DRM as a Virus

I’m fairly certain that many readers here may not know that “DRM” is an acronym for Digital Rights Management. DRM is a way to make sure you only use something you’ve bought in exactly the way the manufacturer approves. It’s a generic term for copy protection. This especially is true of movies, music and software.

One manifestation of this is the fact that you can’t buy MS-Windows ™. Microsoft is just selling you a license to use. You don’t own it. You can’t resell it. Only Microsoft can “license” a copy of Windows. It’s why an install of Windows XP can’t be completed with reporting it to Microsoft.

This customer unfriendly concept ties into a recent, and serious, faux-pas by Sony Music Corporation. They were so worried about people stealing songs off their CD’s and sharing them on the Internet, that they embedded software in those CD’s that, when placed into a computer, installs itself without notification.

Sony’s attitude is that not only do they own the music on the CD you just bought, but that if you put that puppy in your computer – maybe to make a “fair use” copy, maybe to steal songs, they don’t care – they own your computer too.

Sony felt they could dispense with any notification and just stealth install software on their customers’ computers. That’s one characteristic of a virus, but it gets worse. This software was made invisible and uninstallable except by a fairly knowledgable computer user. Another characteristic of a virus.

Completing the virus trifecta, Sony’s software punched a gaping hole in the already questionable defenses Microsoft built into Windows. It opens the Gates to any evildoer who’d like to access your Microsoft Money ™ data, or the homemade porn videos you’re editing. As an article in The Washington Post points out,

Because of the way the tool is configured … it allows any Web page that the user subsequently visits to download, install and run any code that it likes.

Wired reports that,

More than half a million networks, including military and government sites, were likely infected by copy-restriction software distributed by Sony on a handful of its CDs, according to a statistical analysis of domain servers conducted by a well-respected security researcher and confirmed by independent experts Tuesday.

BetaMax and the Memory Stick were proprietary, and Sony has suffered some for those mistakes. Now they’ve crossed the line between locking you in and appropriating your property. Sony’s new motto: “What’s ours is ours. What’s yours is everybodies.”

A boycott is in order, and it will be really easy for me.

While we’re on the topic of speech restriction, there’s an update on efforts to subvert Internet domain names on behalf of the 191 countries, 120 of which are repressive, who make up the UN.

The aim would seem to be to make China one of the arbiters of free speech, along with Syria, Cuba and Libya on the Human Rights Committee. If the UN is successful, we can expect to see a lot more 403 Forbidden error codes in the future.

“I’m from the World Government, and I’m here to help.”

403 is only 263 short of 666. Coincidence? I think not.