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FSF, Political Activism or Crossing the Line? 567

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the keeping-em-honest dept.
orbitor writes to tell us InfoWorld's Neil McAllister is calling into question some of the recent decisions by the Free Software Foundation. From the article: "All the more reason to be disappointed by the FSF's recent, regrettable spiral into misplaced neo-political activism, far removed from its own stated first principles. 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."
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FSF, Political Activism or Crossing the Line?

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  • Utter nonsense. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:39AM (#15433625) Homepage Journal
    The Author presents the market as being able to solve the DRM 'problem' (or at least decide whether its acceptable):
    For starters, market realities right here in the United States put the lie to the FSF's histrionics. Apple's iTunes Store, which sells DRM-encoded music and videos to millions of iPod owners, is going like gangbusters. Clearly, despite DRM's widely discussed inadequacies and regular aggravations, more than a few consumers are willing to put up with it when the price is right. That's just basic free-market economics.
    Well, thanks Neil McAllister, I bet you would also have advised Mr Stallman that the market would sort out software in 1985? I think he would have said something like:
    For starters, market realities right here in the United States put the lie to the FSF's histrionics. Software vendors such as Microsft and IBM which sell closed source software to millions of businesses, are going like gangbusters. Clearly, despite closed source's widely discussed inadequacies and regular aggravations, more than a few consumers are willing to put up with it when the price is right. That's just basic free-market economics.
    If the author wants to attack the FSF for being anti-DRM, more power to them (although, frankly I question the motivations of anyone who's pro-drm.

    But, the author trys to present FSFs anti DRM as a new thing:
    far removed from its own stated first principles. In particular, the FSF's moralistic opposition to DRM (digital rights management) technologies,
    Which just isn't true - stallman wrote in his GNU Manifesto [gnu.org]:
    I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others. I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this way.
    You can see pretty clearly how DRM fits in there - and if you don't believe in DRM on software, why on earth would you for content?
    • I don't think you've made a valid comparison.

      Stallman's answer in 1985 was to create F/OSS software, not to outlaw proprietary software, nor to use unlawfully copied proprietary software. F/OSS was and is able to compete in the marketplace.

      Now let's look at DRM. DRM is a flawed, ultimately unworkable attempt to control copying of "content" files. If the FSF had a workable alternative to DRM, then they should put it forth and let it compete for our hearts and minds and dollars.

      Better yet, if they want to wor
      • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:17AM (#15433723) Homepage Journal
        The point of political protest against DRM is that the proponents of DRM are pushing for laws that force people to use DRM. You are right, DRM is "flawed", but that hardly matters when there are laws demanding that no-one tell anyone that it is flawed. As for your question about the DMCA, exactly what laws do you think we're talking about? The DMCA is just the first of many that will make DRM workable.

      • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:18AM (#15433733) Homepage Journal
        Stallman's answer in 1985 was to create F/OSS software, not to outlaw proprietary software, nor to use unlawfully copied proprietary software. F/OSS was and is able to compete in the marketplace.

        Hmmmmn, good point - my analogy was flawed.

        Now let's look at DRM. DRM is a flawed, ultimately unworkable attempt to control copying of "content" files. If the FSF had a workable alternative to DRM, then they should put it forth and let it compete for our hearts and minds and dollars.

        DRM can be used to protect any digital file - including software. It affects the FSF directly (DRM measures can remove some freedoms granted by the GPL) and is a legal and social problem, there is no technical solution.

        Better yet, if they want to work a political angle, why not work on/against legislation such as the DMCA? Why waste the effort on DRM, which in my estimation is going to turn out to be one of the big non-issues of the century.

        I take your point that the DMCA is the whip that enforces DRM, but the FSF is going working on the DMCA [petitiononline.com], not too mention even more dangerous items, like the wipo netcast treaty [fsf.org], and software patents [ffii.org].

        Just 'cause they're attacking DRM doesn't mean they've forgotten everything else!
      • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:19AM (#15433736)
        If the FSF had a workable alternative to DRM, then they should put it forth and let it compete for our hearts and minds and dollars.

        They do. Its called Freedom. You know - free as in liberty, not free as in beer. What works for software can work for art too, they are effectively the same thing after all.

        The big difference is that when Stallman got started on Free software, non-Free software was only a few years old and had only just gained an advantage over Free software.

        Entertainment has been technically non-Free for a couple of centuries. Its a much bigger entrenched mindset that must be overcome, and unlike the software microcosm, those who benefit from the current non-Free environment have so much control over the public discourse that its almost impossible for a dissenting opinion like the FSF's to be widely heard, much less considered more than "fringe."
        • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by paganizer (566360) <`moc.liamtoh' `ta' `1evorgeht'> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:28AM (#15433760) Homepage Journal
          Valid point.
          I think it skirts around the issue that DRM is just downright Evil (tm 2006 microsoft/disney/bush); the entire concept of placing limits on something I own that I didn't ask for is so blatantly wrong that I'm still at a loss as to how anyone can support it.
          • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:3, Insightful)

            by QuantumG (50515)
            It's not about supporting it, it's about tolerating it. Consider, when you bought your DVD player and found that you couldn't fast forward certain parts of media (like those stupid logos and copyright notices) did you take it back to the store and ask for a refund? No, you just put up with it. What we're calling DRM today is just the warm up game.
        • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TapeCutter (624760)
          "Entertainment has been technically non-Free for a couple of centuries."

          That might be true if your only form of entertainment is sex, otherwise it's total bollocks, do you feel compelled to pay every busker, pub band, musically talented relative/friend you encounter? It's only when one of these artist's can draw a big enough crowd to sell seats that money enters the equation (some people erroneously think that if you throw enough money at a good looking kid it will make them a popular artist). During the
          • by hummassa (157160) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @08:37AM (#15434427) Homepage Journal
            Slashdot-audience-focus-group jokes apart:

            When I was single, everything I did with a sexual partner -- and everything she did with me -- could be repeated (or retried) with the next, without fear of being sued for the "Intellectual Property" of an interesting, insightful or even astounding sexual discovery.

            At least that's how I learned the "Candelabro Italiano" :-)
            • When I was single, everything I did with a sexual partner -- and everything she did with me -- could be repeated (or retried) with the next, without fear of being sued for the "Intellectual Property" of an interesting, insightful or even astounding sexual discovery.

              What happened when you got married that changed this? Sounds like your wife had some pretty sharp lawyers draw up a one-sided prenuptial agreement that would prevent you from sharing any requirements with theoretical future partners. I hope for y
      • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:16AM (#15434151) Homepage Journal
        Stallman's answer in 1985 was to create F/OSS software, not to outlaw proprietary software, nor to use unlawfully copied proprietary software.
        The FSF hasn't "outlawed" DRM in any way that it hasn't proprietary software. It does, actually, support copyright law changes that would result in the banning of proprietary software. (As it does DRM.) It did release a license whose aim was to use existing copyright law to prevent proprietary software by making people choose between being able to build upon a free software project, or being able to release something proprietary, and likewise is using the same bargain against DRM.

        So I fail to see what's so amazingly different. Finally, arguing the FSF are extremists for suddenly going political reminds me of politicians who criticise their counterparts for "playing politics". The FSF is, and always has been, a political organization. It will consider its mission furfilled when the last vestages of proprietary software (and this includes DRM, which is a form of proprietary software, inherently involving secrets and closed, unmodifiable, code) have been displaced by free software. Anyone who describes it in the terms the author did is an idiot.

    • Wait? There's a choice? There is a store where we "legally" can buy non-DRM'ed music?

      If not, then I don't see how the market will regulate this because of lack of compition concerning DRM.
      Unless market regulation is suddenly no longer influenced by consumer demand.
      • There is a store where we "legally" can buy non-DRM'ed music?

        emusic?

        amazon?

        (I understand what you mean)
        • Magnatune, allofmp3.com (certainly "legally", don't know about bona-fidé-legit)

          In fact, why isn't there a portal page which links to every known source of legitimately purchasable non-DRM digital content?

      • Currently, the "black market" IS in the process of regulation of the content industry. If I can go to iTunes and pay for DRM'd crap that won't play on my OS of choice or to Bittorrent for free copies that will play on anything anytime, guess which one I'm going to choose?

        Here's a hint: I'm not about to pay more for something that does less.

        On the other hand, I will patronize (and have patronized) Magnatune or other artists that offer unencumbered downloads for a reasonable fee. They have earned my money

    • He also attempts to claim the GPL v3 will prevent DRM code from being written;

      McAllister: "But not, apparently, under the new FSF order. In this new worldview, DRM is Wrong. It is verboten. And who knows what other algorithm or subroutine might be cast out next; but who are we to question?"

      He's wrong, of course, as far as I've seen the GPL v3 DRM restrictions are intended to prevent DRM that _prevents the GPL code from being modified_, not GPL code that does DRM. Perfectly consistent within the RMS/GPL/FSF
    • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ulrich Hobelmann (861309) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:32AM (#15433772) Journal
      In fact the market DID sort out software since '85. That's because the market isn't something that falls from the sky, but it consists of individual acting human beings.

      At some point some human beings (many inspired by RMS and the FSF I think) decided that they *wanted* Free Software, and that's why it happened. No magic, no legal intervention, just people and the market.

      I like the FSF in most respects, but DRM is just another technology where consumers (yes, that's you and me) have to simply refuse current offers (I never buy DRM music, only CDs). The market already HAS sorted it out. There's Magnatune, there's eMusic. And for everybody who just *needs* mainstream music, well there's only mainstream providers like Napster or iTunes, but I think they're gonna have to live with it. Tough Shit.

      There's absolutely nothing that would justify any legal intervention or any other meddling with the market in this case. Nobody is forcing DRM on you.

      You pay your price and make your choice.
      • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Znork (31774) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @05:59AM (#15433980)
        "There's Magnatune, there's eMusic."

        And there's aluminium, and there's milk, and there's screwdrivers.

        The existence of other products does not a free market make, and monopolistic competition for the consumers disposable income does not create the economic efficiency that free market competition on commodity pricing does.

        On a free market, competition forces the price to fall towards the cost of production, driving production into ever higher efficiency to create profit margins. This in itself means more wealth is created for the same amount of effort, thus creating an ever more wealthy economy, and benefiting society as a whole.

        So, seen the price of a CD lately? If 'the market' had 'sorted it out', it ought to be around a few cents for the more widely produced mass produced products. Oops, nope, not there. And the amortized cost of Windows should be a couple of bucks. Oh, not there either.

        Seems the market isnt sorting things out that good, eh?

        "There's absolutely nothing that would justify any legal intervention or any other meddling with the market in this case."

        Indeed. Intellectual monopoly legislation needs to be removed. There is nothing that justifies the legal intervention of copyrights or patents in the market, and the damage is obvious.
      • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dbIII (701233)
        That's because the market isn't something that falls from the sky, but it consists of individual acting human beings ... No magic
        Careful, be quiet - you'll make the economists cry if you talk like that.
    • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:37AM (#15433781) Homepage
      How many non-DRM alternatives are there anyway? To the best of my knowledge there is only one, and it's based in russia because that's apparently the only country whose laws don't enable the record company cartel found in the west. And even that DRM-free alternative is under constant fire from the cartel.

      The whole evidence is pretty much moot if there isn't a possibility to proof it wrong.

      If the record companies asked of us to whip ourselves on the back to buy music and didn't offer any other way to buy music, clearly whipping yourself to buy music is perfectly fine.
    • If the author wants to attack the FSF for being anti-DRM, more power to them (although, frankly I question the motivations of anyone who's pro-drm).

      DRM - as a concept - is just a logical progression of copyright law. I think you'll find there's a lot of people who are pro-copyright.

      • DRM - as a concept - is just a logical progression of copyright law. I think you'll find there's a lot of people who are pro-copyright.

        Copyright expires, DRM doesn't.

        I think you'll find that there's a lot of people who are pro-copyright & anti-drm.
      • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bit01 (644603) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:04AM (#15434124)

        DRM - as a concept - is just a logical progression of copyright law.

        No, DRM is what some entrenched interests would like existing copyright to become. It is not a logical progression.

        DRM'ed content (as currently implemented) usually breaks the copyright (as currently implemented) bargain, the first sale doctrine and fair use provisions. It should not be possible to copyright DRM'ed content.

        The law is a creation of the mind and can be anything we want it to be. Current copyright law is only one of a universe of possibilities. Those people who create the false dichotomy of copyright law as currently implemented versus a free-for-all as the only alternative are confused at best and fraudulently misrepresenting the situation at worst.

        Your implicit assumption that current copyright law is the only possibility is part of this narrow mindset. e.g. I'm pro some forms of copyright (e.g. very short terms with a trademark-like loss of copyright if software or media like m$word or happy birthday becomes a standard) but I'm strongly anti-DRM (which just for starters should be illegal until it implements current law) while still being anti copyright and patent law as they're currently implemented.

        ---

        It's wrong that an intellectual property creator should not be rewarded for their work.
        It's equally wrong that an IP creator should be rewarded too many times for the one piece of work, for exactly the same reasons.
        Reform IP law and stop the M$/RIAA abuse.

    • Re:Utter nonsense. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by samkass (174571) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @08:14AM (#15434338) Homepage Journal
      I bet you would also have advised Mr Stallman that the market would sort out software in 1985?

      I think a more apt comparison would be software copy protection. I recall in 1985 almost all commercial software had copy protection. A little earlier than that, the Commodore 64 was legendary for various schemes that caused intentional error states in the floppy disk that was required for the software to run, etc. As the industry matured, they realized that copy protection was only hurting the honest folks, and that the people who wanted to copy would still copy. By the time the Mac reached its market share peak, MacWorld was taking away a "mouse" in its software ratings if the software had copy protection. It sorted itself out.

      If DRM doesn't sort itself out the same way, it probably means that it's probably not all that bad for the honest folks. I know Apple's DRM has never annoyed me at all when I'm trying to do legal listening to my music. As soon as the DRM starts getting in the way of regular lawful usage, industry forces will start to push it out.
  • Huh? Recent? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suckfish (129773) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:39AM (#15433626)
    Since when has FSFs neo-political activism been a "recent spiral". RMS has been a loud-mouth activist since before most /. readers were born (and hopefully, he won't be shutting up any time soon).

    The authors opinions seem just as clueless as his non-facts.
  • Stupid article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by strider44 (650833) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:40AM (#15433629)
    Apart from misquoting "There is no more important cause for electronic freedoms and privacy than the call for action to stop DRM from crippling our digital future" (slightly different meaning there mate) I'm struggling to wonder why he's surprised that the free software foundation would be against DRM. Admittedly the car steering analogy is a bit silly - it's more like a car that will only steer on vendor-approved roads.

    An utterly idiotic article.
    • Re:Stupid article (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Haeleth (414428) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:17AM (#15434026) Journal
      Admittedly the car steering analogy is a bit silly

      No, he misrepresented that as well. He presents it as though the FSF is claiming DRM is like a car that can't be steered. If he seriously thought that, then he's an idiot. In fact, the FSF is saying DRM is like a car that won't let you steer it -- i.e., one that steers itself, driving you where the car makers decide you ought to want to drive.

      One can imagine quite a lot of people happily buying a self-driving car - how convenient! Except... how odd, when you tell it you want to drive to a hotel in Boston, it has a list of the hotels you can drive to, and they're all big chains. The nice little independent one you've booked isn't an option. And it's going to drive several hundred miles out of your way, to avoid having to fill up at an unapproved gas station. And you're going to be forced to watch adverts all the way...

      And that's actually not a bad analogy for one form of DRM dystopia, the one where the content creators literally control all the content that gets produced, and amateurs literally cannot play back home recordings and the like. Of course that's not a plausible scenario. But hyperbole has always been an acceptable rhetorical device.
  • by jrockway (229604) * <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:41AM (#15433635) Homepage Journal
    > In particular, the FSF's moralistic opposition to DRM (digital rights [sic] management) technologies, which first manifested itself in early drafts of Version 3 of the GPL (Gnu [sic, it's GNU] General Public License), seems now to have been elevated to the point of evangelical dogma.

    Um, yeah? They're the Free Software Foundation -- they like Freedom. DRM is the exact opposite of Freedom, which is why they're against it. The FSF has always been about politics. If you want the neutral, "here's some code, enjoy!" stance, use the BSD license. If you want to ensure that software remains Free for generations to come, then the GPL is the way to go.

    If you read Stallman's essay, The Right to Read [gnu.org], you'll see why he's so opposed to DRM. Today, DRM is limited to crappy pop music that nobody wants any, but the extension of what can be done with DRM is pretty scary. It's easier to nip the DRM plague in the bud rather than wait until the society in The Right to Read becomes reality!
    • Today, DRM is limited to crappy pop music that nobody wants any


      You get the prize for most factuals errors in one sentence:

      - DRM is not limited to pop music (not everything on itunes is crappy pop) it is not even limited to music.
      - pop music is, by definition, what most people want - wether you think its crappy or not

  • Perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bongo Bill (853669) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:45AM (#15433645) Homepage
    While TFA is certainly excessive in the manner in which it presents this issue, it does indicate a deeper concern. Why shouldn't DRM'd software be written and sold, as long as the transaction is voluntary? It's no more restrictive than any other type of contract - and contracts are the foundation of the economics surrounding any creative work.
    • Why shouldn't closed software be written and sold, as long as the transaction is voluntary? It's no more restrictive than any other type of contract - and contracts are the foundation of the economics surrounding any creative work.

      It's hardly surprising the FSF's stance, given their opinion on similar matters.
    • The FSF is telling people that they don't have to and should not give up their freedoms voluntarily.
      • Yes, and that's a worthwhile message. However, there are those among the FSF that are telling people that they won't be given the choice to give up certain of their freedoms voluntarily, even if (for some reason, such as substantial discounts, or insanity) they want to. And that can be the beginning of a dangerous mentality.
        • "Yes, and that's a worthwhile message. However, there are those among the FSF that are telling people that they won't be given the choice to give up certain of their freedoms voluntarily, even if (for some reason, such as substantial discounts, or insanity) they want to. And that can be the beginning of a dangerous mentality."

          There will certainly be cases where people will have DRM shoved down their throat whether they want it or not. It's a simple matter of consumer protection (although I get the feeling y
          • A pre-emptive strike, hmm?

            Don't get me wrong. Keeping consumers informed about DRM is a good thing. Advocating the abolition of a way of doing business just because it could be misused, however, is precisely what TFA claims - rash and dogmatic.

            • "Don't get me wrong. Keeping consumers informed about DRM is a good thing. Advocating the abolition of a way of doing business just because it could be misused, however, is precisely what TFA claims - rash and dogmatic."

              What do you mean "could be misused". Don't we already have a stack of cases of DRM (and DMCA) being misused? Exactly how much evidence do you need anyway?

              What's rash and dogmatic to me is the blind and unquestioning acceptance of the myth that corporations will not abuse their power, will n
              • The "myth" that corporations treat customers well? It takes a monopoly or, at best, an oligopoly for dishonesty to become profitable. People like honesty, and as long as there is competition, there will be companies who can turn a profit by being friendlier. You can't tell me that basic economics is "rash and dogmatic." The importance of informed consumers cannot be understated, however, since informed consumers can identify precisely in which ways companies might try to rip them off, and recognize what alt
                • Re:Perspective (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by killjoe (766577)
                  "You can't tell me that basic economics is "rash and dogmatic.""

                  I can because economics is mostly an ideology driven system and not one driven by testable hypothesis and rigorous proof. Economics is closer to a religion then a science. I don't remember who but an ex president is quoted as saying "get me a one armed economist so I never hear the word "on the other hand" again".

                  "DRM can be misused. The fact that it has been only demonstrates that this is true. I never said that it could not or would not. What
    • Re:Perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pchan- (118053) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:11AM (#15433708) Journal
      As an embedded systems engineer, I've created systems using open source software, GPL and others. You could go to our company's website and download the source to all those that we are required to distribute. But these won't do you any good. The system cryptographically authenticates all binaries from the bootloader on. Even if you changed our kernel, improved our software, you'll never be able to use them on the hardware you bought from us*. This "security" is to secure the content from you, the person who paid for it. In the process, we have subverted the intent of the GPL (without violating any of its rules). The point is to let you modify the software and *be able to use it*, not just stare at the authentication error message when you'll try to run the software you've built yourself.

      RMS is trying to stop this, stop the erosion of software freedom. In ten years, what I'm doing today will be a standard feature of your motherboard. Your authenticated OS will not run your unsigned code. Your free OS will not have access to the encrypted drive partition where your content is stored. Your hardware will conspire against you. Stallman is trying to extricate GPL software from the world where some are able to put restrictions on its free nature by means of DRM systems.

      * Well, you could if you're really smart, but in the U.S. this is prohibited by law.
      • There are those who'd call this FUD. If the market desires to run their own, unsigned code, then the market will create products to do that. This will, of course, require an informed consumer base. This is why it is important that people know what DRM is and what it could mean. But fearmongering of that sort does not produce an informed consumer base.
        • Re:Perspective (Score:4, Interesting)

          by pedestrian crossing (802349) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:39AM (#15433787) Homepage Journal

          There are those who'd call this FUD.

          And then there are those who would say that this is right on the money. YMMV. Many people here are focusing on content, which arguably is not the point (although "The Right to Read" does make some good points). But fighting DRM as it is used to further restrict software is exactly in line with the FSF's charter.

          I know, the market this, the market that, blah blah.

          I agree, an informed consumer base is important.

          Recent events show that the consumer responds quite well to fear, so maybe so-called "fear-mongering" is an effective way to go. I guess the "market" will sort that particular question out.

        • Tell me, do you know *anyone* who returned their DVD player because it prohibited them from fast forwarding the parts of the disc that are marked as not fast forwardable? The market is clearly brain dead.

          I had an interesting experience the other day. I put in a disc, saw the stupid logo fly up and realised I had put the wrong disc in the drive. So I pressed Eject. The screen displayed "operation prohibited by disc". So I pressed Skip Forward. The screen displayed "operation prohibited by disc". So I
          • Not being able to skip a logo is a far cry from not being allowed, despite technological capability, to play home-burned DVDs. And you can bet people will start returning the players when they can't watch their home movies. Forcing playback of a part of a movie that most people don't fast-forward through anyway does indeed fall below the average consumer's consciousness (and, again, this is where it would be to everyone's advantage for them to know more about why this might be), but heaven save the poor man
            • I hate it when people say this, but I'll say it anyways, it's a slippery slope. People notice that you can't fast forward these things, they just accept them. So next time someone makes a device that does what is in the best interests of their "partners" and not in the best interest of their customer you will happily accept it, cause that's the way the world is.
        • Re:Perspective (Score:5, Informative)

          by pchan- (118053) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:44AM (#15433804) Journal
          You seem to be confused about the intent. This has nothing to do with the market, it has nothing to do with consumers, it has nothing to do with products. The GPL is about software. The intent of the GPL is to keep all GPL'd software available to anyone. The point of the license changes is to insure that the redistribution clause of the GPL is not rendered useless by DRM systems. You can't use the changes I've made to GPL software, even though you have the hardware for it, because I've created DRM software that prevents you from doing so. I've managed to close some GPL code, I've defeated the intent. The v3 license attempts to fix this.

          The informed consumers (or lack thereof) is another problem, but not one the GPL can address.
          • TFA seemed to be more concerned with the state of certain groups within the open source community. I agree that the letter of the GPL ought to agree with its spirit. I disagree that DRM is the Great Satan of software development (which I was under the impression was central to the issue at hand).
            • Re:Perspective (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Danse (1026)

              I disagree that DRM is the Great Satan of software development (which I was under the impression was central to the issue at hand).

              So what exactly is your position regarding the situation described by the gp poster? Is it ok to use DRM to render free software useless? The real problem is that software DRM will never really work as long as the hardware is open, and once the hardware is no longer open, then you no longer own your own PC. That is the inevitable outcome of DRM. Someone else decides what y

    • Amen. Personally my software doesnt actually use DRM,because as a downloadable product, its hard to implement without expensive server stuff, but I fully understand why people use it. I dont mind needing a CD or an online activation system to run software, because it helps reduce casual piracy and keeps the software developers in business.
      Much DRM is evil, rootkits, CD + online code (hello battlefild 2), unskippable DVD adverts etc. But the *principle* of DRM, and especially software copy protection is esse
    • Re:Perspective (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alsee (515537)
      Why shouldn't DRM'd software be written and sold, as long as the transaction is voluntary?

      Setting aside the GPL for the moment, people are perfectly free to write all the DRM code they like. And publishers are perfectly free to apply any stupid DRM schemes they like to the content they publish.

      The problem is horribly broken and evil law like the DMCA and EUCD that try to prohibit people from writing and transacting software freely. The horribly broken and evil DMCA and EUCD that say I go to prison if I writ
  • by zyche (784345) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:46AM (#15433646)

    Perhaps I'm uninformed, but how can opposing DRM, a technique which clearly never will work in the long run and in the end be paid for by consumers, be a bad thing?

    People are watching freakin' cammed versions of movies for Petes sake... When will the DRM firms get it?! I should go patent sound waves and photons and claim that these are a "media distribution channel for IP".

    • I don't see iTunes files on the sharing networks, and FairPlay has yet to be cracked in a way that allows a person to remove protection from a file that they didn't purchase. So you might dislike DRM and FairPlay, but it is working.
      • Assuming your definition of "working" is "requires you to buy one single copy, then you can distribute a million copies".

        And assuming the lack of cracked iTunes-files on the sharing networks is not simply a consequence of the same content being available in more popular and easier formats. Why would anyone care to crack and upload a itunes-file aslong as the same song is going to be ten times as popular as a plain old mp3 ?

        You can turn it around and say: There's no content on iTunes that isn't also circ

        • You can turn it around and say: There's no content on iTunes that isn't also circulating freely on the sharing-networks in unprotected form. Thus the DRM on iTunes fails at preventing piracy.

          That seems a bit like saying, "Banks with safes get robbed, so safes fail at preventing bank robberies." DRM certainly will never stop piracy altogether, but if it stops any noticable amount of it, then it will increase the industry's profits (or they believe it will, anyway), and thus they're going to use it.
    • As far as consumer DRM I agree with you that it will never work in any of its current or near future forms because it is designed by cretinous incompetent idiots with a very remote grasp of cryptography and identity management. Best case scenario, they are trying to sell to a person while identifying the item sold with a device or software component and issuing the cert to the device or software component. Usually it is even worse - some form of security through obscurity or a combination of device/software
  • the long view (Score:5, Interesting)

    by epine (68316) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:48AM (#15433653)

    I'm not sure I agree with recent FSF positions (haven't tracked them much recently), but I agree overall with the FSF taking the long view of free software. There are enormous latent risks that DRM or shifts in the IP landscape (patents) could poison the well ten or twenty years down the road, by which point the crucial battles have already been lost. It's easy to come off as radical crusaders fighting battles that won't play out over a span of decades. Our short little span of attention is our worst enemy in these matters. The fact that they are alone in their extreme urgency doesn't prove much directly: they might be equally alone in a correct analysis of the risks at hand. Just because Chicken Little is squawking, that doesn't mean the sky isn't falling. Glib comments about Chicken Little behaving like Chicken Little have add nothing of any use to the larger debate. My comments add nothing of any use, either, but at least I know the difference.

  • by Tom (822) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:53AM (#15433665) Homepage Journal
    If anyone really thinks that DRM is or should be outside the FSF's agenda, he should read The Right to Read [gnu.org].

    DRM is exactly the kind of things that caused Stallman to launch the FSF in the first place.
    • Wrong DRM (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swillden (191260) *

      If anyone really thinks that DRM is or should be outside the FSF's agenda, he should read The Right to Read.

      Absolutely, but it's important to keep in mind that proposed GPLv3's anti-DRM clause is about something else, something less "radical" (not that I disagree with RMS here) and more subtle.

      I guess I can't take issue with the author of the article for not understanding the proposed GPLv3's position on this, because most of the Free Software community misunderstands it as well. Everyone thinks that

  • To every action, reaction.

    Don't you think just saying "sigh" and smiling at the look of big corporations spreading trojans in music entertainment disks is kinda lethargic?

    There guys are just pissed off and doing what they thing they should do. Not defending them nor condemning them. But when you see things take in a radically bad direction and noone doing anything serious to correct it, you just gotta expect this "bad energy" to burst from somewhere.

    This time, it's FSF.
  • Reply (Score:5, Informative)

    by Godji (957148) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:57AM (#15433677) Homepage
    There's a reply to TFA posted on www.defectivebydesign.org

    http://defectivebydesign.org/node/78 [defectivebydesign.org]
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:02AM (#15433688) Journal
    Clearly, despite DRM's widely discussed inadequacies and regular aggravations, more than a few consumers are willing to put up with it when the price is right. That's just basic free-market economics.

    This is not a free market! The record industry controls how music is allowed to be released. They restrict the market. If there was a choice between DRM and non-DRM music, everyone would go for the non-DRM stuff. It would allow them choice over which mp3 player to buy, not restrict them to an arbitrarty number of copies, allow them to play them on many types of DVD player, and give them all the flexibility that CDs give.
    • It is a free market. It is a market governed by free choices and is free from the interference of force and fraud.

      1. You can buy DRM music or not buy DRM music. You have a choice and know what you are buying.
      2. Artists can distribute music themselves or through a label. They have a choice.
      3. If the artists distribute it themselves, they can protect it with DRM or not protect it with DRM.
      4. If the artist goes with a label, the label can choose to protect the music with drm or not protect it with

      • It is a free market. It is a market governed by free choices and is free from the interference of force and fraud.

        A market based around copyright is inherently not a free market, because the government is involved.

        A free market is a market without an artificial price mechanism,

        Copyright is the artificial price mechanism.

      • It is a free market.

        Wrong. The DMCA was bought and paid for to prohibit a free market and to try to defeat natural free market forces and to prohibit natural free market responses.

        Teh DMCA makes it criminal for me to offer an independant and innovative player on the market. It even makes it criminal to USE an independant and innovative player. Makes it criminal to offer (or use) any format conversion product or service on the market. Makes it criminal to offer (or use) any products or services on the market
  • by Council (514577) <rmunroe@NospAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:13AM (#15433712) Homepage
    In the last month or two, I've undergone a shift. I used to be fairly moderate in all this. I thought Lessig's book made some really good points, and I thought "there's a nice middle ground, it's only fair that the artists protect their rights, and that people should understand their own rights and at the same time not be piracy apologists. I don't pirate stuff very much, and I don't really mind when people do.

    But especially with the new HDMI shit, with looking at what the DMCA actually lets people do, and thinking a little more about the big picture, I would like to take this chance to say: screw 'em. I hope the internet takes down the music industry, and then moves on to the movie industry. Let's take some risks, let's give people a little basic freedom, and let's let technology run its course a little and then figure out how to make money off the result. People have a hard time dealing with change, but it happens.

    MPAA, I'm gonna go spend a little more time on the beach with my friends and a little less time trying to convince you and your surrogates that I legally own this DVD. Screw you and your careful licensing of permissions. And FSF, you've gained a contributor.

    None of this is particularly new or revolutionary, but I want to add my voice to the chorus. Let's shake things up a bit.
  • by hackstraw (262471) * on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:14AM (#15433714)

    as a consumer, writer, musician, actor, or software developer.

    Remind me how it benefits someone else?

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:23AM (#15433745) Journal
    Because the combination DRM+DMCA prevents the creation of an open source implementation of a player/encoder of any DRMed format.

    I see the logic behind the FSF position and it seems objective enough to me. Their goal is to defend the 2-3% of the population known as "the geeks" who care for their digital rights and who have, in the field of computer science, a better chance than the rest of the population to recognise a "slippery slope". Of course, 97-98% of the population don't know/don't care about these issues and are numerous enough to make a commercial success
  • My ideal future (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Runesabre (732910)
    I look forward to a day when the MPAA and the RIAA store everything on their own servers and I simply need to pay a license fee to have access to my music and movies anytime and anywhere (car, home, office, beach, Mars) without having to deal with any physical media at all.

    Personally, I get tired of dealing with records, tapes, CDs, DVDs and the cycle of upgrading, the frustration of finding my favorite album scratched and unplayable or my kids tear it up or the dog pees on it or the latest format comes out
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The GPL is based on the idea that Free access to information benefits everyone, and it's not just a hunch. There are good reasons to believe that it's the right idea. You can't possibly expect that the people who are writing a license to protect this freedom tolerate deliberate restriction of access to information that the users of the license helped create.
  • Generally, I do not think that by itself DRM is morally wrong. But considering some of the DRM proposals out there it makes complete sense that the FSF should oppose them. And this has nothing to do with music or movies. It has to do with free software.

    In other words some of the DRM proposals out there may actually make it impossible to run legally obtained free software on computers. For example, hardware based software verification may make it impossible to load Linux on any PC.

    Also most DRM schemes rely
  • Would the FSF oppose a theoretical 'perfect' DRM which allowed the user all of their fair use rights (backups, format shifting, excerpts, decrypts itself at the end of the copyright term etc.), just didn't allow distribution? Or is it the very idea of DRM that they oppose, regardless of how it's used?
    • wouldn't the general public in any country also agree to taking on a guaranteed "benevolent dictator"?

      sadly power corrupts, that goes for dictators as it goes for big-brother technologies.

  • Tactics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FishandChips (695645) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:54AM (#15433826) Journal
    The core of McAllister's argument is that the FSF has changed its stance on software from promoting an "idealistic notion" which was "not just radical, but surprisingly practical" (and hugely successful) to "moralistic oppostion" in which DRM is given such an inflated importance that opposing it has become an "evangelical dogma".

    Looking at the terms like "evil" used by the FSF to describe DRM, it is hard not to think McAllister has a point.

    This has little to do with whether you think DRM is A Good Thing or A Bad Thing. It is a question of the FSF's attitude towards it. Alas, what the article doesn't do is consider whether the FSF's new tactics (if you think they are new) are more or less likely to succeed than their older and more laid-back ones.

    Telling someone that if they disagree with you they are morally wrong is not usually a great way to get them on your side. It comes across as arrogant, I would guess. Suggesting that by agreeing with you they will help to make the world a fairer and better place for both them and everyone else is usually more successful. So, yes, one can argue that the FSF has chosen to be too shrill and over-the-top to be as effective as it might be, especially since consumers have already shown with iTunes that if the price is right they will flock to a DRM-encumbered scheme in huge numbers.

    However, Apple is only one company. Behind them lurk some decidedly bloodthirsty characters, and the Beast of Redmond ...
  • it's a balance. the content creators DO have a right to limit your access to content they create. this provides them with an incentive to create content. but only in certain ways, and only for a certain amount of time. and yet currently, the limitations on what they can do to limit your access and how long they can limit it are exanding beyond the common sense balance between financial incentive and cultural considerations

    there are two kinds of riches: financial riches and cultural riches. content creating
  • by m874t232 (973431) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @05:08AM (#15433865)
    McAllister is apparently some anti-copyright hippie, because otherwise he'd understand that it's the FSF's code and they can choose whatever license they damned well please. If he doesn't like it, he doesn't have to use it. He's welcome to try and use Microsoft's or Apple's or Oracle's code contrary to their licenses or even try to argue with their legal staff about their licenses and see how far he gets.

    He also thinks that free software has to prove itself to him or anybody else; here's a piece of news: it doesn't have to prove anything to anybody. In practice, enough people find it useful for free software to be a force in the market. If McAllister can't figure out why, that's his loss and his problem.

    As for "neo-political activism", that's what the FSF is about (that's actually why the FSF and the GNU project are separate, but, hey, if you're an Infoworld journalist, why bother with facts). Personally, I consider the FSF's methods a whole lot better than the campaign contributions and other influence peddling that the big commercial software companies engage in. Regardless of whether you agree with their goals (and I don't always myself), politics is supposed to work like the FSF does it, not like corporate America does it.

    If McAllister wants to participate in any meaningful debate on free software and free software licenses, he first needs to get rid of some of his assumptions, foremost his assumption that free software owes him anything.

  • Skip it... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mind Booster Noori (772408) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @05:12AM (#15433877) Homepage
    This article is so full of nonsense, that you might skip it all, until the part where you can read:
    For DRM to fail in the entertainment industry, all that needs to happen is for customers to choose not to buy it, which in turn should convince artists not to use it.
    This is really true and most people fail to see it. The rest of the article is pure delusive nonsense.
  • EDITORIAL TEAM/BEAT LIST [infoworld.com] is what they have on their web site.
    Editors can be reached via e-mail, fax, telephone, or mail. The telephone switchboard is open weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Pacific time. After 5:30 p.m. you will be directed to individual extensions.
  • by leomekenkamp (566309) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @05:33AM (#15433927)

    This is imho a classic case of FUD: heavy use of emotinal words and reasoning, false reasoning, using a pro-argument as an against-argument simply by stating it differently.

    I tried to make an analysis of the article, and here's what I came up with:

    • Alinea 1: Introduction with mistake: "software should be free" was not a radical idea; a lot of software already used to be free delivered including the source.
    • Alinea 2: Short description of RMS
    • Alinea 3: main statement, uses lots of emotionaly loaded words
    • Alinea 4: this should be backing up alinea 3, but just poses a new statement, again with the use of emotionaly loaded words
    • Alinea 5 & 6: author does not seem to see the dangers in drm and uses emotions ('if you do not agree with me you are as stupid as people who fell for obvious hoaxes') to direct the user instead of using arguments
    • Alinea 7: This is a non argument: so companies are making money using drm; this has nothing to do with the reasons the FSF is opposed to current drm implementations.
    • Alinea 8 & 9: A media player which will not allow you to play certain files is comparable with a car that will not allow you to drive on certain roads, i.e. "won't let you steer" to go on these roads. That customers would not buy such a car while they do buy such players suggests that the FSF has to step up its campaign; ironically the writer here makes a case agains his own statement.
      Also, the author suggests that a free market needs no regulation. Unfortunately, history has shown that a free market without regulation does not work properly (labour issues, environmental issues and moral issues are less important than making a profit).
    • Alinea 10: Again, the false assumption that consumers can change the market in all situations. Also a non-argument: the fsf does not made any statements about drm interfering with the _creation_ of data, only with the _playing_ of data.
    • Alinea 11: Correct facts about the FSF; does not strengthen the author's statement in any way.
    • Alinea 12: Again, use of emotionally loaded words. Wrong reasoning: drm is not an algorithm. By the way, RMS has stated that drm may be used, as long as Free (as in speech) implementations of that drm-scheme are possible, so this argument is wrong on two counts. The "God on their side" argument is ridiculous, as there are often reasons to abandon social and economic arguments in favour of morale: for instance I do not kill people who are of no economic value, so morale clearly prevails here.
    • Alinea 13: Author claims RMS is not rational w.r.t. drm. RMS has however imho written clear and rational about drm using arguments and not emotionally loaded words or orwellian newspeak. Claim about FSF without any backing up.
    • Alinea 14: Emotionally loaded comparison and repeat of claim from alinea 13.

    So, what have we: a claim that is not backed up by valid arguments, only by another claim that is in fact not backed up by arguments. A lot of paying on the readers' emotions.

    Can't wait to see RMS' rebuttal on this one.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @05:36AM (#15433932) Homepage
    For starters, market realities right here in the United States put the lie to the FSF's histrionics. Apple's iTunes Store, which sells DRM-encoded music and videos to millions of iPod owners, is going like gangbusters. Clearly, despite DRM's widely discussed inadequacies and regular aggravations, more than a few consumers are willing to put up with it when the price is right. That's just basic free-market economics.

    This is one of the more ridiculous assertions I have seen in quite a while. It is akin to saying that the rise of the confederate army "puts the lie" to the Union Army's "histrionics" in regard to its anit-Slavery stance. It is a complete non sequitur to conclude that DRM is not bad just because a large part of the populace ignorantly embraces it. The difference here is that the harm falls on the ignorant as well.

    People who think DRM is about protecting artist's rights and guaranteeing fair use while stopping piracy have literally no idea what DRM is, or what its potential for abuse implies. DRM is NOT about what music you can play or what videos you can watch, it is about what software you can run on your hardware!

    The evolution of DRM is intended to be as follows:
    1) We need to control who accesses our data and how
    2) People running "untrusted/unsigned" code can break our algorithms (Think DeCSS)
    3) Linux is a DRM circumvention device
    4) Congress ... we need to outlaw evil OSS hacker circumvention tools like Linux (look what they did with CSS)
    5) Game point and match, Bill "win at all cost but his" Gates
    Think about it people! Think! I implore you. You don't think Gates is pro DRM because he cares about making sure artists get paid boatloads of money, do you? Really?
  • by RomulusNR (29439) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:07PM (#15436776) Homepage
    The first thing I can't figure out is what possibly possessed you to entitle an anti-FSF, pro-DRM piece with the words "Free as in do what I say".

    The irony, which I'm sure I don't have to point out to you, is that FSF has been supportive of the rights of computer users to have control over their computers and the software and data that is on them. Meanwhile, DRM specifically and purposefully exists in order to control what you can do with data.

    So I must assume that you got confused in combining the words "do what I say" with the name of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Perhaps you got your TLAs confused and really meant to associate "do what I say" with the acronym "DRM". Because that would make sense.

    I don't know why I'm bothering to write, because I'm sure you must know this -- DRM is about limitation, FSF is about no limitation -- and yet you managed to switch the seats and slur FSF as the seekers of restriction. By inferred converse, this must mean that DRM is simply a beacon of liberty for you.

    I think the problem is that you don't seem to see free software as a good thing because it gives individuals control over their computers, but because it does good things to the market. The philosophical questions of whether people should be free in their computers is (ironically enough) apparently not important to the modern libertarian; rather the only thing that matters is what the market does.

    But the flaw in your market argument betrays the idea that maybe you're not really pro-free software at all. You argue that iTunes DRM must be okay, and not a challenge to user liberty, because the end-user market is gobbling it up. Now, if market acceptance was your true yardstick of good/bad, you couldn't in the same article say that free software (i.e. "free as in the concept of liberty") was also good -- because the end-user market *isn't* gobbling it up; they still use IE and Office and AIM and so on.

    So how can you possibly use market acceptance as a yardstick for DRM but then not for free software when you're trying to compare the two? Clearly there is something inconsistent here. Clearly market acceptance means little in terms of real value. Actually, I'd really like to see you argue that there is any at all correlation between market acceptance and personal liberty. People aren't really all that big on personal liberty these days, not if market acceptance (not just in software, but in everything from CPUs to media players to gasoline to presidents) is any indication.

    iTunes doesn't succeed in the market because it champions personal liberty. It succeeds because it has a large catalog of popular music and has lots of accessories and cross-branding. Personal liberty doesn't have anything to do with it. Like I said, personal liberty is not really all that high on people's priorities -- not as long as they can find a few things they are free to do (e.g. download music at a buck a song flat that they can do less with than they can a CD at roughly the same per-song price).

    Now in closing, and just in case they didn't require Intro to Logic at your J-school, here's how the FSF-DRM thing breaks down:

    * FSF fundamentally supports end-users' ability to have complete freedom over their computers and devices including the bits and bytes on them.
    * Therefore, FSF fundamentally opposes restricting end-users' complete freedom over their computers and the data on them.
    * DRM fundamentally exists in order to restrict end-users' complete freedom over their computers and the data on them.
    * Therefore, FSF fundamentally opposes DRM.

    It makes sense. That is, as long as your logic is consistent.

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