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Second Stacked-Deck DRM Roundtable
Groups stand up for your rights
by Karl Bode 10:20AM Thursday Jul 18 2002
The Second Roundtable Discussion on "Digital Content and Rights Management" took place yesterday in Washington DC. It was standing room only at the event, with a Commerce Committee rep saying "We've never had anything like this before". With a stacked-deck panel, industry heavyweights from AOL/Time Warner, Vivendi, Microsoft, MPAA Spokesman Jack Valenti, and others had full control of the microphones ...for a while.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the progress and future of digital rights management, in particular to discuss how the government can assist in moving DRM further down the tracks. Critics have consistently charged that DRM erodes the small slice of 'fair use' rights media consumers have left. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has amassed an impressive collection of resources to assist those who aren't aware that this battle has been raging for quite some time.

The event, originally scheduled to be a back patting event between big business and Uncle Sam, quickly evolved into something much more, as consumer rights activists flooded Washington D.C. and the meeting chamber. When Jack Valenti's rhetoric reached an intolerable level, one fair use advocate stood up and made his position heard, complaining about the obvious lack of public representation at the event. It was asked that Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation (who was present) be afforded the opportunity to speak, and counter the one sided argument that had been presented so far.

After the initial outburst, a committee member asked the individual to "shut up and sit down". The protests continued unabated however, and after some work, panelists and some attendees convinced the committee to have additional consumer representation. The event was stacked twenty three to one in favor of corporations, with Graham Spencer of digitalconsumer.org, being the only officially recognized public advocate at the event, and he said very little.

Who was responsible for making your voice heard? You can thank both members of NYLXS and NyFairUse for representing the public at the event. Brett Wynkoop of NY for Fair Use actually nudged his way up to the table, and commandeered the microphone to get his point across. A move Phillip Bond, undersecretary for Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce later criticized, noting that "We have a structure here." A structure, apparently, that wasn't working: Seth Johnson of the Information Producers Initiative stood in the back with his hand raised for over an hour, never receiving acknowledgement from Bond. Representatives like Robin Gross, intellectual property lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, were told not to show up at all.

Even the corporations present acknowledged the light consumer representation, with representatives from Phillips Electronics and IBM both criticizing the lopsided panel, which contained absolutely no representatives from the free software community, no technology journalists, no programmers, no professors.....(you get the picture).

Jack Valenti, spokesman of the MPAA, continued to make himself an easy target by insisting at one point that his group did not oppose the VCR. He was quickly nailed on this by another panelist, who remembered that Jack's group had tried to get an injunction on the VCR, and had proposed royalty rates of $25 to $50 on blank tapes. He was also quoted by the press, and as is widely known as saying "the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone".

topics flat nest 

Andover, MA


Wonder how much of a campaign donation it took to have a seat at the table?

The horrible irony in this is that the voter is so important that they are left out. Politicians need campaign funds to influence votes and businesses take advantage of this inorder to influence the laws that affect their business. The campaign funds become so important, a deficit in spending can lose an election, that the businesses get the politicians focus over voters.
[text was edited by author 2002-07-18 11:04:10]
The Antihero

Enola, PA

Re: $$$$$

Very sad. Our country was founded on a very simple but fair idea -- One person, one vote. Somewhere along the line, it became "One dollar, one vote." And let's face it, these big companies have a lot more dollars/votes than we do. Power of the people, R.I.P.



Re: $$$$$

>Our country was founded on a very simple but fair idea -- One person, one vote.

Wrong. The country never allowed non-whites to vote until at least a century later, and regarded slaves as half-humans.



Tampa, FL

Re: $$$$$

said by Corrector:
and regarded slaves as half-humans.
I thought it was 2/3 ??

Changing Definitions

It has always been one person, one vote. What changed is our concept of "person". When originally spoken, it was understood that a Person was (generally) a white land-owning male. Now, we use the broader definition of Person. In fact, they probably would have said one Citizen, one vote back then, which would have made the point clearer, I suppose.

The original point is still valid in any case. One person has become one dollar, and a very small % of the people have a very large % of the dollars.

We stopped being a Republic (we were never a Democracy) some time ago.

Karl Bode
News Guy
Oh how we've shifted.

220, 221, Whatever It Takes.
and they all took turns jackin each other off and kissing each others ass......much of the same goes on everyday in washington dc.
"so you say you want revolution?"-Lennon/McCartney

Gloucester City, NJ

US Government 101...

According to the News.com article, "The assembled band of free software devotees said later that they believed they had won a commitment from the Commerce Department to include a representative in a future roundtable. But (Phillip Bond, Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology) did not seem to agree. ’I'm not going to be dictated to,’ he said."

Isn't the sole purpose of a government official TO abide by the *dictates* of the people? ALL the people...not just the ones with billions of dollars and huge corporations?

How does that foot taste, Mr. Bond?

West Orange, NJ

Re: US Government 101...

Of course he'll be dictated to. But he's damn well going to be a well-paid flunky, and those free-software advocates don't have the scratch.

ObamaCare Kills Americans

Call and write the Commerce Department

Perhaps if the Commerce Department were to start getting overwhelmed with phone calls and letters from the general public, they might change their stance on allowing both sides of the argument to be heard...
"Objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are." - Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell II

anon c


Re: Call and write the Commerce Department

OK, what's the # to call? Or address to send items to?

Louisville, KY

1 recommendation


this is a clear illustration of the typical response to ANY citizen input to our gov't, which is SUPPOSED to be representing us.

ever try to write a letter to your senator/congressperson? do you ever feel the canned response you get back is worth less than 5 year old used toilet paper?

i have probably written hundreds of letters expressing views on broadband issues, environmental issues, taxation, justice, etc. and what i get back is blatantly "yadda yadda" responses to my concerns.

i believe firmly it's time to write an amendment to the u.s. constitution to allow for a vote of no-confidence by popular referendum, as they do in other countries that have largely parlimentary systems. this would allow the PEOPLE the chance to throw the damn bums out and start over with new voices that aren't for hire by large corporations, without sacrificing any gov't stability at the same time. i do NOT feel very confident that my senators and congresspeople represent me at all, nor do they represent any of their actual constituents (unless of course they fork over thousands of dollars).

this latest exercise in futility to have the people's voices heard makes me angry, very angry!

what a crock of sh*t.

Llama Herder

Colchester, VT


LMAO..more evidence of how our goverment is clearly "stacked" with spineless corporate puppets.

Oh well, I know what issues will be swaying my votes come November.


Pittsburgh, PA

Here is an idea

This is what our republic has come to? Citizens barred from public debate, having to force their way into the discussion?

Here is an idea. Every time you feel the urge to buy a new CD--DON'T. Keep your $17. Then take $1 of that $17 you just saved, and send it to one of the groups that is trying to stand up for our rights, freedoms, republic, everything we hold dear. Then go borrow that CD from your public library. Your country will soon be a better place, and its citizens will thanks you in the years to come.

If we can't be in Washington to push our own way to the mic, let's support those who can.
Sterling, VA


I've done what I can, wrote congress again, and again, and again, and again, and maybe one day someone will read it.

drop the crantini and move it, sister
Morristown, NJ

Re: Well

Anyone have a list of which congress-critters are involved?

Sarasota, FL

Re: Well

Politician, a professional, lying, ass-kisser...I think it is going to be a VERY long list......
Sterling, VA
try www.congress.org

Tampa, FL

November Elactions...

They are all sleeze, no matter who we vote for. As soon as they are elected, the money pours in, and they are corrupted. While many politicians are also Lawyers, they can just rationalize their choices with legalese - or create their own.

Until the day all Lawyers are shot and killed, this will happen. Of course, when the economy keeps tanking and Wall Street finally dives further as foreign investors pull their money out, they will turn on their own. Can't get blood from a stone.

That is when it will REALLY get interesting - eh Mr Valenti?

All Hail, The Vulture From Van Nuys

old RIA of A

Re: November Elections...

Yeah, um, good point, but elections are the only real power people have. There are an awful lot of people on these boards...most are pissed off as hell.

But how many unregistered are getting registered, NOW? They have do it in advance and it doesn't take that long. (People sometimes seem to act like it's worse than a trip to the dentist. )

I read a lot about letter-writing, but that won't really do anything. Votes against incumbents...elections lost, political careers ended...that's the only thing that affects the remaining incumbents.

And it's consistent with the general complaint people raise, "As soon as they get in there, they're corrupted!" So, what do people have to lose? Keep tossing out the politicians until they finally start listening. Even if they never do, if voters can't stand them, they risk nothing by trading them in for others. One thing's for sure though...politicians with career-lengths and 'seniority' that mirror Jack Valenti's won't listen and won't change...EVER, no matter how many times people complain.

There are thousands, if not millions of people egregiously put off by the state of affairs in this field. If they dispensed with boycotts and letter-writing campaigns, and simply had the basic perseverance to bide their time and go to the polls one day out of every 2 years, things would start to change. I'll be there in November, helping to say 'Adios' to every politician currently in office.
[text was edited by author 2002-07-20 05:54:11]



We really need to recruit people to fight DRM

Digital Rights Management (DRM) will effect tons of people. We really need to recruit those people to help fight DRM. Here's my list of possible allies.

When recruiting organizations to help fight DRM, here is a good
introductory link:

»www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to- ··· ead.html (The Right to Read)

Who should be concerned about DRM?

--- Churches

Ministers certainly have good reason to be concerned about DRM. I know
ministers who print out articles, cartoons, etc., and file them away until
Christmas, Easter, or whenever they come in handy for a sermon.

Religious organizations have been a driving force behind protesting
types of music and movies. They certainly don't want to pay Vivendi
Universal every time they distribute a sample of controversial music to
their colleagues and representatives. Nor do they want to beg Disney for
permission to post a controversial video clip on their web site. Church
parishioners do not want to drag their VCR to church just because
their tape won't play on any other VCRs. Married couples would like
to give away copies of their wedding video. They won't be happy to find
out they can't copy it because their Sony minidisc assumes it's copyrighted

Furthermore, churches would certainly like the ability to publish
that will play a movie but skip over (or blur out) sections that the church
disapproves of. Churches might also start to wonder why congress
'promotes' pornography by granting copyrights on it. Finally, churches
won't take kindly to the assumption that their parishioners are all

The printing press [1] was one of the things that brought us out of
the dark ages. With the ability to quickly reproduce writings, the
Bible became universally available. People were able to see that what
the church said, did not match what the Bible said. Contrast this with
DRM. Without the ability to archive DRM content, publishers can rewrite
old news articles to remove embarrassments (such as Jack Valenti comparing
the VCR to the Boston strangler). Thus we end up with an Orwellian
revisionist history where no one can pull up old news articles to contrast
them with news of today (such as Jack Valenti saying he approved of VCRs).
If the church in the dark ages had this sort of power over the 'official'
version of the Bible, would we still live in the dark ages?

Religious organizations usually have their own means of distributing
completely independent of the mass media. Seeing as the mass media clearly
does not want the public to think critically about DRM issues (they're too
busy lobbying for it), churches are probably the best suited news agency to
inform the public.

[1] The government responded to the printing press by granting
to certain publishers whom they trusted to only print approved material.
And thus we have the origins of copyright as a tool of censorship. With
this then-recent history in mind, the intellectual rights clause of the
constitution was carefully worded to avoid abuse. It is questionable if
congress even has the power to mandate DRM systems.

--- Open Source Developers

In order for open source software to gain widespread acceptance, it
absolutely has to be able to work with mainstream content. No one will use
an open source operating system if they can not use it to read the news,
watch DVDs, or listen to music. For open source to survive, either DRM
must die, or DRM policies must allow open source implementations. If DRM
policies go forward as planned, open source software won't even run on new
computers. If the CBDTPA goes through as planned, open source software
will simply be outlawed. Open source developers have a bigger stake in the
DRM issue than anyone else.

--- Person's with Disabilities

Blind people would like to read books, but they can't see the text.
need some way to send the content to a text-to-speech engine, or to a
braille machine. For most consumer goods, the cost of developing DRM
systems can be spread across millions of devices. For braille equipment,
that cost will be spread across a much smaller niche market, shouldering
disabled people with an unfair burden.

--- Auto Mechanics

DRM is a threat to independent auto mechanics. If small auto shops
need explicit permission from an auto manufacturer to access a car's
computer, they may as well close up shop and send their customers to a
certified dealership. With GM's plans for a drive-by-wire car [1][2], this
will become all the more critical.

[1] »www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.0 ··· ars.html (GM's
Billion-Dollar Bet
[2] »slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/0 ··· 1836257" (GM's
Billion Dollar Fuel Cell Bet)

--- Computing Academics

Academics would like to be able to discuss computing technologies. When
magazine is barred from publishing a decryption algorithm simply because
their readers could misuse the knowledge, it creates a chilling effect
over other academic works.

The forefront of technology involves research to generate transcripts of
television broadcasts, identify objects displayed in movies, and optimize
compression algorithms to work well with contemporary music. It would be
little use to generate transcripts of movies if the software only works on
home movies of college students in northern California. Real world test
results require real world data. Under the proposed DRM systems,
researchers would have to get permission from content producers to conduct
their research. That permission is likely to come with strings (i.e.
researcher must sign a non-disclosure agreement, researcher must be insured
against damages, content producer gets a stake in any related patents). By
mandating DRM systems, congress would effectively grant rights which the
constitution would not allow under copyright alone.

Educators frequently copy bits and pieces of content for classroom
and research papers.

--- Civil Liberties Organizations

DRM is just plain wrong. It allows content producers to exercise rights
that congress is constitutionally prohibited from granting.

Some DRM systems invade people's privacy. Microsoft's media player, for
example, sends data to Microsoft indicating what CDs their customers listen
to. Presumably, in the future companies will compile and sell this data
much like they sell credit records, thus giving insurance companies,
lawyers, and countless others access to people's private life styles.

DRM systems tend to prohibit competition. The proposed DRM systems
a large barrier to entry for anyone who wants to develop a DRM related
product. The system imposes rules which would be unconstitutional if
congress set them. So someone who wishes to sell a video player which
protects its customer's data, must sign a non-disclosure agreement,
pay a huge fee to read the specifications, and risk having their access cut
off if they do something the DRM specification agency disagrees with. The
DRM specification agency may even change its policies, and require DRM
systems to report back data to help catch pirates. It looks like the
system was set up keep control of mass media in the hands of a few large
companies. This parallels the original use of copyrights, to make sure only
approved publishers could use a printing press, and is exactly what the
framers of our constitution intended to avoid.

The DRM system is a standard. Standards have been abused by industries
the past. Companies will lobby for new features in a standard, not because
it's beneficial to the standard, but because their competitors do not yet
have that feature. Presumably, if a small DRM system actually became
popular, the people who run the DRM specification agency are likely to add
new 'features' to the standard so that the entrenched partners can maintain
an advantage over the little guy. It is doubtful that they would add such
features until someone actually threatens their monopoly.

Years ago, the radio was proclaimed as a means for the ordinary man to
have his voice heard. That dream disappeared as the FCC developed
regulations which put control of broadcasting in the hands of a few
people. When open standards for the world wide web were developed, it
was proclaimed as a means for everyone to speak their mind. If DRM
systems do not allow open standards, open standards will die off. Over
time, support for legacy open standards will be phased out. If someone
wants to publish on the internet, they will then need to invest in a
proprietary (read expensive) server solution insuring that only the wealthy
are able to speak effectively. Knocking poor people off their soap box is
no way to promote progress in the arts.

The proposed DRM systems are designed as a privilege for the major media
companies. If small content producers wish to protect their content, they
will have to pay fees which they can not recoup in their small markets.
While it's not clear if piracy is truly a threat to the major media
companies, it is quite clear that proposed DRM systems are designed as an
anti-competitive tool to keep small content producers from competing with
the big boys.

Right after the World Trade Center attacks, people copied video of the
attacks off the TV and used it in their own creative works to express their
feelings about the attack. They then posted their creative works on the
internet. People did the same thing with music. These people were not
trying to compete with the original content producers. They simply wanted
to express their opinion, and they used readily available music and
television coverage to assist them. DRM would silence this sort of

Copyright should provide just enough incentive to produce content, and
more. It is not congress's job to maximize Hollywood's profits. While
Hollywood may lose a small amount of money to pirates (which has yet to be
proven), they still reap huge rewards from honest people. It would be
patently absurd to sell out honest people's rights just to boost
Hollywood's profit margin by five percent.

--- Search Engines

In order to index a web site, either the content producer has to
provide a (possibly biased) index, or the search engine has to read the
content. Google's ability to read Word and PDF files is beneficial to the
entire internet, including the content producers.

If current research to identify objects in graphics becomes practical,
ability to process pictures and index their content in various languages
would certainly be helpful. A similar argument applies to many other forms
of content.

--- Consumer Protection

Hollywood wants tech companies to sell crippled equipment. They want such
basic features as fast-forward to be disabled at their command. DVD
players will refuse to play legally obtained movies that were purchased in
a different country.

There have been proposals to make equipment self destruct (stop working)
when keys are leaked or discovered. There have been proposals to make
equipment that phones home to report on what content is being consumed.
Hollywood has suggested that TVs and other electronics should be built
specifically so that they can not be repaired if damaged (since if
something can be repaired, it can be hacked).

All of the restrictions devalue the product. Seeing as pirated goods would
come without restrictions, they would actually be worth more than
non-pirated goods.

The Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is a hardware device that self destructs
when tampered with. This modules is expensive to produce. The tech
industry is an order of magnitude larger than the entertainment
industry. One has to wonder if the TPM will actually cost more than all
the content that it certifies.

In a proper DRM scheme, Hollywood would pay a tax to cover the cost of DRM
hardware. Such a tax may double the cost of their product and drop their
audience by three fourths, but it would at least place the burden of paying
for these systems in the right place. Increased costs would also increase
the demand for piracy.

Many consumers keep a library of content. They certainly have the right to
transfer that library from old standards (vinyl, audio tapes, film) to new
standards (CDs, computers, DVDs) and tomorrow they should have the right to
transfer their library to the latest and greatest standard.

Since copyright lasts longer than the media that content is distributed on,
consumers must have the right to archive content, copying it from one
physical device to another. Without such an ability, popular culture will
rot away before it has a chance to enter the public domain.

Absolutely nothing in the DRM proposals helps the consumer.

--- Independent Recording Artists and Small Content Producers

While many recording artists may approve of DRM, the current proposals
don't help them at all. Quite to the contrary, current proposals leave
them two options: leave their content unprotected, or join up with the
RIAA. The power structure between artist and publisher is already grossly
unbalanced. Giving the publisher more power over the artist goes against
everything copyright is intended to do.

The same situation applies to small content producers. They must either
sign up with a major publisher, or leave their content unprotected.

If DRM systems go forward, they should at least help the artists!

--- Professional Pirates!

Someone has got to ask, "how will professional pirates react to DRM
systems?" There is no way to stop professional pirates from continuing
their practices. Hollywood can not close all the holes.

In order to insure that all software is trusted, including bug fixes, there
must be a quick, automated mechanism to do so. The key management agency
can not audit all code. A pirate could bribe/blackmail/become a software
developer and place an exploitable hole in a trusted piece of software.

Supposing Hollywood actually closes the digital hole, they still have to
deal with the analog hole. Sound can be recorded almost perfectly by
soldering a wire to a speaker coil. Analog to digital converters can be
made by hand using parts from an ordinary pocket radio, or with a
quick stop at Radio Shack. Is Hollywood going to demand that congress ban
home electronics?

While putting up small barriers may stop less determined pirates, there
will always be someone determined enough to follow through. Hollywood is
quick to point out that once pirated content finds its way onto the
internet, there is no stopping it (if this is true, DRM systems will do
nothing to stop piracy. If this is false, we don't need DRM systems in the
first place). As more content is released with a certain private key, the
rewards for capturing it become greater and greater.

Even if Hollywood completely closes both the digital and
analog holes, pirates will still find a way. They can bribe or
blackmail people in the DRM key management agency. They can break into the
key storage facility and steal the private key. They can go in with guns
blazing and steal the private key! If all else fails, they can destroy all
buildings that house the private key, thus preventing Hollywood from
protecting any future content.

As Hollywood puts up more barriers, perpetrators will simply break those
barriers more aggressively. Much like the war on drugs is worse than the
drugs themselves, we may find that a war on piracy is worse than piracy

--- Is Piracy Actually a Problem?

Before taking any action, someone has got to question if piracy is
actually a problem. When piano rolls were invented, music publishers
claimed that it would destroy their business (they were wrong). When radio
stations began playing music, record labels claimed that it
would destroy their business (now they pay radio stations to play their
music). When the audio cassette was invented, record labels claimed that it
would destroy their business (they later made a fortune selling audio
tapes). When the VCR was invented, the MPAA sued to have it banned (now 1/3
of the MPAA's revenue comes from home video sales). When DeCSS was
developed, the MPAA sued claiming that it would lead to viral piracy and
the destruction of their industry. DeCSS is now readily available all
over the internet, yet the MPAA is making record profits.

Today, major content producers are screaming that the internet will destroy
their industry (while bringing in record profits at the same time). If
history is any indication, major content producers would be well advised to
embrace the internet. The biggest industry on the internet, pornography,
manages incredible profits without any form of copy protection at all.
Considering the music industry's dismal sales of DRM protected songs, and
Sony's dismal sales of DRM protected hardware, one has to question the
wisdom of forcing DRM systems upon ordinary consumer electronics.

--- Resources

The Electronic Privacy Information Center's comments to the Commerce

»www.epic.org/privacy/drm/tadrmco ··· .02.html (EPIC Comments on DRM)