian Apple and Microsoft overlords (who the fuck ever predicted them jumping in bed together?) and the omniscient creepily all seeing and all known but apparently benevolent, open, and connected Google god-king, I’ll pick the later.

  9. As an information consumer allow me to fantasize about how I would like to pay for my content (and I do want to pay for it!). As it comes to me through a “tube” like water or gas I would like to pay for it like water or gas, via a meter. What I don’t want to do is what I do now: pay for the privilege of storing content that I might not use and that I can never resell.

    If we put aside dystopian big brother scenarios, the best solution – and the technology exists if hardware could serve as a meter – would be to be charged a micro rate, set by and negotiated with, the content producer every time I play a song or view a page of an ebook or even visit a website. It is a bit like using Skype rather than having to pay a monthly phone bill.

  10. Defective by Design is the New Greenpeace. By that I mean they are simply picking on the entity that will get them the most headlines and the most attention for their own selfish ends. I find that really pathetic. Any message of truth or importance would stand on its own.

    And Cory, your version of Apple history bears only the most tenuous resemblance to reality, and is full of ergo hoc propter hoc.

  11. Oh are we arguing about this still? Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.

    I was setting up a game server and memcache on my Mac while using an iPhone app to see if there was any free wifi around. Found it. Hmm, I gotta get Heligoland when it comes out. iTunes? Sure.

    If only Apple’s products would quit messing up my life I could actually get some stuff done. Oh, wait.

  12. You know, maybe I’m still just too bitter over the apparent failure of health care reform, but I really can’t let some stanky-ass blurb like “the threats Apple poses to computer user freedom” pass uncommented. Apple poses exactly no threat to computer user freedom, because there is exactly no requirement that I know of to buy one of these gadgets, or any of Apple’s others, by any institution that I’m aware of, unlike the many institutions that require their members to use Microsoft products.

    What this is really about is that Apple shows signs of, yet again, coming out with The Really Cool Thing, and you’d have to accept their terms if you want one, and damnit, don’t you deserve a pony on your terms? Because the TechCrunch tablet debacle proves that you can’t really get a pony on your own.

  13. Apple has created products so innovative, would the market be the same without them? Unlikely, as few other companies have the vision Apple does. Without Apple leading the way, our phones and laptops would be less innovative on the whole and the market would be stale. I’d rather have them crushing “computer user freedom” than using the boring junk other manufacturers churn out.

  14. DRM on iPhone apps seems to me to be a *good* thing for a number of reasons:

    1) There are no other devices I could even move the software to. If I have another iPhone I can download the same app to it from Apple free of charge since I already paid for it. This is in contrast to music that I would like on many different devices and in possibly different formats.

    2) The DRM has been in part responsible for the low prices of AppStore apps since “piracy” isn’t baked into the price. A smorgasbord of $0.99 apps has been good for the consumer by and large.

    I confess I’m an Apple fan though….

  15. I can’t believe the Audible thing keeps coming up.

    Audible HAS sold their wares as straight MP3 for years if the licensees allowed it. Audible is owned by Amazon who could easily ask Apple to allow a good portion of their audiobooks to be DRM-free…but instead, one manager from the company came to Apple and said I Got One Thing I Want DRM-Free…You Know That Contract We Have And All That Code We Gave You To Run Under iTunes? We Want You To Devote Considerable Amount Of Time To Change All This…BTW…The Author Of The Book Will Spread Misinformation About You At Any Time And Goes Out Of His Way To Put Your Company In The Worst Light….

    Seriously, I would have ignored the request too…maybe if Amazon asked Apple to carry a significant portion of their audiobooks DRM-free and gave a time / date for switchover, that would be different. What was being asked was that one single work be given special status…one that was not going to probably pay for the efforts to change to that special status. Especially after Amazon specified how their DRM was to be used (i.e., it has screwed me on occasion with Audible, but I also know how to get around it…so I just converted all my stuff to MP3 and stopped worrying)…

    But good on you for slamming Apple at ever turn, telling people to buy competing products, and then complaining that they won’t do you a favor.

    1. “Audible HAS sold their wares as straight MP3 for years if the licensees allowed it. ”

      Clif, you’re just wrong.

      Provide a single, solitary example of this, please.

      Because I’ll tell you what: I went to Audible with the Random House Little Brother audiobook in 2008 and asked them for DRM-free and they replied that they had never done DRM free and would not do DRM-free now.

      Now, Apple *does* have non-commercial spoken-word records as AACs (*not* MP3s) available through iTunes, e.g., various iTunes University recordings. So Apple already has the infrastructure to provide DRM-free spoken word, and to sell AACs. The hypothesis that they would need to write any new code whatsoever is also just wrong.

      Much as I’d like to believe your hypothesis that Apple is so afraid of me that they can’t bear to make money off of my books, I think it’s also wrong. But if you’re right, then you’re saying that the company that controls the single, major retail channel for spoken word recordings uses its position to punish its critics, which leaves me wondering, why are you defending them?

      1. Ok, I’m wrong…I looked and it seems that Audible’s Type 4 Format is ‘MP3*” not actually MP3. I have downloaded things in this format and converted them over to CD without worry in the past, so I took for granted it was an actual CD.

        The fact of having DRM-Free AAC on iTunes means nothing if Amazon’s contract with Apple demands that they put security on it and to do otherwise would mean going around the contract for ONE SINGLE RECORDING. The technology is there, they just don’t care to devote the resources when Amazon is probably saying “Hey Go Give Lipservice To Doctorow And Tell Them We Are Really Trying To Change Our Business Practices”. They probably asked, and Apple said Ok, lets change the contracts and everything else, and Amazon said, thats too much work…Apple Said No…

        Honestly, I’ve had features put into software at Apple because I was nice to them…if I acted like a jerk to them at every opportunity condescending on how they just don’t get ‘it’, I’d probably not care to go to the work either.

        This doesn’t imply being afraid of anyone…its like a gnat in your ear…annoying, but mostly harmless. Still, I’m not so sure if I’d care to do the gnat any favors…

        As for punishing critics? I would say yeah…its alright to punish critics if you by punishing them, it means doing exactly what they were before (and most likely doing so under contract). Its the equivalent of saying Megan Fox is punishing me by not returning all the phone calls and emails asking her on a date…even if I wasn’t one of the internet nerds screaming that I THINK SHE IS TOO SKINNY AND HER ELBOWS WOULD CUT ME and I post a variation on this every day somewhere on the web, I mean, I believe she is purposely punishing me by ignoring my requests…

        Then again, its pretty much like arguing with a wall…

  16. So, you get to go to Apple and get in their face to tell them that they are doing it wrong – on their turf?

    I love the moderators at BB, but positions like this one you make their job kinda hard to do evenhandedly when people decide to get in your face on your turf.

    How is this picket line not just you trolling their sidewalk?

  17. DRM is not a new thing. Rights holders have been building limitations into the media they distribute for a long time, and they aren’t going to stop. Sometimes, the limitations come as a happy byproduct of some other design decision (e.g., moving from four track cassettes to CDs) and other times it is deliberately engineered in as an extra layer (remember computer games with code wheels and in-game copy protection?) Eventually, the DRM goes away, either because consumers won’t buy it, or because they find a way around it. But something else always shows up.

    The real fight against DRM will be won or lost in the legislature and in consumer education. If we can prevent our legislatures from passing (or, if they already have, get them to rescind) DMCA-style protection for DRM and requiring prominent disclosure of any non-obvious copying or usage limitations on all media sold, and if we can raise public awareness about what DRM is and what the consequences of having it are, allowing people to make informed choices (not necessarily the same choices you or I would make, though) then DRM will either become irrelevant or will go away.

    At the point where it comes down to some retailers imposing DRM and others not, you can simply vote with your wallets. What an individual retailer does only starts to matter in a monopoly situation and, as far as I can tell, Apple does not have a monopoly over any kind of media distribution.

    I’d certainly like for Apple to drop DRM from its ITMS offerings. I’ve bought music from them since they dropped DRM, and I’d probably buy other stuff from them if they dropped the DRM on that too. But it’s not like I can only buy from them; I can quite happily play stuff I got elsewhere on my iPhone and my Mac, and that’s exactly what I do.

  18. I take almost anything Cory says about Apple with enough salt to kill a hobbyhorse. Cory had a major snitfit with Apple a few years back and seems to have dedicated a good deal of his time to bashing them whenever, wherever and for whatever. And he still hasn’t presented us with his how-seamless-and-wonderful-my-transition-to-linux (complete with paid support so I won’t have any problems)has been. Chris Tucker nailed it at #4 and is rather more credible.

  19. KidGeezer, your check is in the mail!

    All this talk has brought back memories of stripping protection from C64 apps and discs so that I could just Get Things Done without code wheels and counting words in manuals!

    Between Maverick and SuperSnapShot, any C64 program I owned was stripped, ripped and in many cases tweaked and tuned to my tastes before being saved to a floppy.

    Which reminds me, gotta burn a few iTunes Store purchases to a CD and rip them to MP3.

    No one tell Jobs, lest he send his DRM Enforcement Gundams after me.

  20. Shouldn’t we all at least wait to see what is announced before we all start talking arguing over how much we love or hate it?

    Knowing just how reliable Apple rumours are, we might end up with anything.

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