July 30, 2005  ·  Nelson Pavlosky

You could say that I grew up with free culture, or that free culture grew up along with me. Free culture as a coherent movement is young, although you could say that its roots go back to the beginning of print culture, since before we had bloggers we had independent pamphleteers like Thomas Paine. It could go back to the beginning of culture itself, since before we had DJs we had the remixing and appropriation inherent in oral cultures of the past and present. Still, only recently have people been connecting the dots, with the help of the democratizing power of digital technology and the internet. The free culture movement is young (like me), and perhaps that’s why I feel that young people like me should have a special affinity for it.

I was born in 1984, the same year as the free software movement, the year RMS left MIT to start the GNU project. Stallman refers to the free software movement as his child, and I’ve sometimes wondered, “What would the free software movement be like, if it were a kid? Would they be fun to hang out with? I bet they would be an idealist like their father, and, well, kind of like me.” In 1984, the internet, which would help make free software more than an idealistic dream, was itself just a babe. The number of hosts on the internet was just breaking one thousand… I don’t think anyone even knows how many hosts there are on the internet today. 1984 was also the year that the Supreme Court decided in Sony v. Universal, the “Betamax case,” that taping shows off your TV in order to watch them later was a fair use, not copyright infringement, and that the VCR manufacturer could not be held liable for the infringing activities of its users so long as the VCR had “substantial non-infringing uses.” The battle over what exactly the Betamax ruling meant has continued up until the present day, surviving the disappointingly unclear Grokster decision this summer, but that decision in the year of my birth was a significant victory for free culture, even though none of the parties that were “on our side” would have recognized themselves as part of a fledgling movement.

Shortly after I was born, my family became “early adopters” of the personal computer. Our first computer was an Altos computer with a 40 MB Winchester hard drive, it cost $18,000 and it was the state of the art! (I now carry 512 MB on my USB keychain drive, which cost 50 bucks.) My father wrote it off as a business expense for his home office, and as soon as I was old enough to sit up, he had me playing “educational” games on the green monochrome screen. As I got older I began to use word processors like Wordstar, where I learned the revolutionary concepts of “copy” and “paste,” and how digital technology allows you to edit a document, dissecting it into its component parts and reassembling it, without destroying the original. I loved this freedom to experiment with different versions of the same document, mashing together different drafts and building a better version from the mistakes of the past. I didn’t know this at the time, but later the internet would allow me to do this collaboratively on a global scale.

Blogging arrived on the scene as I arrived in high school, with the term “weblog” arriving in 1997 and “blog” being coined in 1998. Naturally, at the time I did not know that I would eventually have my own blog, or that I would meet my girlfriend through Livejournal. (Lauren dear, would this be too public of a place to “officially” ask you out?)

Presumably “bloggers” were covering the story as Napster debuted in 1999, and I joined millions of others in using it to expand my musical horizons. Before Napster, I mostly listened to my favorite band, Queen, and whatever my parents listened to or what came on the radio. After Napster, I became a fan of genres that many people have never heard of, such as progressive rock, trance, and third wave ska, and this led me to purchase many CDs I would, otherwise, have never have purchased. (This had an impact on my own musical compositions, as my noodling around on the guitar began to produce full-fledged songs around that time.) Some of my favorite finds on Napster were purely accidental, songs that turned up in the search results while I was looking for other things. For instance, I was searching for the Matrix soundtrack, and found a trance song labeled “Matrix ][", which I later discovered was actually "Grid ][" by the Cynic Project, who apparently was just a college kid making music in his basement. The Cynic Project album, “Soundscape Sampler,” was available from MP3.com at the time, and MP3.com did on-demand printing of CDs for their artists, so I bought the CD.

That CD is now a historical artifact, of course, since MP3.com was killed off shortly after I purchased that album. I watched as both Napster and MP3.com were destroyed by record industry lawsuits, and I became angry and resentful. At the time, I didn’t know the history of the persecution of new technologies by the industries of old, but I did know that these services created a marketplace for more obscure talent who did not have other means to access the listening public. Perhaps more importantly, they helped lead to a more educated listening public, as any decent library should. Both of those services were important to my development as a person and a music fan, and both of them were pioneering services that enabled independent artists to reach the public without having to sell their souls to a record label. I didn’t understand why there hadn’t been more of a public effort to defend these communities, and I was disappointed that I hadn’t gotten a chance to fight for the revolutionary potential that they offered. Argue as much as you like about the ethics of filesharing, it’s a complex issue that cannot be boiled down to a simple “right” or “wrong.” Peer-to-peer is bigger than filesharing anyway, and while Napster awakened me to the power of the internet to circumvent existing avenues of distribution (and control), the internet is not a one-trick pony. Writing off the power of the internet to change the world, and the power of the people who grew up with it, would be a grave error.

Any history buff could tell you that in 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, a pamplet which inspired the colonists to continue with their revolutionary fight against the British. Any geek or Super Bowl fan could tell you that in 1984 – the year I was born – the first Apple Macintosh went on sale, helping to start the computer revolution. The free culture movement is a different type of revolution, but a revolution nonetheless. Free culture is, after all, like print culture squared; it represents a shift from one-way broadcasting to two-way communication. And leading the fight for a participatory culture is just Common Sense.

  • poptones

    I know how it is to find really good “indie” stuff – I have several digital CDs purchased from Magnatune in my own collection. And perhaps if that college kid who was making music in his basement had been able to charge a fair price for his work from a site of his own he would still be around and you could buy more CDs from him.

    I have real life friends who are also “indie publishers.” I have one friend who was even banned from ebay over his publications. (Actually he was banned from paypal but when ebay bought paypal he was grandfathered in.) At the time he produced upskirt videos and soft core cheesecake of young women. Nothing overtly sexual, just flirtacious – licking ice cream cones, bending over for the camera and winking – but it was enough to violate paypal’s terms of service agreement, so he was banned when they discovered his website.

    I have another friend who operates a child model website. There’s no nudity involved – the girl enjoys it and created the site herself – but because a small but vocal segment of the US population vehemently opposes the expression of anything even remotely linking “children” (though she’s nearly 16) with any form of sexuality it is a constant battle to keep up an available billing system. Even the “mainstream” porn industry is allied against this teenage girl (and others like her) who just wants to make some money for college playing dressup and flirting with her “fans” – essentially the same thing that made Mary-Kate and Ashley Billionaire heiresses.

    At present it is nigh well impossible for “small operators” of any flavor to find a reasonably priced and trustworthy system of e-commerce – there is no slot for quarters on a computer, after all. You cannot send physical goods through the wires, and electronic “goods” can be readily duplicated and are, therefore, essentially valueless.

    What the small time musician, the publisher offering that “unpopular” message and the rebellious teenager need are a means of electronic exchange that could exist outside the boundaries dictated by Visa and Mastercard and American Express. A system that would allow trustworthy and yet personal exhanges of bits of information.. bits that couldn’t be duplicated by the Billions and thus rendered valueless… a system of… digital rights management!

    Eureka!

    You want to see “Free culture?”

    There’s your freedom.

  • pm

    1984 is also the year 2600 was first published.

    re: “bits that couldn’t be duplicated by the Billions” sorry to burst your bubble poptones, but it this is literally impossible. You can’t code away the laws of physics. Anything that can be heard can be copied. Get used to it.

  • poptones

    Who said anything about being heard?

    You need to do some research. There’s a very good reason techno-anarchists (and other luddites) are scared to death of DRM: they know it can work and ultimately it will work.

    Have you never read the Professor? Code is law.

  • http://www.theblahbrain.com John Doe

    AUTHOR: John Doe
    EMAIL: none@none.com
    IP: 24.59.192.93
    URL: http://www.theblahbrain.com
    DATE: 07/30/2005 12:23:09 PM

  • http://www.robmyers.org/ Rob Myers

    Poptones -

    I did some reasearch. Microsoft don’t agree with you:

    Microsoft on DRM

    So who’s right, Lessig or Microsoft? And have you noticed that between Microsoft’s argument that the failure of DRM will chill creativity for honest people and Lessig’s argument that the success of DRM will chill creativity for honest people, it doesn’t really matter who’s right anyway?

  • poptones

    However, a securely DRM-wrapped song is strictly less attractive: although the industry is striving for flexible licensing rules, customers will be restricted in their actions if the system is to provide meaningful security. This means that a vendor will probably make more money by selling unprotected objects than protected objects.

    This fits exactly with what I have ben saying all along!

    How does the now infamous (and well known) “darknet paper” in any way refute what I have said about the coming of DRM? Do you think Microsoft has said “DRM will never work but we’re going to do it anyway?”

    Cash is not infallible. Checks are not infallible. Fraud happens in these “meatspaces” all the time. But it is rare enough and well enough protected that I can reasonably assume the hundred dollar bill someone gives me is bonafied.

    How many years now has MS been selling the xbox? Do you think they did all that work on securing the platform just to piss off linux users? If MS can contribute to the devcelopment of a robust platform that we all can use then I have no qualms about paying them a fair royalty for their effort. And if they cannot do that (including the open part) then you can bet there will be others who will.

    People will always find a way under the fence, but once a system is in place for monitoring and policing that fenceline our computing systems can (finally) move into a new realm – one where, essentially, “physical” things – uniquely identifiable property – can be sent through the ether. Once we are able to move into this space with reasonable confidence we move one step closer to a technological singularity. That frightens a lot of people but the possibilities it presents for good are every bit as vast as the possibilities for evil – and anyway it would be naive and pointless to pretend it’s not coming – at this point nothing short of a rapture or cataclysm will prevent it.

    Computers used to be romantically referred to as “thought machines.” The primitive machines we have now evolve in he hands of their owner into a unique reflection of that owner’s thoughts, feelings and fetishes and we are still very early in the evolution of this technology. If there are anticompetetive issues we must deal with those head on; insisting that we all live with no means of defending our civil liberties in the digital realm is a defense of tyranny.

  • pm

    “Have you never read the Professor? Code is law.”

    You clearly misunderstand Larry if you think he is referring to LAWS OF NATURE.

  • Lauren Stokes

    Too public? Never.

    And will I? Of course.

    *beams*

  • http://www.robmyers.org/ Rob Myers

    If MS can contribute to the devcelopment of a robust platform that we all can use then I have no qualms about paying them a fair royalty for their effort. And if they cannot do that (including the open part) then you can bet there will be others who will.

    Unless of course this is Microsoft we’re talking about, in which case they can produce a crappy platform, crush the competition illegally, then overcharge all their locked-in customers.

    People will always find a way under the fence

    Then DRM will not “work” in any useful way. And the “fence” under discussion is neither good nor reasonable. It keeps honest people honest but punishes them for being honest and it fails to prevent unintended uses of the material by “dishhonest” people. It also allows the arbitrary redefinition of what is and isn’t honest, outside of legislation, at the whim of the technology manufacturer or the rightsholder.

    And I sincerely doubt that the singularity requires DRM. Anyone who can predict the requirements of a historically nonlinear society should be playing the stock exchange, not posting on comments pages.

  • poptones

    Unless of course this is Microsoft we’re talking about, in which case they can produce a crappy platform, crush the competition illegally, then overcharge all their locked-in customers.

    Spoken like someone who has not yet found the motivation to even try the alternatives. I have not been “locked in” for quite some time – and I didn’t “escape” by moving to that other “fruity” corporate lockdown, either.

    I realize it’s fabulously fashionable to trash corporations simply because they exist, but I have discovered that this sort of contempt is usually strongest in those who still have not found a way off the plantation. It’s easy to be bitter when you feel trapped… too bad so few realize the trap is their own invention.

    You still don’t get it, do you? DRM is not just about protecting Hollywood movies. DRM is not just about locking away pop songs. Even if DRM were deployed next week in a great western rapture of Pop there would still exist tens of thousands of Free works at places like Magnatune and CD Baby and even MP3.RU. You want “free culture?” It’s here, now – I’ve been living in it for years now… and there’s still no room for Madonna at the Inn.

    What DRM is about is protecting bits. It doesn’t matter if those bits are pop songs, movies, tax information, private notes to yourself, pictures of your kid – everything. Right now we can protect nothing at all… DRM will allow us to lock away stuff we don’t want other people to have access to either. DRM is the lock on the virtual door. DRM is what will allow us to “surf safe” and protect our homes, cellphones, PDAs and TV sets from intrusion in a networked world.

  • http://www.robmyers.org/ Rob Myers

    Spoken like someone who has not yet found the motivation to even try the alternatives.

    I’m typing this in Safari on an iBook that dual-boots MacOSX and Debian. I’ve just been editing photos in Gimp and I’m going to do some PHP hacking in Emacs later.

    I realize it’s fabulously fashionable to trash corporations simply because they exist,

    Or in Microsoft’s case because they were found to be an illegal monopoly in a court of law.

    You still don’t get it, do you? DRM is not just about protecting Hollywood movies. DRM is not just about locking away pop songs. Even if DRM were deployed next week in a great western rapture of Pop there would still exist tens of thousands of Free works at places like Magnatune and CD Baby and even MP3.RU. You want “free culture?” It’s here, now – I’ve been living in it for years now… and there’s still no room for Madonna at the Inn.

    I am afraid it is you that does not get it. DRM is only part of the picture. When you add up DRM, trusted computing, and the current legal environment, how are you going to play back those songs from Magnatunes? They don’t have any DRM on them. They must have been stolen. DRM-aware software and hardware won’t play them. If you can get them to play, DRM doesn’t work.

    So we have a problem here. Either DRM locks down media and you can’t play back your Magnatunes songs, or DRM doesn’t work and all your digital media can be stolen.

    Either way, your argument is broken.

    What DRM is about is protecting bits. It doesn’t matter if those bits are pop songs, movies, tax information, private notes to yourself, pictures of your kid – everything.

    Yes, it’s a digital technology applicable to any digital media. Why I would want myself to not be able to read private notes to myself is beyond me, though.

    Right now we can protect nothing at all…

    That is simply not true. Encrypt it, or password protect it, or save it on a CD and hide it under your bed. DRM is not better protection than any of those options.

    DRM will allow us to lock away stuff we don’t want other people to have access to either. DRM is the lock on the virtual door. DRM is what will allow us to “surf safe” and protect our homes, cellphones, PDAs and TV sets from intrusion in a networked world.

    So we have established that DRM will work, and that my house, my car, my VCR and my family photos will be kept safe from criminals (and anyone else the DRM system manufacturer decides should be able to read my media) rather than just being kept safe from me when I upgrade to a system from a different manufacturer?

    But I thought that we have established that DRM and trusted computing don’t work, because I will still be able to run software that will play non-DRM-laden free media?

    Which is it?

  • poptones

    Or in Microsoft’s case because they were found to be an illegal monopoly in a court of law.

    Ummm… no. They were found to have acted in an improper manner in exploiting their “desktop monopoly” (sounds like a board game) unfairly. There’s nothing illegal about “being” a monopoly. Perhaps you should read the FoF again…

    I am afraid it is you that does not get it. DRM is only part of the picture. When you add up DRM, trusted computing, and the current legal environment, how are you going to play back those songs from Magnatunes? They don’t have any DRM on them. They must have been stolen. DRM-aware software and hardware won’t play them. If you can get them to play, DRM doesn’t work.

    Where did you get this nonsense? Did you just make it up or are there more like you?

    DRM does not mean “it won’t play an MP3.” DRM means protected media will not play on untrusted clients.

    Come on… take off the tinfoil hat and think for a minute. How is not playing an MP3 going to protect media? If a trusted application will nto play your MP3s then no one (rightly) is going to use the thing. Does css prevent your DVD player from playing unencrypted DVDs? of course not – and there are tons more unencrypted DVDs than encrypted.

    I am a linux developer and I know what is and is not part of Trusted computing (TCPA) because I am one of the (few) in the linux community who actually seems to care about meaningful system security. Nobody on my block has bigger tinfoil hat than me and I am all about putting DRM in the hands of everyone because I know the implications of this: it means putting robust encryption in the hands of every consumer; it means “normalizing” the act of encrypting one’s data. it means applying new paradigms to the way we think of online security.

    I know what’s in the TCPA spec because I read it and design software for it. I have the spec PDF right on my dekstop. And for starters I can tell you: TCPA alone won’t even get you to the point of DRM because TCPA alone allows anyone to generate all the system keys. If you cannot trust remote attestation you cannot do meaingful DRM, and TCPA allows the user to disable remote attestation and generate the system keys (or specify them) at the station. That means you can have a TCPA desktop that works just like the desktop you have now; you can disable it completely or you can use the features to secure your desktop to your desires.

    IBM has been shipping TCPA in its laptops for some time now. That “bionic finger” is the key to a trustec computing platform – and I’ve yet to hear anyone complain they can’t get their MP3s to play on their thinkpad. I have a stack of them here and I can tell you linux works fantastic on them.

    DRM means having some modules on your computer that you (or I) cannot alter without some remote agent knowing about it. This does not mean you “lose control of your desktop” any more than you “lose control of your wallet” when you put government currency in it. Can someone install a keylogger on your computer like this? Absolutely – and a planet full of virus laden windows computers is proof that, for the most part people don’t care or even realize this – and the practice is widespread already. People in general don’t realize the implications of installing crap they download from cnet or popcap or kazaa – all they know is they want free shit and this is “free.”

    Those people – who just want something to work – would benefit immensely from DRM because it would allow them some “loss of control” of their computer – because they don’t know how to administrate the thing in the first place. Allowing Microsoft to administrate their desktop from Redmond would allow them to have a desktop that “just works” and it would put Microsoft in a position of direct accountability – that means if their system are acting in an improper manner and poplluting the internet commons with spam or pingbots or virii, Microsoft can be held accountable.

    This doesn’t mean Microsoft owns the internet, either. The same platform (or a compatible one) can be deployed for anybody. You want to run Debian? Fine, run debian. You don’t know how linux works but you want to run debian? Run Lindows and let those folks administrate your machine. You can have a “trusted” platform and NOT run windows.

    Does that mean none of the old stuff will work? No – it means your insecure software will not have access to your secure data.

    I have this on my machine now – it’s called encryption and I keep pretty much everything on my machine in encrypted partitions. This does not, in any way, interfere with my ability to get to my data.

    But, contrary to what you mistakenly seem to believe, it’s still not at all “secure.” Someone could install a keylogger (or even change my BIOS or my kernel) and I would have no way of knowing this until after my system had booted and completed its initialization test – and by then I have already typed in my passphrases (and, thus, made them available to the attacker). TCPA, however, builds protection of these components into the hardware of the board. That means my software is more securely under my control.

    Even without being attacked there is still little real security; my system has no way of knowing that the data I encrypted in folder A should not be made available to folder B – or to my email program in case I (or someone at the machine without my knowledge) should try to send it over the public system without encryption.

    My system also does not know it’s OK to to zip up the pictures I downloaded from hustler.com but not ok to zip up the pictures my girlfriend sent me via her chatcam. That may not be important to me, but it might be important to my girlfriend – especially if we break up under less than friendly circumstances. Or perhaps my girlfriend is reluctant to send such pictures at all because she knows I could very well “publish” them without her consent – but might be more willing to share such intimacy if she knew that, if we should part company in a manner not to her liking, she could revoke my key to her virtual box of goodies.

    In this manner DRM would encourage more sharing of data. It would allow us to interact with greater intimacy because we can each feel more secure in our person. I can tell you secrets in my email and know that, even if you remember my secrets, you cannot provide anyone with tangible proof I said it… exactly the intimacy we share with one another in face to face conversation.

    But I thought that we have established that DRM and trusted computing don’t work, because I will still be able to run software that will play non-DRM-laden free media?

    You apparently concluded that yourself absent any meaningful factual knowledge of the matter. I hope you can read through your obvious bias long enough to understand this technology a little better.

    DRM can allow data to be exchanged with the security of physical goods – or allow our interactions to be as ephemeral as a face to face conversation.

    Are physical goods “perfect?” Of course not – I can steal your car; I can steal your wallet; I can forge currency or write a bad check; I can come into your house and attack your person… physical goods are vulnerable to force in thousands of ways. But we have laws to protect individuals from attack and we have means of enforcing them… just as we have (and will refine) laws for electronic crimes and those who unfairly exert force upon an individual’s data.

  • three blind mice

    damn poptones, that was quite an impassioned – and informative – post.

    the problem you will encounter here is that most people parse DRM and Microsoft and stop reading. the “free culture” crowd has made up their mind that DRM=Microsoft=evil and that’s that.

    with all due respect for TCPA, it is a half-measure, a band-aid on a broken model. what is lacking is a legality layer in OSI. a legality layer and protocol stack would enable CC, traditional copyright, and public domain to co-exist. introducing a legality layer into the OSI model would provide the platform for an explosion of content, but it would also put the clampers on illegal file sharing which is why it cannot gain traction within the internet community. it is instructive that the CC crowd opposes anything that would hinder illegal file sharing and it seems to us that CC is less about distributing content under a CC license than it is about keeping the internet free for piracy under the specious claim of “freedom.”

  • poptones

    Like I said: I prize my own tinfoil hat. I resent government intrusions into our private lives and I think things have run terribly amuck.

    But I also am directly feeling the effects of living under a regime that, even before it was elected to office, publically mused “maybe we need less freedom of speech.” I and many friends are incresingly feeling intruded upon and I know, more than most I think, the positive role encryption can play in preserving democracy and liberty.

    When you have two children playing teeter totter it takes the weight of an elephant to affect the outcome from the middle. It’s the extremes that most affect the balance – but if one can move the balance even slightly from the middle, one child or the other comes crashing down.

    There is very little “broken” about TCPA because it si nto a half measure. TCPA is to provide a means for securing the software at the hardware layer – it does nothing to affect what software is actually deployed on that system and it’s not meant to. It provides a way for me to encrypt my stuff on my computer and know there is no way a remote attacker could access my system keys because even I cannot access the private keys myself without direct physical intervention. Someone at the machine would still be able to access this information, however – it is “key escrow” where the individual serves as the agent. Yes, that also means illegal activity could be traced to an individual machine – but that doesn’t mean it can be traced to the operator or done remotely without the operator’s consent.

    DRM has to come from a system of allowing remote attestation of a secure agent. And presently that also requires a piece of hardware, and so far as I know Microsoft is presently the only ones working on that part of the problem. This sad truth exists mostly because the “free software” community seems convinced of the illusion they can squash DRM before its birth. The fact is so long as the internet and computing exists in its present model it cannot grow beyond what we have now – these alien boxes that sit “over there” and cause as many problems as they attempt to solve.

    I fear the “Free culture” community may be living the early stages of a self fulfilling prophecy: by pretending the technology for DRM cannot and will not exist – by refusing to take an active role in the development of this technology – they very well may become “victims” of it.

    That’s why, in addition to working on free software, I’m also learning to speak Portugese and Russian…

  • http://www.robmyers.org/ Rob Myers

    You apparently concluded that yourself absent any meaningful factual knowledge of the matter. I hope you can read through your obvious bias long enough to understand this technology a little better.

    Please step back from the marketing literature for a moment. Think about the maths. And think about the social engineering. We must not geek out on DRM.

    Mathematically, DRM is bogus. That is, you know as well as I that it cannot be as strong or complete as the degree of trust being pleaded for would require. DRM can only engender relative trust as a technology, and that relative trust comes at a price.

    Socially, the main problem with DRM is not the technological failings of the concept, or even the ghettoised success you describe (you seem to concede that DRM can only operate on media designed to operate with it, which renders it trivially circumventable). DRM only works if individuals behave themselves, and that “behaviour” is defined by third party technology. It is the interaction of DRM, law (notably the DMCA/EUCD/etc.), and the desires of usurous individuals that is the problem.

    This is the situation Lessig describes in ‘Free Culture’, a perfect storm of technology, law, and vested interests. (Yes, mice, I know the crystal ball is cloudy, and that I am open to accusations of cultishness here. Sosumi.)

    If someone cracked a DRM-laden document that described a way to crack DRM, would you read it so that you could fix the DRM implementation in a Free Software system?

    Think about that for a moment.

    I’ve worked on security for big companies. I’ve made dongled software and put forward proposals for ridiculous hardware and software systems to persuade management that their shareholders investment cannot be stolen. I have some experience of securing software. And in my experience software/media security is a warm fuzzy feeling, not a hard fact.

    I believe that I broadly agree with your aims and values. I just disagree with your conclusions. I fear that you are concentrating on the marketed technology to the exclusion of its legal and social context. But I take your vision seriously, and I will reconsider DRM and TCPA down to the bit level.

    Possibly DRM can be ironised as a technology, much like the ironisation of law that gives us the GPL. I am well aware that DRM could enforce CC licensing, policing a copyleft or BSD culture. That is, DRM could enforce a free culture. But only as long as the providers of all DRM systems allow this. And I am not sure that this irony cuts anywhere near deep enough (as I am not sure that the irony of a Free Software that ignores the freedom of its hardware cuts deep enough).

    The remaining consideration is whether DRM is in itself morally wrong. Like putting landmines around your house, whatever the virtues of property.

    As an aside, are you aware that the “Free Culture” movement (e.g. CC) has been criticised by more radical voices as a fifth column for electronic metadata, license encumbrance, a “permission” mentality, and other measures that characterise negative readings of DRM. Note that Creative Commons and the **AA boogeymen both phrase the “problem” in terms of rights and permissions. There are radicals to whom CC and Lessig are in fact part of the problem.

  • poptones

    FWIW I have never read any DRM or TCPA marketing material in my life, and I do not say that lightly. I don’t read geek sites like… hell, I can’t even think of one to name because I don’t read them. I don’t read hardware reviews or movie reviews or music reviews because I’m such an egomanac that I simply don’t care what other people think about stuff. I don’t read marketing; I read technical papers.

    TCPA is not a dongle. TCPA is a secure place to store encryption keys. I already pointed out that, yes, it can be hacked – just as easily as opening the case and setting a jumper that would allow you to pull all your stored keys (although its own private key will remain locked away to anyone not having access to some very expensive fabrication equipment and a great deal of patience).

    But I also pointed out TCPA alone ain’t DRM. And though you might think “it can be hacked” I will challenge you with this: has anyone yet managed to crack the xbox security to the point of being able to play a cracked game on their network? There have been hacks to allow linux to boot or cracked games to be played – but to play on their network I do not believe this has yet been done. Playing on their network involves remote attestaion and, so far as I have seen, MS has done a pretty good job so far of locking it down. And even if it HAS been cracked at this point it was not something that was done quickly and MS has surely learned plenty from the experience… mistakes they are not likely to repeat on the next go around.

    Socially, the main problem with DRM is not the technological failings of the concept, or even the ghettoised success you describe (you seem to concede that DRM can only operate on media designed to operate with it, which renders it trivially circumventable).

    Ummm.. how so? If you have a secure path from the keyboard to the monitor (and this is exactly where the platform is headed) then it is not at all “trivial” to circumvent it. You could take a photograph of your monitor with a digital camera or plug your speaker connection into another sound card on an untrusted system, but that is about it. And even when you do that the sound and the image will be watermarked and the first time it is posted unencrypted it can be tracked to the account that obtained it, so unless you no longer care about that account (like those posting the watermarked images to usenet) you would be harming yourself by violating this trust.

    Is this a “ghetto?” No, it’s a sandbox. Ultimately the content on your screen will be isolated and transparent – thumbnails for protected images will appear just as any other so long as the your key to them is valid; encrypted music wil be played just like unprotected music so long as your key is valid and so long as you are using a trusted player client. This isn’t “ghetto” at all it’s simply the way things should work. If Clara QT wants to have a “face to face” encounter with you in chat it is not your “right” to violate that trust by ripping her pictures and sharing them with others – DRM will allow the computer system to become that much more transparent in the link between the people interacting and allow us to be more trusting with one another… unless, of cours,e you don’t want to be trusted in which case you simply turn off your remote attestation and let Clara chat with someone else she can trust.

    Have you never had an accident? I have. I have sent someone files I did not intend to send them because somewhere along the line I accidentally dropped a few image files into an MP3 directory without realizing it – probably just a button mashed at the wrong time and a flick of the wrist was all it took and suddenly I am realizing mailed a cd with pictures of Traci Lords to a very devout christian friend I had intended to send only music. If I had my traci Lords pictures locked away in a DRM protected folder that never could have happened – the encrypted files would never have been able to “contaminate” my music folder.

    You still seem to think DRM means you cannot have anything unprotected on a DRM enabled system and that is just not true. If you want free stuff a DRM enabled system is not going to stop you from downloading unprotected oggs from Magnatune – it’s not even likely your trusted player clients would refuse to play them. That isn’t how security works; you can always move data into a more secure area but you cannot move the other way.. Unfortunately the way things are now no operating system has the capability of telling what’s “clean” from what is “contaminated:” it’s completely up to the user, and users make mistakes… and users lie.

    Many new hard drives being shipped are ready for TCPA; they have hardware encryption buiot right in, all you need is a controller client that will utilize that API. You can protect the hard drive on a sector by sector basis using a different key for each one – it’s quite cool and powerful, actually. It also doesn’t bog the system down making the CPU handle the encryption.

    I have a friend who works for Ford in the design of their engine computers. ford uses PowerPC chips in their engine and brake control computers but these have some technology just for Ford. One of those technologies is encryption on the data bus; the data in the external memory is, of course, accessible to anyone with a logic probe – but unless you know the key contained on the CPU chip itself much of that data is useless to you.

    That is ten year old technology. Now, do you really believe Apple moving to the intel camp is just about more GHz? Apple wants meaningful and friendly DRM in their platform and my bet is Macs will have TCPA and DRM even before it becomes widespread in the Windows world.

    Our society is built upon “relative trust.” When you get on the subway you do so expecting the erson next to you will not pull out a gun and shoot you. where there is freedom there is a level of unpredictability that is unavoidable. But the way our computing systems and our network itself is presently constructed there is absolutely zero means of enforcing even the most basic level of trust. It’s not that you can’t trust what happens to your dat awhen you share it with someone, you can’t even be sure what you’re sharing.

    Maybe it would be better for society if there were no secrets. If I knew everything about you and you knew everything about me a lot of demonized behavior would be “outed.” Those pedophile priests wouldn’t appear to be such an anomaly in our culture and many of those gay bashing picketers wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. But imagining that society is a whle nother level of dreaming. What we have now is an ownership society and a few thousand years of history to back it up – things are a lot less likely to move toward “absolute knowledge” than they are toward “trusted computing.”

  • poptones

    Damn, talk about coincidence. Not two hours after I posted that I find a link to this on slashdot.

    Note the giant “anti tcpa” link (Don’t let them take your rights!) at the botttom of a page about cracking an OS that’s now being illegally distributed on bittorrent.

    Oh, sweet irony…