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Re: Part 2: System Structure

From: Jonathan S. Shapiro
Subject: Re: Part 2: System Structure
Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2006 12:10:16 -0400

On Fri, 2006-06-02 at 13:23 +0200, Marcus Brinkmann wrote:
> At Tue, 23 May 2006 12:13:17 -0400,
> "Jonathan S. Shapiro" <address@hidden> wrote:
> > If we can build a sufficiently large *collective* block of users who
> > refuse DRM -- big enough that these users represent a noticeable
> > proportion of market share or a publicly visible group whose visibility
> > imposes noticeable embarrassment or noticeable marketing and PR costs to
> > the content providers, we *may* be able to restore more balance of power
> > to the viewers (either through the market or through legislation), and
> > by doing this we may be able to force DRM use to a more acceptable
> > middle position or even eliminate it entirely.
> > 
> > If this is the argument, then I think that it is a good argument, and
> > that it is even worth a try. Speaking personally, it's not a cause that
> > I wish to adopt -- I am doing too much elsewhere already -- but it is a
> > perfectly good cause.
> There is something that disturbs me about the two positions you hold.
> On the one hand, you completely distrust the social process to help
> preventing unauthorized abuse of digital information, and make a
> strong case for why the social process is unable to enforce any
> restrictions effectively, so that technological means are, in your
> opinion, necessary, and you are working hard on providing these means.
> On the other hand, you are putting your hopes to pull the biting tooth
> out of DRM into a social process of political action, which (according
> to the quote above) you do not plan to support...

You have misunderstood me partially. First, I do not completely distrust
the social process. There are many applications for which I feel that
social means of enforcement provide sufficient protection. For these
applications, the author of the information artifact simply does not use

Concerning the political process, I think that you also misunderstand my
position. There is a very substantial difference between "do not
support" and "do not adopt as a cause." What I have stated above is that
I do not intend to design crippled (in my view) systems for the purpose
of political activism in this area, and that I do not intend to engage
personally in political activism in this area. The fact that I do not
have an infinite amount of time to undertake all causes is not

In point of fact, I do not believe that DRM is evil, and I do not
believe that undermining DRM is the correct form of political activism
here. What I believe is that the extension of copyright beyond
reasonable bounds is wrong, and that *this* is what needs to be

So you see, we have very fundamentally different views of what the
problem is, and in consequence we have very different views about how to
solve it.

> When I studied this subject, I found that I could use every one of
> your security arguments for my cause, because I recognized loss of
> control over ownership as a security threat.  Based on your statement
> above, you seem to agree with that it is a threat, at least to some
> extent.  Yet, in the other case, you deny actively (by criticizing my
> position) the population the arts of the trade for this particular
> threat, relying on political action and the social process instead.
> In other words, you are addressing the two threats quite differently.

Yes. The general population is demonstrably in violation of the social
contract of copyright, and technical means of enforcing compliance is
appropriate *unless* one believes that copyright is not well founded for
digital artifacts. I believe that copyright is *appropriate* for digital
artifacts. I do NOT agree that bits should be copyable once released.

In my opinion, GPL has worked for software because of the type of
collaboratively reinforced value that makes software effective. It is a
success of practical utility, not of ideology. I do NOT believe that
this mutual reinforcement is characteristic of creative works in
general. There are definitely examples of it, but they are extremely
rare, usually experimental, and generally unusual. Someone will say that
movie making is a counter-example. Anyone who thinks this has never seen
the actual making of a movie.

I do not agree with the characterization that DRM is loss of control
over ownership. No such control has existed for copyrighted information
artifacts since the mid-16th century. The economy that supports creators
rests entirely on this legal construct.

I also do not agree with the characterization that "bits want to be
freely redistributable once released". The current property status of
bits is economically and socially problematic, and exists because of a
technical deficiency. In your view, solving the technical deficiency is
wrong. In my view, it is essential to restoring any sort of reasonable
model of commerce for information and creative works.

> There are a number of obvious questions which follow from that: Do you
> agree or not agree that "trusted computing" and DRM constitutes a
> security threat, in the way that I[2] defined?

I do not.

>   If you do not agree, why?

Response above.

>   If you do agree, do you support or not support using the tools
> and arts of the IT security trade in this particular threat scenario?

I support your right to attempt to do this, but I do not support you in
doing it.

> If you do not support it, why?  If you do support it, do you recognize
> my system structure proposal as a step in that direction?

I think your system structure is an interesting attempt to achieve your
objectives. I think that it is utterly doomed from the standpoint of end
user acceptance.


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