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Gamers, EFF Speak Out Against DRM 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-bullets-won't-kill-it dept.
Last month, we discussed news that the FTC would be examining DRM to see if it needs regulation. They set up a town hall meeting for late March, and part of that effort involved requesting comments from potential panelists and the general public. Ars Technica reports that responses to the request have been overwhelmingly against DRM, and primarily from gamers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation also took the opportunity to speak out strongly against DRM, saying flat out that "DRM does not prevent piracy," and suggesting that its intended purpose is "giving some industry leaders unprecedented power to influence the pace and nature of innovation and upsetting the traditional balance between the interests of copyright owners and the interests of the public." Their full public comments (PDF) describe several past legal situations supporting that point, such as Sony's fight against mod chips, Blizzard's DMCA lawsuit against an alternative to, and Sony's XCP rootkit.
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Gamers, EFF Speak Out Against DRM

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  • Wrong battle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @11:47AM (#26863467)
    Why bother to fight DRM? DRM is not the problem, the problem is that distributing DRM workarounds is illegal. Instead, why not go after the root problem, the DMCA?
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @11:51AM (#26863489)

    "DRM does not prevent piracy"

    Which implies that piracy is an undesirable thing. Therefore we shouldn't be focused on DRM as the sole solution to the piracy problem, but as part of a larger set of steps to eliminate the problem.

    Either piracy is a bad thing which ought to be dealt with, or it is a good thing which should be encouraged.

    The EFF's point (as is typical for them) is full of rhetoric but fails to truly understand the issue. It's a shame they are on the right side because they aren't really helping.

  • RIGHT battle! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CarpetShark (865376) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:07PM (#26863635)

    Why bother to fight DRM? DRM is not the problem, the problem is that distributing DRM workarounds is illegal. Instead, why not go after the root problem, the DMCA?

    I really wish people would stop the arrogant assumption that they can always work around whatever DRM manufacturers create, even when they all get together to work against the public. Breaking cryptography is HARD. Some crypto is UNBREAKABLE in any reasonable amount of time, using any known techniques. The UK's Sky TV, for instance, has been using the same crypto on their satellite broadcasts for years now, with no cracks available.

  • Re:Fuck Spore (Score:2, Insightful)

    by El Jynx (548908) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:16PM (#26863703)
    They're protecting their interests, of course. And like most firms guided by anal retentive lawyers, they don't know how to react decently, only "legally". But I think the concept of login / auth is fine. One might expound upon the idea by combining it with a shell of some sort - say, a VM - which contains only the game you want to play, and whatever security software it needs, and nothing else. That would prevent (or at least slow) hackers from cracking it up again.

    But the root of all greevil is of course, humanity: hacking is too easy to learn, and the kids have the IQ far before they have the sense of responsibility. Try souping up education for a change. It's something that has to be relearned by EACH fewkin' generation! Our teachers should be well-paid and well-respected, instead they're downtrodden. And we think it's strange so many kids are so mentally fucked up? Unlimited corporate economics is at fault here, simple as that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:19PM (#26863719)

    Not necessarily. For piracy to happen, you only need a few people able to go around DRM and they can distribute the result then. However, majority of people can't circumvent it and they are screwed if the servers go down. Unless they pirate it, which is illegal.

    Something can well be ineffective against piracy and hard to circumvent for Joe Sixpack.

    But to article... EFF speaks against DRM. News at eleven.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:20PM (#26863731)

    From the EFF submission:

    "DRM is touted as an effective means
    to restrict copyright infringement, yet evidence continues to mount that DRM not only
    does little to inhibit unauthorized copying, it may actually encourage it"

    Sounds to me like they're not only calling it ineffective, but counterproductive.

  • Re:Wrong battle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:29PM (#26863769) Homepage

    I don't think it's really the wrong battle. The big problem with DRM is that it arguably means that you're being sold a defective product. You're being sold something that's designed to break and ceases to serve its purpose under some circumstances.

    I don't want to get into the particular argument here whether products with DRM are always defective, but it seems like a step in exactly the right direction for the government to recognize that DRM *can* constitute a defect in the product. Once there is some sense that DRM is not always valid, that it's possible for DRM to make a product so defective that they should be barred from selling it, then we can begin to talk about what, exactly, is "fair".

    Personally, I don't think DRM is always awful. For example, companies putting DRM on movie rentals rather than movie sales seems fair. Although I didn't think I'd like Steam, once I tried it, it seemed to be a pretty reasonable use of DRM. In that particular situation, I view it this way: I've agreed to sign into a service before playing games, and in return, I have copies of my games hosted such that I have access to them wherever I want.

    And I'm not sure where you draw the line on what's "fair" on DRM; I know plenty of people who just thing it's always bad. However, it would be a big win for consumers, for the government at least to recognize that it's not always acceptable. I would at least like to see a law that says that, if you're selling (not renting) products with DRM that checks against some server, then if you ever shut that server down, you are responsible for making available the means to permanently remove that DRM.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:38PM (#26863817) Homepage

    The whole copyright agreement is to allow exclusive distribution rights to specific material or content for a limited amount of time, after which the works would be released to the public domain.

    So far, the industry has managed to have copyright duration extended to unreasonable durations increasing the likelihood that after the copyright term expires, it will no longer be available for access or distribution. But that isn't harmful enough. Now they want to keep the works locked up in an encryption scheme that will likely make copyrighted materials extinct long before the copyright term expires as no one will be able to access it after the term expires.

    This is a complete and total breech of the copyright agreement with the people of any given nation that respects copyright under law.

  • Re:Wrong battle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by M1rth (790840) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:41PM (#26863835)

    The DMCA wasn't, in itself, a bad idea.

    You're joking, right? The DMCA was a horrid idea, just like the eternal "copyright extensions" (which should have been unconstitutional as ex post facto law changes anyways) the content cartels have been buying constantly.

    Think about it. Mickey Mouse - or at least Steamboat Willie, the cartoon - should have passed into the public domain DECADES ago. Meanwhile, Disney rapes and pillages the public domain with impunity; if you want to make an animated or live-action Snow White, or Beauty and the Beast, or anything else they've already done be prepared for their army of lawyers to start screaming "it's too similar, shut them down" even if you follow the original plotlines of the story/book in question.

    What happened was that there was no attempt made to stop companies misusing it

    Bullshit. DRM rapes the public domain AND tries to take away the fair-use rights of consumers at the same time.

    Under fair use, I have the right to make a backup copy of something I purchased. There are MANY reasons to do this - fire/flood concerns, degradation of the original media (DVD's scratch, tapes wear out, etc), and of course the ever-present Small Children and My Dog That Likes To Chew On Things problems.

    Under fair use, I also have the right to space-shift and time-shift content. Broadcast over the airwaves, but I'm out to dinner? No problem. Set a VCR up with a timer, watch it later. Archive it for posterity. Want to convert it for iPod, or PSP, or something else that's portable? I have the right to do so. The next round of "DRM" will be trying to push the so-called "broadcast flag" into the shortly-only-available-variety Digital TV broadcasts, which will require either (a) a recorder that ignores the flag or (b) the goodwill of the broadcaster. This is a fundamental shift that will wholly strip away people's ability to, say, record the sunday Packers game for later because they're busy volunteering as an adult chaperon for a church retreat.

    With DRM, I am prevented from exercising my fair-use rights for perfectly legitimate reasons. Prior to the DMCA, if I could figure out a way around it (such as a Macrovision Stripper for VHS), I was able to get my rights back.

    After the DMCA, no dice. I committed a "crime" doing what was necessary to exercise my legal right to safeguard what I had purchased.

    The DMCA itself was a bad idea. Anyone who says differently needs to be slapped repeatedly.

  • Re:RIGHT battle! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phulshof (204513) <> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:49PM (#26863903) Homepage

    Please do not confuse DRM with standard encryption techniques. Normally, encryption is used between two or more parties to keep one or more other parties from reading the encrypted material. DRM, or TPM to be more precise, is used to keep the recipient of the material from copying it, while at the same time allow them to read it (otherwise they would never buy it). As such, any DRM that people want cracked will be cracked. I think your example says more about Sky TV than about their encryption technology. :)

    DRM is a failure in that it provides the would be attacker with the message, the cypher, and the key. They just try to hide those last two, which is no true basis for protecting material.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:55PM (#26863949)

    The politicians won't listen. Their ears will be plugged with earplugs made out of the lobbying money from the media conglomerates. They won't see a problem because consumers continue to buy and buy regardless of DRM in 90% of cases, and corporations continue to make money. There's nothing wrong with the situation, so far as they can see. That 10% that won't buy DRM'd media? Pirates. All of them. We just haven't caught and convicted them yet.

    The only way to shut down the DRM monster is mass boycott. And I mean MASS. I mean you have to get your parents that don't know shit about DRM protesting. You have to get soccer moms, the 14 year old kids vulnerable to media hype and willing to buy anything, the exec with his iPod crammed with DRM'd tunes... get them ALL educated and more importantly angry enough to stop buying for a couple years.

    It's difficult enough to appear very close to impossible.

    I demonstrated it to my mother when she wanted to play a CD for me. At the time I had no CD player other than my PC. Her CD refused to play. I looked it up online, sure enough it had copy protection preventing us from listening to her CD she paid for. I showed her how to circumvent the protection (a little marker on the outside track), and she became incensed. She's not purchased music for about 5 or 6 years now. She was disgusted that people were treating her, one of the most honest people (to a fault) that I know, like a common criminal even though she gave them money for their product.

    Find a way to make people feel that way BEFORE it bites them, and you'll have what we need to win. Until then, good luck. So long as the money flows, they won't hear a damn thing we say.

  • Re:RIGHT battle! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jonberling (1256136) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @01:05PM (#26864015)
    DRM has a critical flaw when it comes to cryptography. The attacker and the person with permission to decrypt the content are the same. Because of this there can never be a strong DRM scheme. While I'm not familiar with UK's Sky TV, I bet that the wide variety of TV content already available on bit torrent networks has more to do with it not being cracked then the strength of its crypto algorithm.
  • by obi (118631) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @01:06PM (#26864019)
    I think the fundamental issue is that the DMCA and DRM allows the "industry" to write their own laws.

    With the DMCA and the anti-circumvention provisions, the restriction code has the power of law - circumventing it is illegal.

    So they can ignore whatever fair use privilege we used to enjoy, because fair use privileges aren't guaranteed rights: if you can't make use of it for whatever reason - tough; they're not required to provide you with tools or systems to give you what you want, even if it could be legal.

    So this all boils down to the fact that we've lost all fair use in copyright law (maybe not in theory, but definitely in practice), and as such, copyright has become completely unbalanced in favour of the copyright owners.

    The tradeoff was: a temporary monopoly on distribution with some fair use exceptions, in return for a rich public domain later on.

    Not only have we lost fair use, we've also lost the public domain part later on. Because the DRM on copyrighted works that end up in the public domain isn't going to magically disappear.

    All we're left with is "a monopoly on distribution" - that's not what copyright was supposed to be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2009 @01:29PM (#26864175)
    Seriously? Gamers and the EFF? OK, I understand that perception != reality here, but in the media this could easily read, "criminals and hippies against DRM.". I mean, honestly - gamers don't have the best reputation in the media. Oh, those guys that get hopped up on caffeine and drugs after a round of GTA and go shoot people?" The EFF - wait, those are those commie hippies right?

    Again the reality may be far different, but I would think those are the LAST groups you'd want being our main representatives in the fight against DRM.
  • Re:Wrong battle? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @01:57PM (#26864385)

    No. Stuff that's being sold for money should work out of the box, not just have a workaround that only the tech savvy know about. DRM is still a massive inconvenience either way and installing a rootkit on your system isn't magically reversed just by cracking the software. Plus often the workaround is to download a version off TPB which isn't permitted even without the DMCA.

  • Re:RIGHT battle! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bert64 (520050) <[moc.eeznerif.todhsals] [ta] [treb]> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @02:18PM (#26864511) Homepage

    While cracking the crypto may not be possible, in order for a DRM scheme to function you have to give paying customers the keys...
    Those customers can just copy the keys and give them to people who haven't paid.

    Sky TV have been using the same algorithms, but they keep changing the keys because the keys frequently leak.

  • Re:RIGHT battle! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Artifakt (700173) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @02:24PM (#26864547)

    When companies spend millions to implement a particular solution, it's fair to assume they have a goal. For broadcasts that are 'free' (usually with the price of watching commercials), we can rule out some goals.
          Copyright law is primarily economic - that is, the original goal was to prevent direct, measurable economic harm to the owner, not to prevent other kinds of harm. The exception, of course, is the European moral copyright model.
          If DRM isn't protecting from direct economic harm, then what it ends up doing is making an end run around the limitations built into US style copyright, limitations such as fair use, or first sale rights.
          All these end runs are wrong. It really doesn't matter if the goal is to protect against indirect economic harm from perfectly lawful competition, or to restrict consumer rights that the courts have long upheld, or to selectively enforce 'moral copyright' in countries where there's no actual law passed, and only for certain privileged entities. None of those is a good thing.
          It's like catching somebody sneaking into a woman's dorm with a roll of duct tape, a bowie knife, and six pairs of handcuffs at 2 AM. We're getting into an argument over whether the goal was rape, murder, or robbery, and ignoring that none of the options are good things. When it comes to public airwaves style channels, no one has seriously been able to suggest a reason for DRM backed by the DMCA that doesn't involve something bad, whether it's an unfair government granted monopoly, an effort to screw consumers, or an attempt to enforce laws that haven't actually been passed.

  • Re:Wrong battle? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wkk2 (808881) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @02:27PM (#26864581)
    An author that sold their rights might be able to make the case that they are due additional compensation for the extra time. They gave up their rights for the remainder of the copyright term which was extended. So congress took property without paying for the loss which might be due under the 5th amendment. Just an idea...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2009 @04:06PM (#26865137)

    It will just be like the copies of the old C64 games on a game archive: Only the cracked copies will still be around and usable.

    There is some irony that the people who do most to preserve the use of a game for future generations are the warez guys.

    Maybe in the future they will eventually get around to cracking StarForce games. Splinter Cell has been out for years, and there has yet to be a crack for it (or any SF protected game) that doesn't involve physically yanking out IDE cable out of a machine to any CD/DVD players.

  • by xant (99438) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @04:08PM (#26865145) Homepage

    > People act like consuming entertainment media is air that you need to survive.

    Humans need to create art. It's what makes us human. Art exists to be consumed. We forget that at the risk of losing our humanity. The desire to create and share art freely is no less than a battle for the soul of humanity itself. There's nothing fucking pathetic about it.

  • Re:DRM is wrong. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mlts (1038732) * on Sunday February 15, 2009 @06:30PM (#26865917)

    The best "DRM" I've seen was a shareware program that shipped with source code for UNIX based systems. The directions were to register it for $25, then set the REGISTERED macro to 1. Of course, you could do that without registering it, but it was obvious that doing so was an EULA violation.

    Another example of this is iDupe, a program to find and optionally remove duplicate tracks in iTunes on OS X. When you register it, it has a very simple method to tell the program that it is registered (and not the shareware version). People setting this without registering know that they are violating the EULA. However, if you did register it, you don't need to keep an activation code, you just tell it that it isn't shareware and you have the functionality that you paid for.

    IMHO, that's all that is needed. Make it where a user has to explicitly know that an action they are about to take is infringing IP, but if he or she chooses to, don't get in the way. More Draconian DRM than this won't stop the dedicated people who will just download a patch, or just grab the download from the usual warez methods.

    Businesses and organizations don't need DRM to ensure license compliance. In fact, most volume licenses are not locked to a license server. However, the business will have hell to pay come a BSA audit, and the invoices for licenses are not greater or equal to the amount of licenses for stuff really in use at that site.

    If you have to have a DRM system, look at Neverwinter Nights 1 and how Bioware (before getting absorbed into EA) patched out the CD-ROM copy protection. This did not affect sales in the slightest. The fact that the game requires a unique serial number when online is more than enough to get people to buy copies, especially if playing multiplayer worlds.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. - Andy Finkel, computer guy