GPL and DRM – the real battle

In an earlier blog entry I commented on the DRM provisions in the GPL 3 draft and why I felt they where empty grandstanding from the side of the FSF. A lot of people from various side of the fence seems to disagree. A moronic Microsoft employee muses that ‘With it’s anti-DRM provisions, …….., open source loses as proprietary software rushes in to fill the void left by GPL code.’. My only reply to that is; yes, as we all know all DRM related software today is using the GPL…..the void caused by DRM implementations no longer being possible to license under the GPL will be overwhelming……. If this is the kind of thinkers Microsoft must hire these days then they are in bigger trouble than I thought.

On the other side the Groklaw crowd is discussing if the current DRM provisions in the GPL v3 draft can be worked around. Yes, once again we see the belief that the amount of people spending energy on trying to do DRM systems under the GPL license is huge. To the Groklaw crowds defence they are also discussing the point the I was trying to make, that the DRM provisions might have uninteded side effects.

Fighthing DRM the only way it can be fought

Anyway I have come to terms with that most of the extended community at this point follows the policy that they are ready to fight something to their death as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them in
any way. So they spend their morning screaming online against the evils of DRM systems and software patents before going down to the local store to by a new DRM using DVD, sporting patented media formats.

Anyway I figured I should try to actually do something which will have a real effect if more people starts doing it. I signed up for a music store which sells DRM free music. emusic offers DRM free mp3 downloads of their whole catalog, which was much bigger and had more well known names than I had expected. They even give you the first 75 songs for free. True, I will not find the common radio hits there, so I have to live without Brittney and Madonna, but at least I get DRM free music.
To bad they don’t offer Vorbis downloads, but once again if enough free software people sign up and start requesting it then I think they are still small enough to actually listen to us. Anyway I am now listening to some cool music from a band called Ladytron. I also found some nice Frank Zappa songs there. I guess the lesson I am trying to teach is that action speaks much more than words; which maybe is something the Slashdot crowd should take to heart? :)

15 thoughts on “GPL and DRM – the real battle”

  1. do you know allofmp3? I dont link it, since you can be suited for that in germany, but guess what googles first hit is…

    this also shows how desperate the music industry must have been when they went to court against allofmp3

  2. “So they spend their morning screaming online against the evils of DRM systems and software patents before going down to the local store to by a new DRM using DVD, sporting patented media formats.”

    Sounds like an accurate description of an “Apple fanboy activist”: so individual and supposedly against The Man and yet (perhaps unwittingly) buying comprehensively into The Man’s agenda.

    Myself, I’ve made a point of not buying DRM’d music, even if that means not automatically getting something from various artists whose music I’ve previously bought and enjoyed. And no, I’m not someone who avoids DRM in order to liberally share stuff I’ve bought – I just think that if artists and their corporate masters think so little of my business, they can probably do without my business altogether.

    And from the little I’ve heard of Ladytron, I’d say that even if they’re not totally alternative, if they’re an indication of the non-DRM’d-up-the-gazoo side of the future then perhaps we at least have something to look forward to.

  3. I know allofmp3, but I prefer a service like emusic as its a solution actually supported by the copyright holders. As far as I know so do allofmp3.com stay in business by paying a russian royalty collecting agency for the right to sell these songs. In theory a ok solution, but the problem is that this agency is afaik not really functional, so artists never get paid. So while using allofmp3 do send the message that people want DRM free music that message to get burried in a bog of piracy and rights violations. The message with emusic is much better, as it also sends the message to the big record companies that they are not inreplacable.

  4. I also recommend AudioLunchbox.com – DRM-free music for $1/song, $10/album for download. I know they handle mp3s, and when I first got music from them, they offered Oggs, though I’m not sure if they still do.

  5. “Anyway I have come to terms with that most of the extended community at this point follows the policy that they are ready to fight something to their death as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them in any way. So they spend their morning screaming online against the evils of DRM systems and software patents before going down to the local store to by a new DRM using DVD, sporting patented media formats.”

    Nice generalization. Schaller, but blustering doesn’t change the fact that you are a hypocrite. You can rightly criticise those who buy DRMed music… but then you spend your days implementing a code signing/trusted binaries DRM system for a supposedly *FREE* software media stack… while looking forward to the say when the Linux kernel will also help you out by being trusted and code signed.

    The only reason you don’t like the provisons in the GPL v3 is because they put more pressure on sell-outs like you.

    Screaming about it online

    vs

    Actively implementing it and then trying to still claim to be “against” it.

    I wonder which is worse? Let me see.

  6. the russian collecting agency is fully functional. the problem is that the copyright holders union does nott accept allofmp3 and taking their fees would be a de facto acceptance.
    So if they dont want the money – why bother?

  7. TopDown, you might call me a hypocrit for it, but all I do is point out how the situation can be resolved. I am no fan of DRM technology, but I am not letting that stop us from doing business in an evironment where the vast majority don’t care or make it a requirement for doing business.

    There is a lot of things in addition to DRM I would like see go away in the world, like organized religion, pollution and overpopulation.

    It might make me a hypocrit then for not refusing to have anything to do with religious people, for flying and driving cars and for wanting to have children. But in all those cases I feel that there are other approaches more effective for achieving progress in those areas than self destructive behaviour.

  8. MadMan2k,you probably know more than me about russian agencies than me so I retract my statement about the collection agency. My main point still stands though, as long as the copyright holders are not willing to endorse it, then services like emusic and audiolunchbox.com which Travis mentioned sends a much clearer and stronger message.

  9. There is a lot of things in addition to DRM I would like see go away in the world, like organized religion, pollution and overpopulation.

    So following your current behaviour — you will be starting your own religion, opening an oil drilling company and another company that sells faulty condoms.

    I am no fan of DRM technology, but I am not letting that stop us from doing business in an evironment where the vast majority don’t care or make it a requirement for doing business.

    Clearly not, as that would require principles, and other such things that are quite beyond your reach.

    It’s important to note here that I don’t actually hate people who implement DRM systems. I dislike them and fundamentally disagree with their actions, but they don’t make money off Free software… and don’t pretend to. You, on the other hand, started your company off the back of a Free software media stack and espoused the values behind that philosophy, and then turned around and betrayed everything it stands for just because someone waved a wad of money under your nose. Well, ok, but just why exactly should anyone listen to you now? In fact, why should anyone trust you or Fluendo?

  10. And furthermore, on the topic of changing when money is waved under your nose:

    Open Source Software Causing More Harm Than Good by Christian Schaller

    “I implore the developers of the free software community to not let Eric Raymond lead the community down this road of self-destruction, but fight him with every fiber in your body. Software needs to be free, not just open.”

    Quite. After all, “Open source” would allow for things like code signing and trusted binaries, whereas Free software and the philosophy behind it rules that out. I couldn’t help but notice your recent DRM blog posts about using Sun’s “open source DRM”.

  11. TopDown, I don’t think your criticism hits home. I think we have been open and forthcoming about what we are doing all the way, never pretended that anything I or Fluendo did was something more than it was. That we where going to do closed sourced codecs and multimedia patent licensing was someone we was open on from the very beginging. What we have done though is try to make free software solutions first class citizens in the multimedia world. This is why we have sponsored the completion of the Theora codec, its why we are sponsoring the development of RTP specifications for Vorbis and Theora and is now working with BBC on the Dirac codec.

    So when we talk to customers and business partners we try to get them to support these free codecs and protocols even when their initial interest is only a more established (and non-free) codecs. I am sorry if this isn’t purist enough for you, but it is the strategy we have chosen.

    I have at multiple times also stated that Fluendo is a company and as such it is our goal to make money. Today this means working within a framework where patents and DRM are part of the stew. I consider it a victory if we manage to get DVD and Blu-Ray players (running linux and gstreamer) to also support playing back files in the Ogg formats along side DivX and similar. Yes, a small victory, but still. As I have also stated before, I don’t think we are operating from a position of strenght here, rather the opposite. Considering that even some community members manage to try to dismiss the Ogg formats as ‘treehugger formats’ says a lot on how far we have yet to go.

  12. I don’t understand what the fuss is about open source DRM schemes. I don’t believe in DRM schemes. Not “I don’t believe they should be used”, but “I don’t believe in them” in the same way that I don’t believe in Santa Claus, and here’s why:

    1) Any DRM scheme gives your player software enough information to decode and play the song (probably including some kind of encrypted audio file and some kind of key)
    2) Songs are bits. Playing the song requires access to those bits.
    3) Bits can be copied into a new file.

    The only hard part is figuring out how the scheme works – if you know that, it should be possible to reimplement the scheme without the restrictions part.
    Any cryptographer will tell you to only keep the keys secret, but never to rely on the scheme being a secret, since there are clever people out there who will figure it out. If you have an open source DRM implementation, how can this be so hard? Did I miss something important?

  13. Ok, I will flame a little bit about DRM.

    Those who like or hate DRM – like it or not, DRM is here to stay. You can cry over the driver and claim “I won’t buy this music!” or “You can’t make free software to use DRM”.

    Yeah, ssh is not some kind of DRM. Public keys, digital signatures, etc.

    Get serious. Copyright holders are their own right to use DRM and we as customers have rights NOT to use it. Just very deadly simple. And I won’t like to see such provisions in GPL or some other license, because, quite frankly, most people won’t care about it.

    People want to play their DVDs, their mp3s, their media. If you want to say them – go ahead, stick with Windows – then you have rights to do that. I simply choose not to. I want to help them to see a free way. If they will be cepable to play DRMed file on Linux, but after that they will get knowledge about other ways, Ogg Vorbis, DRM-free services, etc. they will forget DRM. See, people DON’T care about DRM. They just want to get stuff done or played.

    And, by the way, GPLv3 is not against DRM support in Gstreamer. You must read that wording there, because it is just claim, not even legal one.

  14. James, yes, it all can be done. However, it is not purpose of DRM. See, most people won’t hack their players, computers, etc. just to get free stuff. DRM is like barier, so common user would be frightened enough not to use it.

    I don’t see point in DRM, either. My pick is that DRM will die or will change so it won’t be so intrustive. However, for downloaded files (like iTunes or video-on-demand) DRM will be a must and I see just a point from copyright holders here. They don’t want to be file easy shared.

  15. Peteris: What is the difference between any downloader being able to share music that isn’t DRMed, and one geeky person evading the DRM (or simply ripping a CD of the same tune) and making it available to the masses on bittorrent? The net result is the same, just about anyone can get hold of pirated music. The point is that not many people have to evade DRM to render it ineffective.

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