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November 11, 2005

Stop whining about DRM, *IAA, and so forth - do something about it yourself right now

The rumbling about "Digital Rights Management" (DRM) increasingly built into digital media (music and video from the iTunes store, DVD Region encoding (deemed an illegal restraint of trade in Australia) and much more) long found at the "geek end" of the web user spectrum is about to tip, I suspect, into the wider community. It was only a matter of time before the stupid greed of the film, and particular music industries went too far, (as if the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 2000 wasn't too far, in part criminalizing what has traditionally been considered "fair use" of copyright material - by the way, Australians, don't think you are safe, as our now year old "free trade agreement" (which has seen trade with the U.S. fall by 3% since implemented, requires copyright laws to be "harmonized" between the two countries)).

But SONY's recent arrogant, bone headed attempt to stop you using music your have purchased a license for in ways which may well be legal (in Australia, unlike many other places, we have few use rights when we purchase music, even ripping a CD to play on your computer or iPod is not permitted. Not sure what happens with portable CD players which cache your music to RAM to provide an anti skip buffer (you know, from companies like, um, SONY) - probably an illegal device in Australia) is hopefully the thing that will bring just how greedy, arrogant, contemptuous and stupid the mainstream recording industry is into widespread public cognizance.

A number of SONY music CDs, when played on your computer will install a rootkit. purportedly as a form of DRM. Rootkits are really bad things - processes which are intended to conceal running processes and files or system data, which helps an intruder maintain access to a system for malicious purposes.

Already EFF (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) is looking to bring legal action against SONY, and the state of California appears to be bringing an action against them, alleging

Sony's software violates at least three California statutes, including the "Consumer Legal Remedies Act," which governs unfair and/or deceptive trade acts; and the "Consumer Protection against Computer Spyware Act," which prohibits -- among other things -- software that takes control over the user's computer or misrepresents the user's ability or right to uninstall the program. The suit also alleges that Sony's actions violate the California Unfair Competition law, which allows public prosecutors and private citizens to file lawsuits to protect businesses and consumers from unfair business practices

On one level, SONY's action has so far overstepped the mark that it doubtless will rebound on them, and they will wish they had never even thought about doing this. But it underscores just what the music industry thinks of you. Very very little indeed. Not content with suing children for downloading music, they now want to install malicious software on your computer, without your knowledge, from CDs which you have purchased from them.

But what to do? I think the legal actions are fine - if you break the law, you should suffer the consequences. We are fine and dandy with that for 12 year old kids who download music, so we should be double plus good with that for the industry that wants to bring those kinds of actions. I hope (but doubt) they are fined into the stone age for this.

But you know, in essence there is a single action, that you as an individual can take, that will have an effect on the music industry. It's not whining. Its not suing, it's not writing to your congress person/representative/local member.

Don't buy their music. Don't buy music from any mainstream music publishing company. Don't buy music from anyone associated with the RIAA (or similar organization in your country).
Sure, you will miss out on the fine offerings of popular culture, and doubtless will feel less culturally enriched than if you could get access to Celine Dion, Ricky Martin and the rest of today's equivalents to Monteverdi, Bach and the like. But geez it's not like that is the only music available. Go looking for independents. Start with someone like emusic, broaden your horizons, "try something new Homer".

But above all, just stop whining how bad the music industry is then running out to buy more of their DRM laden crap. If you are going to drink the Kool Aid, go ahead, but don't complain about how bad it tastes.
The only thing that is going to change the behavior of this lot is a swift kick right where it hurts. Their bottom line.

So start kicking.

An update - must be something in the water

All of a sudden, articles about how to live without the music industry are springing up all over the place. Here is one you might like to check out.

More updates

So SONY has pulled the CDs featuring their rootkit on it. Well, that ought to cost them a few bucks, but hopefully they'll bear a higher burden than that. Hot on the heels of this announcement we find that software SONY released to get rid of the rootkit leaves your system highly vulnerable.

And, in the ultimate show of contempt (actually a demonstration that this is not even remotely about copyright or intellectual property at all, rather a strategy for maximising revenue from their paying customers, by limiting in software fair use rights that you may have under your countries copyright law (except in australia where you have little if any) their rootkit contains pieces of code that are identical to LAME, an open source mp3-encoder, and thereby breach the license).

And now with the US Attorney General proposing harsh criminalization and jail time for even trivial copyright infringement, I expect we'll be seeing SONY execs in orange jumpsuits and manacles some time soon? Not.

If this whole episode leaves you with any doubt about what SONY thinks of their customers, and intellectual property law (little and even less) then by all means keep giving them money.

November 11, 2005 in Rants | Permalink


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"If you are going to drink the Kool Aid, go ahead, but don't complain about how bad it tastes."

Oh so very true. I've never understood why so many people complain about the music industry, and then turn around and support their behaviors. It's like buying crack and complaining that it's not cocaine... you just don't do it!

Posted by: Steven Ametjan | Nov 11, 2005 10:44:34 AM

Seems to me that sony have added another reason for people to try to circumvent traditional distribution channels.

Posted by: Joseph Lindsay | Nov 11, 2005 12:31:44 PM

Right on! This is just what I decided when EMI chose to add copy-protection to all new CD-Audio releases a couple of years ago. I sternly wrote to them to say that I'd purchased my last EMI release if they insisted continuing with this policy. I've been good to my word.

But I don't think this is enough: we have to spread the word so it's not just a handful of geeks. I've thought about making large "crippleware" stickers to put on CDs in retailers, but this is probably illegal (go figure).

Any better ideas, anyone?

Posted by: Calrion | Nov 13, 2005 12:43:18 AM

Have they pulled the CDs with rootkits? Last I heard, they had decided to stop making new ones, but had not gone so far as to issue a recall of existing ones already in stores.

Posted by: John | Nov 15, 2005 1:43:37 AM


yes, you are right, they just stopped shipping new ones.

There is a good summary and timeline here




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yeah i have to do something to improve my life in live better

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