Boing Boing 

Renault ships a brickable car with battery DRM that you're not allowed to own


You can't buy a battery for the new Renault Zoe. Instead, you have to rent it. And if you stop making payments, the battery's DRM will prevent you from recharging it. It's part of a larger product strategy through which the Zoe collects huge amounts of data on your driving and ships it all back to the manufacturer.

Just what the world needed: a car you're not allowed to own, and which you can't use anymore if you lose your job and can't pay the monthly battery rental fee. And if Renault's battery provider goes out of business, your Renault is bricked.

DRM in Cars Will Drive Consumers Crazy

Pirate MEP hosting discussion on DRM in HTML5, Tues Oct 15

Swedish Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament Amelia Andersdotter sez, "I'm organising a panel in the European parliament on the topic of DRM in the HTML5 standards because it's clearly a politically contentious issue. I see no way in which DRM in HTML5 will not worsen the lives of individuals and technology users in the EU: we are already in an extremely bad place with respect to cross-border access to culture, licensing, libraries, services and individuals. So that is a political mess that I think it is our political and democratic prerogative to be sorting out in the law, and through politics, before some technical people with, granted, strong financial backing, start mucking about with the users' primary tool to reach the internet. There are some discussions political people should be taking, and other decisions that technical people should be taking."

Read the rest

W3C's DRM for HTML5 sets the stage for jailing programmers, gets nothing in return

An excellent editorial by Simon St. Laurent on O'Reilly Programming asks what the open Web has gained from the World Wide Web Consortium's terrible decision to add DRM to Web-standards. As St Laurent points out, the decision means that programmers are now under threat of fines or imprisonment for making and improving Web-browsers in ways that displease Hollywood -- and in return, the W3C has extracted exactly zero promises of a better Web for users or programmers.

Read the rest

Amazon requires publishers to use Kindle DRM


A leaked Amazon ebook contract [PDF] shows that Amazon's default terms for ebook publishers is that they must use DRM, unless they can convince Amazon to leave it off.

Like most DRM vendors -- Apple and Google, for example -- Amazon spends a lot of time implying and flat-out stating that it only uses DRM because the big dumb media companies require it of them. The reality is that DRM's primary beneficiary is the DRM vendor. Once your book is sold with Amazon's DRM on it, only Amazon can give your readers permission to move them out of the Kindle jail and onto another device of your choosing. Of course Amazon wants to force copyright holders and creators to use its DRM -- it's a one-stop way of converting the writer's customer into Amazon's customer. Forever.

Remember: Any time someone puts a lock on something of yours and won't give you the key, that lock is not there for your benefit.

Read the rest

DRM standards, the harmonica version


As the Internet comes to grips with the news that the World Wide Web Consortium has decided to press ahead with DRM in HTML5, here's a timely strip from the Flea Snobbery webcomic (excerpted above).

Harmonica (Thanks, Guido!)

Firefox bug: "Pledge never to implement HTML5 DRM"

Chris Sherlock has filed a bug against Firefox in Mozilla's bugzilla bug-tracker, entitled "Pledge never to implement HTML5 DRM." It's an interesting way of using the open/transparent development protest to allow Web developers to voice their opinion on the World Wide Web's terrible, awful decision to standardize DRM for browsers. As the W3C's overseer for HTML5 has written, the only reason for DRM in HTML5 is to prevent legal innovation, not to stop piracy.

Read the rest

Lego robot that strips DRM off Kindle books

Peter Purgathofer, an associate professor at Vienna University of Technology, built a Lego Mindstorms robot that presses "next page" on his Kindle repeatedly while it faces his laptop's webcam. The cam snaps a picture of each screen and saves it to a folder that is automatically processed through an online optical character recognition program. The result is an automated means of redigitizing DRM-crippled ebooks in a clear digital format. It's clunky compared to simply removing the DRM using common software, but unlike those DRM-circumvention tools, this setup does not violate the law.

Read the rest

Cross a border, lose your ebooks

Jim O'Donnell was at a library conference in Singapore when his Ipad's Google Play app asked him to update it. This was the app through which he had bought 30 to 40 ebooks, and after the app had updated, it started to re-download them. However, Singapore is not one of the countries where the Google Play bookstore is active, so it stopped downloading and told him he was no longer entitled to his books.

It's an odd confluence of travel, updates, and location-checking, but it points out just how totally, irretrievably broken the idea of DRM and region-controls for ebooks is.

Read the rest

Pig and the Box goes Public Domain


MCM sez, "It's been 7 years since I released The Pig and the Box, a CC-licensed anti-DRM fable for kids. It was a fun experiment back then, and the experiment continues today: the whole book (and source files that went into making it) are now public domain. Lolipop Jones for all!"

Teaching computers teaches us how little we understand about ourselves

My latest Locus column is Teaching Computers Shows Us How Little We Understand About Ourselves, an essay about how ideas we think of as simple and well-understood -- names, families, fairness in games -- turn out to be transcendentally complicated when we try to define them in rule-based terms for computers. I'm especially happy with how this came out.

Systems like Netflix and Amazon Kindle try to encode formal definitions of "family" based on assumptions about where you live -- someone is in your immediate family if you share a roof -- how you're genetically related -- someone is immediate family if you have a close blood-tie -- how you're legally related -- someone is in your family if the government recognizes your relationship -- or how many of you there are -- families have no more than X people in them. All of these limitations are materially incorrect in innumerable situations.

What's worse, by encoding errors about the true shape of family in software, companies and their programmers often further victimize the already-victimized -- for example, by not recognizing the familial relationship between people who have been separated by war, or people whose marriage is discriminated against by the state on the basis of religion or sexual orientation, or people whose families have been torn apart by violence.

The ambiguity that is inherent in our human lives continues to rub up against our computerized need for rigid categories in ways small and large. Facebook wants to collapse our relationships between one another according to categories that conform more closely to its corporate strategy than reality -- there's no way to define your relationship with your boss as "Not a friend, but I have to pretend he is."

Teaching Computers Shows Us How Little We Understand About Ourselves

Image Comics launches a DRM-free online comic store


The amazing and iconoclastic Image Comics (already famous for its creator-friendly, author-owned posture) is launching a DRM-free online comics store to challenge Marvel's super-DRMed, you-don't-really-own-your-comics Comixology. I'm so glad to about this, especially as it's coming from Image, who publish some of my favorite comics (including The Walking Dead). And just listen to how they talk about it:

“My stance on piracy is that piracy is bad for bad entertainment,” Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson told Wired in an exclusive interview. “There’s a pretty strong correlation with things that suck not being greatly pirated, while things that are successful have a higher piracy rate. If you put out a good comic book, even if somebody does download it illegally, if they enjoy it then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don’t want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the ’70s, and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s happening now.”

And while Image comic books will still be offered for sale on ComiXology, iBooks, and every other platform where it was previously available, Image’s Director of Business Development Ron Richards says that offering the direct-to-consumer downloads is important. “There’s something to be said for the ownership factor. If readers purchase a book on ComiXology, that may be their library [on the service] but from what I understand that could be revoked. And God forbid, if ComiXology goes under or their data center has an earthquake all their hard drives go away — then you’ve got nothing.”

For the First Time, You Can Actually Own the Digital Comics You Buy [Laura Hudson/Wired]

Games, at some length

Edge Magazine's Jason Killingsworth interviewed me at some length about my history with videogames, from Apple ][+ to Atari to arcades, with notes on Zynga, DRM, piracy and the Humble Bundles.

Having your account frozen at Amazon means losing ongoing access to your ebooks

A woman who placed a big computer order at Amazon had her account frozen while they tried to verify her credit-card, a process that went horribly awry (they demanded that she fax them her bank-statement, which she did, eight times, but they never got it, and who knows where those eight copies ended up). As a result, she is no longer able to access her Amazon account, including her Kindle ebooks. She can still presumably read them on her existing devices (assuming they don't remotely wipe them), but can't activate any new devices and until and unless she resolves this bizarre situation, her books will disappear forever when her Kindle breaks or its battery wears out.

That's right: if you order too many computers from Amazon, they might take away your books.

Amazon Cancels My $6,000 Order Because It Doesn’t Know How To Use A Fax Machine

Xbox One will divide EU into different markets

Microsoft's new XBox One will ship with region-locks that divide the world; yours will only work if it connects to the DRM server from one of 21 selected countries. The countries include some, but not all, EU nations, which is almost certainly illegal under the EU's strict common market rules. Here's hoping that Redmond gets a punitive fine big enough to clobber the program and scare the shit out of any other company contemplating similar idiocy.

Notably this "region coding" splits up the EU - most countries are in but some are out - and it also excludes Poland, the development home of The Witcher game series, a title Microsoft touted in its E3 launch presentation. Yes, that's right, the developers of this Xbox launch title will not be able to play the game they developed. I generally find it wise to assume that Microsoft are not stupid, but whatever their plan is, it's eluding me here. Sony was quick to announce that its competitive product, the PS4, would not be region-locked.

MSFT to Region-Lock Xbox One on Launch [Alan Wexelblat/Copyfight]

W3C insider explains what's wrong with cramming DRM into HTML5 - and what you can do about it

I've written before here about the move to get the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) to cram digital rights management (DRM) into the next version of HTML, called HTML5. This week, EFF filed a formal objection with the group, setting out some of the risks to the open Web from standardizing DRM in the Web's core technical specs. Now, writing in the Guardian, W3C staffer Dr Harry Halpin makes an important, well-thought-through case for keeping DRM out of the HTML5 standard. Haplin's got an invaluable insider view of the "crisis of representation" that let a few giant companies shift the most open, most vital standards body involved with the Web into the position of standardizing ways to have your computer and browser take control away from you, and to set the stage for a ban on free and open source software in Web browsers and computers.

The most important part is what you can do to help shift the direction of the W3C back towards the open Web:

The Advisory Committee of the W3C is composed of companies as well as universities and non-profits. If your employer is a W3C member, now is the time to open the discussion internally with your management. Questions over whether DRM should be part of the HTML Working Group or part of another Working Group - or outside of W3C entirely! - are dealt with in the review of charters by Advisory Committee representatives. It's at this level that the EFF objected to EME in HTML. If your organisation is not a member, your organisation can join the W3C. W3C membership fees have been adapted to organisations large and small, for-profit and non-profit, start-ups, and for organisations in developing countries.

If you work for a W3C member, now is the time to join the HTML Working Group. The HTML Working Group are working through the technical details of Encrypted Media Extensions in the HTML Working Group Media Task Force. Also, the HTML WG has a very liberal Invited Expert policy to allow participation by those domain experts who don't work for W3C member organisations. Questions and objections that go beyond the technical content and charter are generally considered out of scope.

Questions that go beyond technically working on EME should be aimed at the Restricted Media Community Group, which anyone can join. Unlike Working Groups, W3C Community Groups provide a forum for discussion but do not themselves publish standards. Disappointingly, so far the discussion has been pretty weak, but this Community Group is monitored by many people deeply involved in the DRM debates.

Also, W3C Working Groups such as the HTML Working Group take technical comments from anyone on the entire web. Public comments can be made by ordinary users; the Working Group must formally address these comments if the comment is within the scope of the charter and done before the standard is complete. That means you can in public comment on EME or any other standard like the cryptographic primitives as pursued by the Web Cryptography Working Group, which can be used to exchange private messages between human rights activists as well as be part of Netflix's plan to switch to HTML5.

DRM and HTML5: it's now or never for the Open Web

EFF files formal objection against DRM's inclusion in HTML5

Regular readers will know that there's a hard press to put DRM in the next version of HTML, which is being standardized at the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3), and that this has really grave potential consequences for the open Web that the WC3 has historically fought to build.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has joined the WC3 and filed a formal objection to this work item; EFF's Danny O'Brien has written an excellent explanation of what's at stake:

EFF is not the only group concerned here. When EME was finally ultimately declared in-scope for the HTML working group, the decision was made by W3C’s executive team, despite discontent among key standards developers and the subsequent protest of more than twenty thousand technologists and groups, including EFF. While disappointment at that decision outside the W3C has been widespread, the debate on the problems of DRM for that the web platform within the consortium has been muted. Its strategic advisory committee of W3C members has until now not spoken on the decision, despite many of that community having privately expressed concern.

EFF has a lot of experience working within these kinds of standards processes in an attempt to combat the effects of DRM. In 2002, we joined the activities of Broadcast Protection Discussion Group to highlight the dangers of its proposed digital TV DRM standard, which briefly became the government-mandated Broadcast Flag before being struck down in the courts. Subsequently we participated in Europe’s Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) project, as they considered implementing imposing similar controls on European consumers. This new W3C standard comes from exactly same roots: Hollywood's desire to supress innovation and quash othe wishes of individual computer owners.

The entertainment industry's threats to impose control remain the same: if you don’t do as we say, you won’t get our premium content, and your technology will be rendered irrelevant. As we’ve seen with both music, and digital TV, the threat is empty. Commercial content goes where the users are. And users go where their rights and desires are best respected. We think that the guardian of those rights on the Web should be the W3C, and we’re happy to be help it ensure that remains the case.

Cory's Sense About Science lecture

I gave the annual Sense About Science lecture last week in London, and The Guardian recorded and podcasted it (MP3). It's based on the Waffle Iron Connected to a Fax Machine talk I gave at Re:publica in Berlin the week before.

Associated Press quietly nukes its dumber-than-dumb DRM-for-news system


Do you remember the Associated Press's 2009 announcement that they had discovered a magic-beans technology that would let them stop people from quoting the news unless they paid for license fees (for quotes as short as 12 words, yet!)?

Didn't work.

Since the launch... we heard absolutely nothing about NewsRight. There was a launch, with its newspaper backers claiming it was some huge moment for newspapers, and then nothing.

Well, until now, when we find out that NewsRight quietly shut down. Apparently, among its many problems, many of the big name news organization that owned NewsRight wouldn't even include their own works as part of the "license" because they feared cannibalizing revenue from other sources. So, take legacy companies that are backwards looking, combine it with a licensing scheme based on no legal right, a lack of any actual added value and (finally) mix in players who are scared of cannibalizing some cash cow... and it adds up to an easy failure.

AP's Attempt At DRM'ing The News Shuts Down [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]

(Image: AP: Protect, Point, Pay)

New law will fix the DMCA, make jailbreaking, unlocking and interoperability legal - your help needed!

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) have introduced a landmark technology bill called The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 [PDF] that reforms the way our devices our regulated. It fixes a glaring hole in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), changing the rules so that you are allowed to remove restrictions and locks from your devices provided that you don't violate other laws (as it stands, removing a lock, even to do something legal, like installing unapproved software on your iPhone or change carriers, is banned by the DMCA). The bill clarifies that security researchers don't violate the law by publishing information about flaws in the devices we trust and depend upon, and makes it legal to break "lock-out codes" that stop mechanics from fixing cars.

This is a watershed moment in 21st century technology law, and it's desperately needed. Every day that goes by sees us more dependent on devices that are increasingly designed to be as opaque as possible -- devices made by companies whose business-model treats customers as adversaries who undermine profits when they turn to third parties for software, repairs and services. It is only the presence of the terrible rules in the DMCA that makes this business attractive -- without these rules, technology locks would be quickly broken in the marketplace and competition -- as well as transparency -- would thrive. If you want to be sure that the devices that fill your rooms, your pockets -- and increasingly, your body -- are well-behaved and trustworthy, please support this bill.

FixTheDMCA.org and a broad coalition of groups are calling on Americans to write to their representatives in support of this bill. Until now, almost all technology activism has been reactive, fighting against bad rules. We finally have the chance to make some good rules, to establish a positive agenda for freedom, trustworthiness and transparency in the devices that form the nervous system of the 21st century.


"The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013" has 3 parts:

- It amends Section 1201 to make it clear that it is completely legal to "circumvent" if there is no copyright infringement.

- It legalizes tools and services that enable circumvention as long as they are intended for non-infringing uses.

- It changes Copyright Law to specify that unlocking cell phones is not copyright infringement.


You can read the full text of the bill here.

Finally, there's a bill in Congress that legalizes cell phone unlocking and fixes the DMCA.

Will Wright criticizes Sim City DRM, feels "bad for the team"

Ta-Nahesi Coates on Sim City's DRM fiasco: "Even the game's creator agrees I shouldn't have to play with others in order to play at all." He's riffing on Steve Peterson's interview with the legendary designer , where Wright has few good words for the medium: "No game designer ever went wrong by overestimating the narcissism of their players."

Humble Double-Fine Bundle: name your price for an amazing Double Fine games bundle

The Humble Indie Bundle is back again, with the The Humble Double Fine Bundle: name your price for three DoubleFine games, pay more than the average and get a fourth, pay $35 or more and get backer access to the Broken Age Kickstarter, and at $70, you get a t-shirt, too! It's all DRM-free and cross platform (Win/Lin/Mac); as always, you can earmark some or all of your money to EFF and/or Child's Play, the bundle's two nominated charities.

The Humble Double Fine Bundle (pay what you want and help charity) (via Waxy)

Publishing should fight ebook retailers for more data

I've got a guest column in the new edition of The Bookseller, the trade magazine for the UK publishing industry. It's called "Tangible Assets," and it points out that of all the fights that publishing has had with the ebook sector -- DRM, pricing, promotion -- the one they've missed is access to data. Whatever else is going on with publishers and Amazon, Google, Apple, et al, the fact that publishing knows almost nothing about its ebook customers and has no realtime view into its ebook sales; and that the ebook channel knows almost everything, instantaneously, is untenable and unsustainable.

I just came off a US tour for my YA novel Homeland, which Tor Teen published in the US in February, and which Titan will publish this coming September in the UK. I went to 23 cities in 25 days, a kind of bleary and awesome whirlwind where I got to see friends from across the USA—Internet People to a one—for about 8.5 minutes each, in a caffeinated, exhausted rush.

Inevitably, I had this conversation: "How's the book doing?" and I got to say: "Oh, awesome! It's a New York Times and Indienet bestseller!" (It stayed on the NYT list for four weeks, so I got to say this a lot). And then, always: "So, how many copies does that come out to?" And my answer was always, "No one knows."

This is where the Internet People began to boggle. "No one knows?"

"Oh, there's some Nielsen reporting from the tills of participating booksellers—you can get that if you spend a fortune. But there's no realtime e-book numbers given to the publishers. We'll all find out exactly how the book performed in a couple of months."

And that's where they lost their minds. The irate squawks that emerged from their throats were audible for miles. "You mean Amazon, Apple and Google knows exactly who comes to their stores, how they find their way to your books, where they're coming in from, how many devices they use and when, and they don't tell the publishers?"

Tangible assets

Debunking the HTML5 DRM myths


Kyre sez, "The Free Culture Foundation has posted a thorough response to the most common and misinformed defenses of the W3C's Extended Media Extensions (EME) proposal to inject DRM into HTML5. They join the EFF and FSF in a call to send a strong message to the W3C that DRM in HTML5 undermines the W3C's self-stated mission to make the benefits of the Web 'available to all people, whatever their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability.' The FCF counters the three most common myths by unpacking some quotes which explain that 1.) DRM is not about protecting copyright. That is a straw man. DRM is about limiting the functionality of devices and selling features back in the form of services. 2.) DRM in HTML5 doesn't obsolete proprietary, platform-specific browser plug-ins; it encourages them. 3.) the Web doesn't need big media; big media needs the Web. There is also a new coalition of 27 internet freedom companies and groups standing up to the W3C."

Don’t let the myths fool you: the W3C’s plan for DRM in HTML5 is a betrayal to all Web users.

EFF, FSF, Creative Commons and many others ask W3C to reject DRM conspiracy

John from the Free Software Foundation sez,

Hollywood is making yet another attempt to lock down the Web. Undeterred by SOPA's failure, Hollywood is conspiring with tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Netflix to try to influence the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). A proposal currently under consideration at W3C would *build accommodation for Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) into HTML itself.* The W3C's job is to keep the Web working for everyone; building DRM into HTML would be a dramatic departure from the NGO's mission.

Today a coalition, organized by the Free Software Foundation and including EFF and Creative Commons, released a joint letter to the W3C condemning the proposal. The coalition is also asking Web users to send a message to W3C by signing a petition>.

The coalition says, "Ratifying EME would be an abdication of responsibility; it would harm interoperability, enshrine nonfree software in W3C standards and perpetuate oppressive business models. It would fly in the face of the principles that the W3C cites as key to its mission and it would cause an array of serious problems for the billions of people who use the Web."

I wrote about this in detail in the Guardian in March.

Keep DRM out of Web standards -- Reject the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal (Thanks, John!)

What problem are we trying to solve in the copyright wars?

My latest Guardian column is "Copyright wars are damaging the health of the internet" and it looks at what we really need from proposed solutions to the copyright wars:

I've sat through more presentations about the way to solve the copyright wars than I've had hot dinners, and all of them has fallen short of the mark. That's because virtually everyone with a solution to the copyright wars is worried about the income of artists, while I'm worried about the health of the internet.

Oh, sure, I worry about the income of artists, too, but that's a secondary concern. After all, practically everyone who ever set out to earn a living from the arts has failed – indeed, a substantial portion of those who try end up losing money in the bargain. That's nothing to do with the internet: the arts are a terrible business, one where the majority of the income accrues to a statistically insignificant fraction of practitioners – a lopsided long tail with a very fat head. I happen to be one of the extremely lucky lotto winners in this strange and improbable field – I support my family with creative work – but I'm not parochial enough to think that my destiny and the destiny of my fellow 0.0000000000000000001 percenters are the real issue here.

What is the real issue here? Put simply, it's the health of the internet.

Copyright wars are damaging the health of the internet

DRM-free label for all your DRM-free stuff

Kxra sez, "Defective by Design, the Free Software Foundation's campaign against DRM has just released a new graphic to mark DRM-free works on the web. The DRM-free label quickly communicates the DRM-free status of files, increases in value as more distributors adopt the label, and adds value to being DRM-free by linking to an informational page about DRM. The logo is already in use by O'Reilly, Momentum, the Pragmatic Bookshelf, and Magnatune. It is available in a few different styles with source files under CC-BY-SA 3.0."

New and improved label for DRM-free files (Thanks, Kxra!)

EFF blasts plans to build DRM into HTML5

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has weighed in on the growing controversy over the proposal to build DRM into HTML5, the next version of the standard language for building Web pages and applications. Staff technologists Seth Schoen and Peter Eckersley have written a great essay explaining how this kind of work is totally incompatible with the mission of the W3C and how its proponents' insistence that this isn't really DRM are just hollow jokes:

The EME proposal suffers from many of these problems because it explicitly abdicates responsibilty on compatibility issues and let web sites require specific proprietary third-party software or even special hardware and particular operating systems (all referred to under the generic name "content decryption modules", or CDMs, and none of them specified by EME). EME's authors keep saying that what CDMs are, and do, and where they come from is totally outside of the scope of EME, and that EME itself can't be thought of as DRM because not all CDMs are DRM systems. Yet if the client can't prove it's running the particular proprietary thing the site demands, and hence doesn't have an approved CDM, it can't render the site's content. Perversely, this is exactly the reverse of the reason that the World Wide Web Consortium exists in the first place. W3C is there to create comprehensible, publicly-implementable standards that will guarantee interoperability, not to facilitate an explosion of new mutually-incompatible software and of sites and services that can only be accessed by particular devices or applications. But EME is a proposal to bring exactly that dysfunctional dynamic into HTML5, even risking a return to the "bad old days, before the Web" of deliberately limited interoperability.

Because it's clear that the open standards community is extremely suspicious of DRM and its interoperability consequences, the proposal from Google, Microsoft and Netflix claims that "[n]o 'DRM' is added to the HTML5 specification" by EME. This is like saying, "we're not vampires, but we are going to invite them into your house".

Proponents also seem to claim that EME is not itself a DRM scheme. But specification author Mark Watson admitted that "Certainly, our interest is in [use] cases that most people would call DRM" and that implementations would inherently require secrets outside the specification's scope. It's hard to maintain a pretense that EME is about anything but DRM.

Defend the Open Web: Keep DRM Out of W3C Standards (via /.)

See also:

* HTML5's overseer says DRM's true purpose is to prevent legal forms of innovation

* Why Tim Berners-Lee is wrong about DRM in HTML5

WH Smith automatically adding DRM to DRM-free ebooks, but there's an interim solution while they fix it

The UK Bookseller WH Smith has been experiencing some kind of bug in its ebook store, whereby it adds DRM to all of the Kobo ebooks it sells, even the ones that are supposed to be DRM-free (like mine). Apparently, this is a metadata-parsing issue. I spoke to my agent and publisher, and WH Smith/Kobo came up with a good workaround while they fix the bug:

Kobo/WH Smith have come up with a solution that enables your e-books to still be on sale. The DRM wording has been manually removed from the WH Smith site and when readers click to purchase the book it forwards them to the Kobo site where it clearly states the e-books are DRM-free until WH Smiths is able to update their website which will be at the end of April.

Little Brother [eBook]

How the Digital Millennium Copyright Act punishes people with disabilities

Blake E. Reid's "The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Is Even Worse Than You Think" is a potted history of the ways that the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has confounded the efforts of disability-rights groups to make media more accessible to people with various disabilities. The Copyright Office holds hearings every three years to establish temporary exemptions to the DMCA, but this has been totally inadequate as a way of dealing with this problem:

I’m a teaching fellow and staff attorney at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation clinic, where I work on media and accessibility issues. In 2011, my students and I filed a new exemption request on behalf of the nonprofit TDI (which advocates for equal media access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing) to allow researchers to develop advanced closed captioning and video description features to help make video programming more accessible—development hindered by the DMCA. (Gallaudet University and the Participatory Culture Foundation also signed the petition.) Crowdsourcing, customized user interfaces, error correction, and other innovations could help realize the goal of equal access to video programming on the Internet—a goal enshrined by Congress and President Obama in the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.

But our proposal faced opposition from a coalition of copyright lobbyists who insisted, for example, that errors in closed captions were a “mere inconvenience” to people with disabilities and that developing accessibility features might even constitute copyright infringement. In the end, the librarian issued an exemption, but it was so riddled with caveats that it was difficult to identify precisely what accessibility research it was intended to enable, if any.

We also proposed a general exemption for accessibility technology, urging the librarian to take action in light of the widespread and demonstrated negative impact of the DMCA on the ability for people with disabilities to experience copyrighted works on equal terms. The Copyright Office did not even solicit comment on the proposal, and the librarian effectively ignored it.

Requiring nonprofit disability groups to ask permission from the government every three years and navigate a complex legal minefield to implement urgently needed accessibility technology is not compatible with progressive, conservative, or libertarian values; the goal of equal access for people with disabilities; or common sense. Even the librarian admitted in 2010 that the DMCA exemption process “is at best ill-suited to address the larger challenges of access.”

Especially poignant is the closing quote from Helen Keller: "Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book-friends."

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Is Even Worse Than You Think (via Freedom to Tinker)

HTML5's overseer says DRM's true purpose is to prevent legal forms of innovation

Ian Hickson, the googler who is overseeing the HTML5 standard at the W3C, has written a surprisingly frank piece on the role of DRM. As he spells out in detail, the point of DRM isn't to stop illegal copying, it's to stop legal forms of innovation from taking place. He shows that companies that deploy DRM do so in order to prevent individuals, groups and companies from innovating in ways that disrupt their profitability:

The purpose of DRM is to give content providers leverage against creators of playback devices.

Content providers have leverage against content distributors, because distributors can't legally distribute copyrighted content without the permission of the content's creators. But if that was the only leverage content producers had, what would happen is that users would obtain their content from those content distributors, and then use third-party content playback systems to read it, letting them do so in whatever manner they wanted.

Here are some examples:

A. Paramount make a movie. A DVD store buys the rights to distribute this movie from Paramount, and sells DVDs. You buy the DVD, and want to play it. Paramount want you to sit through some ads, so they tell the DVD store to put some ads on the DVD labeled as "unskippable".

Without DRM, you take the DVD and stick it into a DVD player that ignores "unskippable" labels, and jump straight to the movie.

This is the first third of my recent Guardian column, What I wish Tim Berners-Lee understood about DRM, but there's two other important points to make, apropos the W3C:

Read the rest