Dan Gillmor's got more to say
about the news that K-cups are getting coffee DRM
and what it means in the wider world: "Just as the police and security agencies are racing deploy all new technologies to spy on everyone – whether the law permits it or not – private industry is racing to retain as much control as possible over the products and services it sells, and thereby control over us."
When you watch Netflix videos in the Chrome browser, the service disables Chrome's developer console, a debugging and programming tool that gives you transparency and control over what your browser is doing. The Hacker News thread explains that this is sometimes done in order to stop an attack called "Self-XSS" that primarily arises on social media sites, where it can cause a browser to leak nominally private information to third parties. But in this case, the "Self-XSS" attack Netflix is worried about is very different: they want to prevent browser owners from consciously choosing to run scripts in the Netflix window that subvert Netflix's restrictions on video.
This is the natural outflow of the pretense that "streaming" exists as a thing that is distinct from "downloading" -- the idea that you can send a stream of bytes to someone else's computer without the computer being able to store those bytes. "Streaming" is at the heart of "rental" business models like Netflix's, and there's nothing wrong with the idea of rental per se. But the only way to attain "rental" with computers is to design computers so that their owners can't give them orders that the landlords disagree with. You have to change the computer and its software so that you can't see what it's doing and can't change what it's doing.
Your browser is a portal to your whole social life, your financial life and your work life, entrusted with the most potentially compromising secrets of your life. Anything that allows third parties to make it harder for you to figure out what the browser is doing, or to prevent it from doing something you don't want, should be a non-starter. As soon as a powerful entity like Netflix comes to depend on -- and insist on -- computers that owners can't control, that company is doing something wrong. Not because rentals are bad, but because taking away owner control from computers is bad.
This is why it's such a big deal that Netflix has convinced Microsoft, Apple, and Google to build user-controlling technology into their browsers, and why it's such a big deal that Microsoft, Apple, and Google have convinced the W3C to standardize this for all devices with HTML5 interfaces. Any time we allow the discussion to be sidetracked into "How can Netflix maximize its revenue by enforcing rental terms?" we're missing the real point, which is, "How can people be sure that their browsers aren't betraying them?"
Netflix disables use of the Chrome developer console (pastebin.com)
I've been thinking about the news that Keurig has added "DRM" to its pod coffee-makers since the story first started doing the rounds a couple of days ago. I've come to the conclusion that while the errand is a foolish one, and the company deserves nothing but contempt for such an anti-competitive move, that there might be a silver lining to this cloud. As I've written recently, there's not a lot of case-law on Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the law that prohibits "circumventing...effective means of access control" to copyrighted works. In the past, we've seen printer companies and garage door opener manufacturers claim that the software in their devices was a "copyrighted work" and that anyone who made a spare part for their products was thus violating 1201. But that was 10 years ago, and it's been a while since there was someone stupid and greedy enough to try that defense.
I think Keurig might just be that stupid, greedy company.
Read the rest
Top Shelf Comix, an extraordinary and daring independent press, has announced a DRM-free comics store
the classic Moore/Campbell collaboration "From Hell"
and the bestselling Nate Powell comics "The March" and "Swallow Me Whole." (Update:
apparently only some of the company's digital releases are DRM free; From Hell is not among them).
I see that the schedule of upcoming digital titles includes some of my favorite Top Shelf titles, including
The Homeland Directive (this will have DRM), Too Cool to be Forgotten (this will have DRM) and The Underwater Welder. I hope they do Lost Girls soon.
Kirsten From Edri writes, "European Digital Rights (EDRi) has launched WePromise.EU to put digital civil rights on the agenda of the European election. The platform is based on a two-sided promise: On the one hand, parliamentary candidates will be able to endorse a ten point 'Charter of Digital Rights' that supports an open digital environment. On the other, citizens across Europe can in turn sign the petition and promise to vote for candidates that have endorsed the Charter."
Read the rest
In my latest Guardian column, What happens with digital rights management in the real world?, I explain why the most important fact about DRM is how it relates to security and disclosure, and not how it relates to fair use and copyright. Most importantly, I propose a shortcut through DRM reform, through a carefully designed legal test-case.
Read the rest
You've only got two days left to take advantage of The Humble Audiobook Bundle, which lets you name your price for a stellar lineup of DRM-free audiobooks (this is practically the only way to get DRM-free audiobooks these days, since Audible, the company that controls 90% of the market, requires that publishers use DRM even if they object to it). The Humble Audibook Bundle selection includes Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses;" William S Burroughs's "Junky;" Meg Cabot's "Abandon;" Dave Eggers's "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius;" Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian," Charles Portis's "True Grit," and many more.
The Humble Audiobook Bundle
Ben writes, "Overdrive, which is one of the main suppliers of downloadable audiobooks to public libraries, announced that it is retiring its DRM-encrusted .WMA formats and pushing everything to DRM-free .mp3s."
This is a big deal. Audiobooks are the last holdouts for DRM in audio, and one company, Audible, controls the vast majority of the market and insists upon DRM in all of its catalog (even when authors and publishers object). Itunes, Audible's major sales channel, also insists on DRM in audiobooks (even where Audible can be convinced to drop it). Audiobooks can cost a lot of money, and are very cumbersome to convert to free/open formats without using illegal circumvention tools. To stay on the right side of the law, you have to burn your audiobooks to many discs (sometimes dozens), then re-rip them, enduring breaks that come mid-word; or you have to play the audio out of your computer's analog audio outputs and redigitize them, which can take days (literally) and results in sound-quality loss.
Overdrive going DRM-free for libraries is a massive shift in this market, and marks a turning point in the relationship between the publishers/creators and the technology companies that act as conduits and retail channels for their work. It's especially great that libraries are getting a break, as they have been royally screwed on electronic books and audiobooks up until now.
Read the rest
There's a funny paradox in rooting your Android phone. Once you take total control over your phone, some apps refuse to run, because they're trying to do something that treats you as untrusted. Now there's a utility
that lets you tell your rooted phone to lie to apps about whether it is rooted. It's both long overdue and a neat demonstration of what it means to be root on a computer.
In the latest Electronic Frontier Foundation post for Copyright Week, Corynne McSherry tackles one of the most troubling aspects of modern copyright law: the idea that even though you've bought a device or a copyrighted work to play on it, they're not really your property. Because of the anti-circumvention rules (which are supposed to backstop "copy protection"), it's illegal to discover how your technology works, to tell other people how their technology works, to add otherwise lawful features to your technology, and to make otherwise lawful uses of your media.
Read the rest
My latest Guardian column, "Digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful," talks about evaluating technology based on more than its features -- rather, on how you relate to it, and how it relates to you. In particular, I try to make the case for giving especial care to what happens when your technology fails:
Read the rest
The work at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on adding DRM to HTML5 is one of the most disturbing developments in the recent history of technology. The W3C's mailing lists have been full of controversy about this ever since the decision was announced.
Most recently, a thread in the restricted media list asked about the requirements for DRM from the studios -- who have pushed for DRM, largely through their partner Netflix -- and discoverd that these requirements are secret.
It's hard to overstate how weird this is.
Read the rest
The rise of
Marvel's Comixology has meant that DRM -- Digital Rights Management -- has become the norm for comics, meaning that your collection is forever locked to Comixology's platform, and it is illegal for anyone except Comixology (and not the artists and writers who created the comics!) to unlock them so that they can be viewed on non-Comixology players.
It's as though Comixology had come up with a scheme to get us to buy our comics in a form that could only be put into special longboxes that they alone can sell -- longboxes that can only be stacked on the shelves they choose, and comics that can only be read under the lightbulbs they authorize, in the chair they approve. Every penny you spend on Comixology increases the cost of your switching away from it -- and increases the extent to which a single company
(now owned by Disney) controls and sets the rules for making, publishing, retailing and reading comics.
Some comics creators are pushing back. Image Comics, publishers of The Walking Dead, announced its DRM-free comics store in July (Image is also noteworthy for its creator-friendly contracts, which are among the best in the industry). Last week, Image put on a one-day comics expo in San Francisco where it featured the new DRM-free titles coming to its store, and Wired rounded up seven amazing-looking stories that you'll be able to buy without selling your soul.
Image's creator-friendly policies have attracted some pretty amazing talent, like Grant Morrison, Jamie McKelvie, Michael Chabon, and many others. But the one I'm most intrigued by is Bitch Planet, from Kelly Sue Deconnick:
Read the rest
On Practical Machinst, there's a fascinating thread about the manufacturer's lockdown on a high-priced, high-end Mori Seiki NV5000 A/40 CNC mill. The person who started the thread owns the machine outright, but has discovered that if he moves it at all, a GPS and gyro sensor package in the machine automatically shuts it down and will not allow it to restart until they receive a manufacturer's unlock code.
Effectively, this means that machinists' shops can't rearrange their very expensive, very large tools to improve their workflow from job to job without getting permission from the manufacturer (which can take a month!), even if their own the gear.
Read the rest