DRM Panel

Dan Gillmor is moderating a panel on DRM. First up is Joe Kraus. Joe used to be at Excite back in the day. He is best remembered, by me at least, for an interview with Morley Saffer from 60 Minutes where he said "this is not your father's company." He was right; my father's company lasted more than 3 years. :-) He's now a lobbyist on digital rights in Washington and is quite well informed. His organization is DigitalConsumer.org. His message is one I've said many times: Silicon Valley has to wake up and realize that politics is central to their business. Hollywood and the recording industry understand this very well. Technical companies typically don't.

Wendy Seltzer is an attorney with the EFF. She says that DRM is not digital rights management, but digital restrictions management since DRM isn't about rights, its about restrictions. Of course, rights and restrictions are just two sides of the same coin. She describes copyright in layers. There's a layer of copyright law that has certain rights and restrictions. Companies layer technology on top of that to try and enforce the law and to take away some of the rights of consumers that are granted in copyright law. DMCA is a layer on top of that that restricts technologists and consumers from tampering with that technology. In that light DMCA is not about copyrights, but about restricting technology.

Bunnie Huang is a former MIT student who figured out how to hack the XBox. The interesting point here is that DMCA doesn't attack this hack on the basis that Bunnie stole intellectual property, but on the basis of whether he has the right to run something on Microsoft's hardware, which he bought and paid for, other than Microsoft's OS. namely he put Linux on the XBox.

Lastly is Cory Doctorow, from the EFF. He mentions Napster as the largest collection of human creativity ever. What's more it was built in a matter of months without any central command and control and for very little money. He compares it to a library and the destruction of Napster was a virtual burning of the library. In the wake of Napster, more libraries sprung up in its place. The problem with Napster wasn't that it threatened the the recording industry. New technologies have always displaced existing distribution mechanisms. The problem is that we haven't figured out how to compensate artists in the new system. DRM takes a different approach, asking the question "How can we burn the library so that we never have to burn it again."