Saturday, December 09, 2006

DRM: "If there is hope, it lies in the proles^H^H^H^H^Hpols"?

In response to my recent mistaken post about Samsung and DRM, Adrian von Bidder wrote that

I think this battle will have to be fought in politics7. Battling the vendors is fine, but will be endless, the real goal should be to anchor a broad [4]right to tinker in the bill of rights which also extends to non-commercially used information.

On one level, this is probably true. But this amounts to the government passing laws that increase the liberty of its citizens and decrease its own control over them, while at the same time exposing the corporate interests that sponsor the government to increased competition. Governments almost never do this, for obvious reasons -- probably the only example in recent American history that I can think of is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, over forty years old now, which addressed inequalities that the average person could understand easily and was preceded by significant popular unrest (much more than a few guys dressing up like hazardous-waste-disposal crews and walking around outside computer conferences).

In fact, the most likely outcome of the government getting involved in the DRM situation, in my opinion, is a bill making DRM mandatory for all hardware devices and requiring software (or at least software that can run on mass-market computers) to go through a process of certification that attests that it respects DRM. This will be the final nail in the coffin for the free software movement, and I don't think we want to hasten its arrival.

I think the best we can hope for in this context is the prayer from "Fiddler on the Roof":

Lord, bless and keep the Congress

... far away from us!