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2005/07/25 1984 just comes a little later

A while ago I wrote about Internet access not being a right. In that article, I opined that Microsoft might use the legal system to maintain their stranglehold on personal computing. That hasn't happened yet, but Bill and the boys have made an unholy alliance with the music and movie companies that could have the same effect. The Inquirer has a detailed article entitled "Intel to cut Linux out of the content market" that explains what they have in mind.

If you have never read Stallman's "Right to Read" piece, now might be a good time to do so. When I first read that, I didn't really think we could ever reach a point where that could be true. But we are well on the road to making that absolute reality.

There are probably more pressing things to worry about right now, and that may be just how this kind of erosion of our rights can succeed. While we're worrying about wars and religious fundamentalism, the greedy big corporations get legislators to help them put you in virtual handcuffs.

It sounds implausible. Stallman's "Right to read" seemed ridiculous when I first read it, but now it makes me feel quite uneasy - that *could* be reality.

At the moment, stopping you from using media on "illegal" platforms is effectively unenforceable, but that doesn't mean it will always remain so. Courts (with the help of legislation) could decide that Linux (and BSD and SkyOS etc.) are technologies that allow "criminal" activity. You can be sure that Microsoft would be funding studies that would help support that argument.

It then could become illegal to sell or distribute Linux. Of course there'd be underground usage, but otherwise it would die. I would think this could happen more easily in the U.S. than elsewhere, but it still would be significant damage.

Microsoft has no morals, no interest in your freedom, your rights, or indeed anything but your money. They recognize Linux as a threat and will work on all fronts to nullify it. Too few of our legislators are intelligent enough to understand these issues, and are too influenced by corporate power. That's dangerous for the rest of us.

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© Tony Lawrence

Mon Jul 25 06:29:19 2005: 861   Michael

You emphasize MS's role there, but Intel's role seems just as worrying. One can't help following up on that thought and asking oneself: Where does Apple's shift to Intel fit into this picture?

Mon Jul 25 08:50:35 2005: 862   TonyLawrence

Yes, Intel is of course involved too, and we have to wonder whether Apple's Intel shift is related to this.

Mon Jul 25 12:43:18 2005: 864   drag


Don't forget that Intel doesn't realy care a whole lot about operating systems. For instance they released specs for their video cards and more linux boxes ship with dual xeons then most anything else.

I think that it's more of a deal that the major OEMs and lots of their big customers and freinds (microsoft) are simply requesting these features and Intel is more then happy to oblige. They would love it if everybody used Intel proccessors in every new media device.

As far as Apple goes don't forget that they are big fans of DRM. After all it forms a big part of their Itunes business model and they are the first people to make realy big money off of DRM'd media.

Since software DRM is so easy to circumvent (Apple has changed the encryption on it's file formats several times to prevent people using on non-approved software and devices) it makes sense that they would be going after hardware-based DRM for a next-get iVideo (or whatever) sceme and intel would provide a unified enviroment in which to sell to both Windows and Mac users.

As far as Microsoft goes they would love to leverage the market to put another stumbling block in front of widespread Free software acceptance.

For instance you have already had sort-of DRM protections that have hurt Linux.

Take DVDs for example. Most movies you buy that are on DVD format have encryption protecting the media from copying. The infamious "DVDJohn" found a way to efficiently circumevent the protections and was arrested for it (and later released, he was lucky to be from Sweden and not from US at the time). This functionality has been added to the libdvdcss libraries which is commonly used in Linux to watch DVDs.

The DMCA forbids providing software, hardware, or knowledge on how to circumvent protections on encrypted information.

Technically libdvdcss is completely illegal under US DMCA legislation. However in a court case the judge ruled that making it illegal to use and share code in the libdvdcss library was unenforcable because the knowledge to thwart dvd encryption was so widespread...

On the other hand there have been people arrested for breaking DMCA laws.. for isntance Adobe had Dmitri Sklyarov arrested when he visited the US from his native russia after breaking one of their 'ebooks' formats.

Since that DMCA legal protection for propriatory formats via encryption technics have found it's way into other formats. Apple's audio format for instance or in video form for Microsoft's newer versions of *.wmv files.

Then combine that with patent protections these formats enjoy and licensing issues then you have made it a huge pain in the rear for people to play most popular media formats on free software operating systems.

Luckally we have the internet and easy information exchange has produced many gray-market avenues for FOSS-users to get ways to play most media (like wrappers to play windows codecs in linux) and circumvent most encryption protections.

Unluckally newer hardware-based technics may prove to be more challenging.

Don't forget though that these hardware-based DRM devices do have legetament purposes beyond media companies attempting to screw over their customers. They can be used to make servers more secure, for instance.

Mon Jul 25 13:52:37 2005: 865   BigDumbDinosaur

You emphasize MS's role there, but Intel's role seems just as worrying.

I notice that AMD has not bought into this crap so far, so maybe you shouldn't be so quick to specifiy Intel hardware in your next server or workstation. In any case, the AMD stuff readily outperforms Intel's offerings.

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