I have gone back to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to work on a project called Apollo 1201, which will use a combination of code, law, norms and markets to eradicate DRM within a decade: we choose to do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
The details of the project are still under wraps, but in broad strokes, we will use the incredible skills of EFF's lawyers, technologists, and policy specialists to challenge the law that protects DRM, section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and, in so doing, set in motion a chain of events that will discredit the whole idea of designing computers to control their owners, for any purpose.
We're the resistance in the War on General Purpose Computing, and we'll be asking for your help, stay tuned.
In the meantime, as of January, and until further notice, I'm half-time on Boing Boing, and mostly focusing on larger investigative pieces. Please make sure that you don't send suggestions or queries about Boing Boing to me (use this form for suggestions; and see this list for other queries).
For many years, EFF has fought the use of DRM technologies, explaining that such technologies—as well as the laws that support them—impede innovation, security, and basic user rights and expectations, while failing to inhibit copyright infringement. One example of this lose-lose proposition is Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which generally prohibits unlocking "access controls" like DRM. That ban was meant to deter illegal copying of software, but many companies have misused the law to chill competition, free speech, and fair use. Software is in all kinds of devices, from cars to coffee-makers to alarm clocks. If that software is locked down by DRM, tinkering, repairing, and re-using those devices can lead to legal risk.
Section 1201 has also put a dangerous chill on security researchers, who face potential legal penalties for finding and disclosing critical flaws in systems—from smartphones to home automation. As a result, the public gets to find out about compromising vulnerabilities too late, or not at all.
"We've seen DRM misused again and again, whether it's to thwart competition in printer-ink cartridges, to prevent videogame fans from modifying their consoles, or to block consumers from reading the parts' specifications on their own cars," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Cory has an unparalleled ability to show the public how bad copyright policy tramples on everyone's rights."
Doctorow worked for EFF for four years as its European Affairs Coordinator, and in 2007, he won EFF's Pioneer Award for his body of work on digital civil liberties. He's the originator of "Doctorow's Law," which has helped many around the world understand the dangers of DRM: "Anytime someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn't give you the key, they're not doing it for your benefit."