[discuss] Why discussing "the device" separate from "the content" matters...

Good morning... What "fun" articles to wake up to.

I want to suggest people read
http://www.infoworld.com/article/06/05/29/78693_22OPopenent_1.html as a
reason why it matters that we need to focus on ownership of the devices,
and not who the copyright holder of some content might be, or what these
copyright holders might want.

"In particular, the FSF's moralistic opposition to DRM (digital rights
management) technologies, which first manifested itself in early drafts
of Version 3 of the GPL (Gnu General Public License), seems now to have
been elevated to the point of evangelical dogma."

This person gets not only the technology, but the law and politics
entirely wrong.

Are people who fight to protect property rights "moralistic"? Just
because many people do not understand technology does not mean that
those who do understand it should keep silent, which appears to be what
this person is suggesting. Consumers "don't get it", so we should
refrain from trying to inform them.

Consumers of automobiles "didn't get it" about seatbelt either. They
said that collisions are inevitable, and to fight against them is
worthless. Ralph Nader came around and explained that there are two
collisions: the car hits something, and your body hits the car. While
we can't do much about the former, we have simple technology
(seatbelts/etc) that can minimize the damage caused by the latter.

The same is the case for DRM. The issue is not (and we can't get
distracted by) "technical measures" applied to content. Let copyright
holders do whatever they wish with their content. What matters is that
we own and control the devices, and that includes the right to use
whatever device we choose, under whatever software control we choose,
based on our own personal convictions to access that content. This
includes the legal right to reverse-engineer any device which can access
the content and distribute hardware (or software for existing hardware)
which can access the content. This includes it being recognized as a
violation of our competition act to precondition the use of specific
brands of devices to access content (Section 77 -- refusal to deal, tied
selling).

Existing privacy, property, competition, contract and other laws
protect our rights for other consumer products and services, and there
is no legitimate reason why the activities of copyright holders should
be exempted from the rule of law. Legalizing the techniques used in DRM
would be an exception to the rule of law, and trying to protect the rule
of law should never be considered "moralistic opposition" to lawbreaking.

As to the GPLv3, it is not a radical change but a simple closing of a
legal loophole. The purpose of reciprocal (AKA: CopyLeft, ShareAlike)
nature of the the GPL, compared to non-reciprocal licenses such as the
BSD license, is to ensure that derivatives of the software will also be
FLOSS. This means the right of the recipient of the software to "run,
copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software", including
derivatives of the software.

If a hardware device is encumbered with DRM where the owner is not
given the right signing keys it would be possible for GPL software to
exist where the recipient is not capable of running their own modified
code on their own device because their code was not signed by the device
manufacturer. The legal protection of this technique opens a loophole
in the GPL where derivatives are no longer FLOSS as the modified version
can not be "run" (The first condition for software being FLOSS).

As to "moralistic opposition", I am tending to see far more of it
from the anti-FSF camp than from the extremely practical people who
recognize the legal and other problems with DRM.

--
Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant:
2415+ Canadians oppose Bill C-60 which protects antiquated Recording,
Movie and "software manufacturing" industries from modernization.
Send a letter to your Canadian MP! --> http://digital-copyright.ca/
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