Digital Rights Management (DRM) tools are ostensibly aimed at preventing “piracy” of commercial movies and music recordings, but the DRM tools are being embedded in the hardware that we use to access all information. That can be disastrous for legitimate access to public information.
There has been a lot in the press in the last few months about one particular technology called “key revocation” that is aimed at limiting access to Blu-ray and HD DVD disks. The Wall Street Journal today describes how it is designed to work: “Anyone who pops one of the new discs into their personal computer without installing a software upgrade will find that it destroys the computer’s ability to play any high-definition DVD at all.
- Consumers May Get Caught in Piracy War [subscription required] Keith Winstein. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). Jul 5, 2007. pg. B.3. (no registration required here)
We at FGI have been urging for a long time that the Government Printing Office (GPO) and all government agencies explicitly refuse to use DRM technologies, but they have not yet done so. Unfortunately, technologies like these that change the way the hardware works may endanger access to government information regardless of what GPO does. Librarians should be fighting against these technologies at the policy, regulation, and law level. Don’t be confused by industry rhetoric that equates these technologies with private property protection and protection against illegal “piracy.” They are, in fact, bad ideas that will harm information use.
More links about the technology and recent background:
- AACS Key Revocation: The Future of DRM? EFF Deep Links, April 11, 2007 (“Because this “revoke and blacklist” approach is a standard feature of next-generation DRM systems, legitimate consumers are increasingly going to have something to fear from “upgrades” and “blacklists” hidden in the media they legitimately purchase”)
- Hackers v Hollywood, Round 2, by Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times, April 09, 2007.
- First AACS Blu-Ray/HD-DVD Key Revoked (“pretty much confirms that the key revocation has already taken place for all newly released Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs.”)
- AACS hacked to expose Volume ID: WinDVD patch irrelevant, by Thomas Ricker, Engadget, Apr 10th 2007.
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