My comment to the FCC on DRM

This comment is not confidential; I grant unconditional permission to republish it in full.

DRM is a disaster for everyone involved with it, because it cannot do what it claims but imposes large costs in the process of failing. The people who have sold DRM technologies to Big Media are frauds playing on the ignorance of media executives, and both the media companies and the consumer have suffered greatly and unnecessarily as a result.

DRM cannot do what it claims for at least three reasons. First, pirates readily bypass it by duplicating physical media. Second, DRM algorithms cannot “see” any data that the host device does not present to them; thus, they can always be spoofed by a computer emulating an environment in which the DRM algorithm thinks release is authorized. Third, for humans to view or hear the content it must at some point exit the digital realm of DRM to a screen and speakers; re-capturing the data stream at that point bypasses any possible protections.

DRM can make casual copying difficult, but cannot thwart any determined attack. Piracy operations operating on a scale sufficient to affect the revenue streams of media companies laugh at DRM. They know it is sucker bait, injuring ordinary consumers but impeding piracy not one bit.

In the process of failing, the DRM fraud imposes large costs. DRM makes consumer electronics substantially more expensive, failure-prone, and subject to interoperability failures than it would otherwise be. It makes media content less valuable to honest consumers by making that content difficult to back up, time-shift, or play on “unauthorized” devices. All too commonly, technical failures somewhere in a chain of DRM-equipped hardware lock consumers out of access to content they have paid for even in the manner the vendor originally intended to support.

But the worst effect of the DRM fraud is that it generates pressure to cripple general-purpose computers in an attempt to foil emulation attacks. As a society, we can live with silly restrictions on device-shifting the latest blockbuster movie, but we cannot tolerate (for example) attempts to prevent PCs from running software not certified in advance by a consortium of Big Media companies. Yet that – and even more draconian restrictions – is where the logic of the DRM fraud inexorably leads. Such measures have already been advocated under the misleading banner “trusted computing”, and half-attempts at them routinely injure today’s computer users.

I would not ask the FCC to ban DRM, even if that were within its remit. Markets will teach the media companies that DRM is folly, just as markets taught software companies that “copy protection” was a losing game back in the 1980s. What the federal government can and should do is decline to prop up the DRM fraud with laws or mandates.

Specifically, if the “broadcast flag” or any other similar measure is again proposed, the FCC should reject it. To the extent that FCC regulatory or administrative action can mitigate the damage and chilling effects caused by the DMCA’s so-called “anti-circumvention” provisions, that should be attempted. Most generally, the FCC should make policy with the understanding that when media companies claim that DRM is useful and effective, they are not only misleading the FCC but deluding themselves.

51 thoughts on “My comment to the FCC on DRM

  1. What is DRM but “copy protection”, and why do you think the software industry has learnt that particular lesson? Last I checked, Starforce and other schemes were still in demand… You’re not helping your point with that paragraph.

  2. Uhm dude. Software is still copy protected. If markets taught the companies anything, it’s that they will be robbed blind by BitTorrent and Undernet #WaReZpOcAlYpSe unless something is done.

  3. >> Software is still copy protected.

    Software is still copyrighted, but effectively not copy protected.

  4. Software still ships with measures intended to make copying cumbersome. And it is still a crime in the United States to defeat those measures, regardless of whether you own a valid license to the software or not.

  5. “just as markets taught software companies that “copy protection” was a losing game back in the 1980s”

    “Enter the 3. word on the 4. line of the 5. page of the manual” :-) Cracking these on the very day of the release was a matter of course (“0-day warez”), competition between cracker groups was usually measured in hours or minutes.

    Later on a friend explained it to me and it was ridiculously easy. Looking at a machine level code in RAM, there must be a conditional jump somewhere not too far after you press Enter when entering a correct answer. Replace that with an unconditional jump and it’s done. Lazy crackers just swapped it the other way around i.e. it accepted only wrong answers, although I don’t remember why was it easier that way.

  6. Interesting — I googled, and it seems the term “copy protection” has drifted and widened in the last few years. In its heyday it was used only for schemes that tried to make all or part of a physical medium uncopiable, like floppy disk sectors written in a nonstandard way.

    Registration keys, dongles and the like were not then considered copy protection, as they didn’t impede the ability to copy the base medium. For the same reason, DeCSS doesn’t really fit that category today.

    The wider usage seems sloppy and misleading to me.

  7. >Lazy crackers just swapped it the other way around i.e. it accepted only wrong answers, although I don’t remember why was it easier that way.

    It was easier because that way you only need to patch one jump instruction. Doing it right requires NOPing out the code where the question is asked.

  8. Conditional jumps tend to all have similar formats and occur in Aristotelian pairs: i.e., JZ and JNZ, JL and JNL, etc. A lazy (and probably also n00b) cracker would be inclined to simply flip the logical significance of the jump instruction, rather that deal with the different insn format (and maybe even length) an unconditional jump might present on certain CPU architectures.

  9. > The wider usage seems sloppy and misleading to me.

    The wider usage is also in wide usage now, misleading and sloppy as it may be. Same as Hacker effectively meaning Cracker. Sorry. It surprises me, though, that you didn’t know the wider meaning already.

  10. Interesting — I googled, and it seems the term “copy protection” has drifted and widened in the last few years. In its heyday it was used only for schemes that tried to make all or part of a physical medium uncopiable, like floppy disk sectors written in a nonstandard way.

    Copy-protection mechanisms which rely, for example, on munged CD or DVD formatting and a special driver to un-munge it are afaik still commonplace in 2009.

  11. Same as Hacker effectively meaning Cracker.

    These two words have well-defined meanings and are distinct. A hacker is someone who breaks into other people’s computer systems. A cracker is someone who strips copyright protection from a commercial software program.

    People who get worked up into a lather about the appropriation of the former term also tend to similarly wrongly appropriate the latter term.

  12. As a society, we can live with silly restrictions on device-shifting the latest blockbuster movie, but we cannot tolerate (for example) attempts to prevent PCs from running software not certified in advance by a consortium of Big Media companies.

    The vast majority of PC users can. Many typical computer tasks — networked information retrieval, entertainment, socialization, etc. — are migrating to either the game console or the cellphone. Closed platforms both.

    If Microsoft tried they could Xboxify the PC platform and most typical users wouldn’t bat an eyelash. For a variety of reasons — probably most of them backward-compatibility related — they haven’t yet. End users might even see benefits: the video game industry suffered a horrible crash in 1983 only to be resurrected in 1985 by Nintendo with their developer-licensing program. The DRM-like system was implemented primarily not as a guard against piracy (although in such role it tended to work well), but as a quality filter. Such filters have proven remarkably effective, and an Apple Store-like model for general PC software wouldn’t be too far off if it weren’t for all those legacy apps. If Microsoft finds a good way of sandboxing them, the game will change for the PC.

  13. >These two words have well-defined meanings and are distinct. A hacker is someone who breaks into other people’s computer systems. A cracker is someone who strips copyright protection from a commercial software program.

    Sigh. You’re wrong, as usual.

    I know this because I was present at or near the creation of the term “cracker” circa 1984. I didn’t invent it, but I think I know who did and what he intended. I have tracked usage of the term pretty much continuously since as part of my job maintaining the Jargon File.

  14. It does finally come down to money and whether or not business are smart enough to figure out a business plan with the masses that is adequately profitable *and* accessible. The music market has always been a mass market which was profitable enough to be DRM free, it’s just that in the days of Kazaa and prior, a larger percentage of the market was ‘hack capable’. It wasn’t really until iTunes exploded the market base with a user friendly interface and kids like mine started trading iTunes music gift cards, that the mass market grew enough with a large enough balance of ‘hack incapable’ consumers that the economics made sense. This is the market teaching a lesson that the DRM hardliners can now easily learn. Let’s not forget how many Groksters have gone bust before now.

    As for the XBox, Microsoft found a very good pricing model that didn’t have to change. For a $300 box, and a $50 annual subscription rate online interactive gaming was always a bargain, even on $60 titles. That is simply because it’s worth $60 to get 60 hours (at least) on online interactive gaming, which is actually a lot cheaper than your WoW style PC games. The upside of hacking an XBox was not value, simply geek appeal, whereas the upside of getting the latest Blink 182 single for free against the cost of a CD was big.

    People also forget that there are a lot of ‘hack capable’ ways of getting DRM free music that have been grandfathered into other deals. I could get a high quality audio feed from my cable TV’s 200 music channels and rip thousands of MP3s without running afoul of any law.

    I, for one, support digital watermarking. Even in a DRM-free world, like the open source world, there should be some easy way to get a certifiable product. I would even support a third party service that would plug-in to a good music or video player. I’d actually pay more for a multimedia client that accommodates such a validation service. But anything that limits my ability to take my collection of digital content anywhere for any reason for the rest of my life? Niente!

  15. With cloud computing copy protection is an non issue. If you don’t pay you don’t play. But open source will still be there. If better people will use it instead. I believe authors have a right to be compensated for their creativity. But once you buy the media you should be free to use it like you want. What got me started with Linux was my brother in law who builds computers talked me into building my own. When I checked on getting a copy of windows I was shocked by the price and the draconian licensing. I was offered a pirated copy of windows but refused. I had been curious about Linux and bought a copy of it and tried it. Haven’t look back since. Proprietary software and DRM have the seed of their own destruction built in.

  16. I don’t agree that DRM is damaging to the “content” industry as a whole, though obivously, for the reasons you listed, it is damaging for everyone else.

    The purpose of DRM, AFAIK, is discriminiation, not total prevention. The goal is to greatly reduce the number of people who can crack the code, so that there are many fewer lawsuit and criminal prosocution targets. If they focus on the big “offenders”, the guys who make a million copies to sell rather than the guy who makes a copy for his buddy, they can make the price of getting it via the black market higher than the price of getting it on the regular market. (All costs included of course.)

    Kaaza and Napster are a real problem for this strategy because one crack can be distributed without any problem, especially so when it is done anonymously. That is, grandma doesn’t need to reverse engineer the code, she just needs to click that pretty button.

    The solution there is a fear based one. Pick targets at random, and sue the crap out of them. That way, grandma hears on the news that the pretty button can get you in big trouble. This does two things, first of all grandma gets scared she will be caught (she has no idea what surveilance capabilities the “police” have.) Second it raises her awareness that what she is doing is “wrong.” Both things increase the total cost of getting stuff off Napster, and, at some point for some group, it is cheaper to buy the stuff at Best Buy.

    That seems to be the tactic. Devious, but logical. Especially so when all content providers are in it together. By using a front they deflect some of the reputational cost too (RIAA sues, not EMI.) I don’t think they are stupid, I think they are quite smart actually.

    It is hard to judge how serious the impact all this has on their reputation (which is the cost they pay.) If you frequent computer oriented places, you’d think they would have given up years ago. However, amongst the general population, I think on balance their strategy has met with some success. But I can’t say for sure.

    I might add that the introduction of iTunes and similar download services was a smart move on their part. What that does is reduces the cost of obtaining music “legally”, so closing the gap between black market and legal market costs.

    All things considered though, it looks like DRM is on the outs with content providers.

    Something else worth saying is that the content industry is quite unusual in this matter. The argument that the music and movie business would make is that keeping the price high enough generates the money to encourage people to make more music and more movies. However, in these businesses that is almost certainly not true. There are an abundance of people who make music and movies for free, and continue to do so. In some respects the barrier of the record and movie companies has exactly the opposite effect of making an artificial barrier between “amateur” and “professional”, robbing us all of the plethora of content widely available. If I might offer as proof this fact: “Britney Spears is a best selling artist.” But that is another story.

  17. > It was easier because that way you only need to patch one jump instruction. Doing it right requires NOPing out the code where
    > the question is asked.

    Which isn’t any more difficult, but may not solve the problem if there is a separate routine, deeper in the code which serves to occasionally ‘check’ the result.

    > my job maintaining the Jargon File.

    Oh my. ‘job’? really?

  18. Eric,

    I think I know of whom you speak; it’s certainly like him to make up a coinage to replace a word he feels is misused or deliberately, Orwellianly ambiguous, so I apologize. However, I do think that the underground independently coined an alternate use for the term. The terms hacking and cracking had the meanings I described in the underground as far back as 1991 at least, and the distinction between the two was drawn by the practitioners of the arts, not me. Today, even Slashdot uses them in the manner I described. The war for terminology is over and we lost. People who would have been called hackers in the old days are now normally simply called developers, software engineers, or geeks.

    As for your work on Jargon, while laudable as a tribe-nucleating tool it hardly meets academic standards for rigor or impartiality. “Moderate to neoconservative” indeed!

  19. I wonder how much more popular BluRay would be if not for the very annoying DRM. I’ve yet to hear of anyone to add a BluRay drive to a PC (as opposed to buying a packaged system with BluRay) and not have some major hurdles getting it to work. You have to have a compliant OS, you graphics card must be supported, your graphics driver usually must be updated to the latest version, your monitor must be supported, and you have to use the right cabling. Oh and don’t use an amplifier in between the PC and monitor or that might not work. Using 64-bit XP (not to mention Linux, etc.)? Sorry, OS not supported.

    Then even if you get everything right they can change the protection format and make you upgrade your software player or drive firmware, and you might even lose features by doing so. For example, PowerDVD upgrades lost the ability to play BluRay media from hard disk folders. If you are authoring your own HD disks you can’t play them back without burning a disk (or using a virtual CD driver like Daemon Tools) with current versions. You even have to upgrade the firmware in standalone consumer BluRay players from time to time in order to play the latest titles. Try explaining that procedure to the vast majority of consumers who never figured out how to set the clocks in VCRs a decade ago.

    Or you can install something like AnyDVD HD on your PC and happily play any BluRay disk even on non-compliant hardware and software, and there’s usually an update for new protection schemes relatively quickly.

    In summary, BluRay DRM is much more intrusive, failure prone and subject to change than previous major media protection schemes. The format’s backers seem to think they can use the ability to update the protection scheme and revoke old player’s ability to play new media is a way to combat piracy, while each new scheme is quickly broken. They truly are going out of their way to make the experience highly annoying for actual customers while not actually stopping any piracy.

    Still, there is hope. With the recent announcement that iTunes Music store is going completely DRM-free, most major digital music providers are now providing unprotected media, so at least that industry has figured things out. Even so, it took them over a decade to do so, even though back when Napster was at its’ peak there were plenty of people saying “offer me hassle-free digital music and I’ll pay for it!” And they meant it. For most people it’s just not worth bothering with piracy when they can go to Amazon or iTunes Music Store, pay less than $1 a song and enjoy it a few minutes later. Convenient beats free.

  20. I know this because I was present at or near the creation of the term “cracker” circa 1984. I didn’t invent it, but I think I know who did and what he intended. I have tracked usage of the term pretty much continuously since as part of my job maintaining the Jargon File.

    Then you have been conveniently ignoring the most popular usages of ‘hacker’ and ‘cracker’. If the meaning of words is assigned chronologically rather than by popular usage, then there are numerous meanings predating 1984.

  21. >Then you have been conveniently ignoring the most popular usages of ‘hacker’ and ‘cracker’.

    No, I have been paying attention and know what usages are correct, what uses are incorrect, what uses are popular, and what uses are unpopular. Popularity does not by itself determine correctness; that’s a vulgar error that no lexicographer actually subscribes to.

    A million people replacing the word “circle” with “square” in their idiolects still would not make that usage incorrect, because language has a function and that function is to convey meaning. That usage would be popular but wrong. To take an example closer to the one in dispute: surfers have a term “hang ten” for hanging all their toes over the front edge of a surfboard. If non-surfers started using it for the act of waving your arms frantically while riding the board, that would be wrong no matter how popular it became.

    The rule that actual lexicographers use is that technical terms like “circle”, “hang term”, “hacker”, and for that matter “open source” are defined and owned by the communities of experts that originated them. Usage violating the norms of the owning expert community is incorrect no matter how popular it is.

    I’ll probably blog about the politics of lexicography in the near future; it’s one of three topics I have queued up to write essays about. Until then, further discussion is off-topic for this thread and subject to deletion. Stick to DRM, please.

  22. What killed trusted computing? I remember there were some quite scary predictions around four years ago, but they haven’t fully materialized yet.

  23. Thomas Covello:

    Originally I was going to respond to an earlier post saying something to the effect that Microsoft doesn’t implement trusted computing for the same reason Scientology doesn’t go around shooting SPs in the head (a perfectly legitimate “auditing technique” according to Hubbard himself): it would create tons of negative PR.

    However, if they spin it right, framing it in terms of “this will protect you from viruses and malware and ensure quality of applications on our platform” then most of the PR problems can be mitigated. So now I believe that backwards compatibility issues (which Microsoft is notorious for being unable to resolve save for building new functionality on top of their existing old crappy base) are the primary reason why Trusted Computing didn’t get implemented.

    Again, closed platforms are de rigueur in the console-gaming world (and consoles are eating away at the PC’s gaming mindshare), have been for 25 years, with few if any complaints from all but the most hardcore of hackers (in both senses of the word). The iPhone App Store has been a success despite onerous restrictions and arbitrary selection criteria. Developers are climbing all over each other to pay for the privilege of writing code for one of the coolest devices ever. While a Windows PC doesn’t have that cool factor, it does have something else: enormous market share. If Microsoft were to find a way to sandbox legacy apps, all while locking out future development except to licensed developers with the proper keys, they would in a second; customers wouldn’t complain; and developers would (perhaps grudgingly) accept it.

  24. This is an economic problem and nothing to do with technology. iTunes removing DRM from it’s music library proved that honest people want to pay for what they use. Not paying is stealing and honest people won’t do that. Assume 70% of people out there are honest (if you make it easy to be honest, it’s more like 95%). The 30% who are dishonest aren’t customers anyway, they will never pay.

    The real issue is one of pricing. Charge $5 per song and no one will buy. Charge $.99 and the honest people will pay. Dishonest people will steal. Locks are for honest people. Charge $.99 and get rid of stupid usage restrictions and people will buy even more. Dishonest people will steal anyway, don’t worry about them. Are you more concerned with making money or keeping people from stealing?

    Don’t believe there are a lot of honest people out there? Go look at Craiglist and ebay, they are proof that most people, given the chance to be honest, will be honest.

  25. >As a society, we can live with silly restrictions on device-shifting the latest blockbuster movie, but we cannot tolerate (for example) attempts to prevent PCs from running software not certified in advance by a consortium of Big Media companies.

    MS with the Vista embedded DRM has already (started to) do this. From my point of view, let them cripple the software, as long as they don’t forbid us from deleting it and installing Linux. Unfortunately, that is a possibility.

    >If Microsoft were to find a way to sandbox legacy apps, all while locking out future development except to licensed developers with the proper keys, they would in a second; customers wouldn’t complain; and developers would (perhaps grudgingly) accept it.

    As long as they made that PART OF WINDOWS, sure; developers would switch to Linux. However, as above, there’s another possibility (I don’t know if they’re doing this yet) that they’ll try to use TC to forbid free OSs.

  26. As long as they made that PART OF WINDOWS, sure; developers would switch to Linux. However, as above, there’s another possibility (I don’t know if they’re doing this yet) that they’ll try to use TC to forbid free OSs.

    Not just a possibility but a likelihood. A free OS means the user has theoretical total control over their own hardware. Since all of the hardware industry consortia are influenced considerably by Microsoft,

    Linux has a large enough installed base now that it wouldn’t be forbidden. Much as has transpired on the PS3, it would be allowed to run but in a hypervised environment that restricted what you could do with the hardware. Windows would run with the full capabilities of the hardware, but only run signed applications.

    Machines such as servers which are designed to run a server OS natively would be restricted in their sales: for example, a stiff tax on every device. This has precedent in places like Canada with their tax on blank media; Germans must pay a yearly tax if they own a computer (it was added to that country’s TV tax).

    This is all coming to pass, normative judgements on whether or not it should happen aside. Make the scheme unobtrusive enough and the market will support it. And you will see the biggest push not from Big Media but small-time filmmakers and musicians. Just about every small-time musician I’ve talked to desperately wants a secure, convenient DRM scheme because without it their material will be all over the internet before they can land a distribution deal. Right now there is no other solution. It’s either DRM, or say goodbye to the most creative part of the music business.

  27. Er… Since all of the hardware industry consortia are influenced considerably by Microsoft, and it’s Windows sales which drive hardware sales (PC gaming being what it is), it’s in their best interest to at least play ball. Many hardware companies would also like to see their valuable IP protected from those sneaky Linux hackers.

  28. >It’s interesting the similarities between the DRM efforts and gun control efforts.

    Yes, it is. Both doomed, both fraudulent, and both hugely popular with evil people.

  29. >The war for terminology is over and we lost.

    Jeff! I typed “define: hacker” in Google and this was the first definition in the long list:

    someone who plays golf poorly

    so I guess even crackers have lost the battle!! :)

  30. >> It’s interesting the similarities between the DRM efforts and gun control efforts.

    > Yes, it is. Both doomed, both fraudulent, and both hugely popular with evil people.

    Why do you think gun control is “doomed”. I think more extensive gun control is likely inevitable. I’d love to know why I am wrong.

  31. >Why do you think gun control is “doomed”.

    It’s doomed, like DRM, in the sense that it cannot achieve its ostensible purpose. This doesn’t mean there won’t be more of it, though the Heller ruling is grounds for hope.

    What really amuses me is lefties who rail against DRM and the drug war and fail to see that all their arguments map over to a pro-gun position with barely a change in wording. Idiots…

  32. A nice real world example of DRM achieving the opposite of what it was designed accomplish. I have a non HDMI HD television. My hi def dvd player will not upconvert standard commercial DVD’s through an RGB interface, (in most cases…I’ve yet to find one that will). The solution was to take the movies I like upstairs to my computer, rip them, remaster just the movie onto a burnable dvd, and they upconvert just fine. And since it’s only the movie that’s copied, there are no annoying commercials that can’t be skipped, warning screens, menus, etc. Drop it in the player, it plays. I would have never discovered this had my player upconverted standard dvd’s through the rgb interface, and as a result, movies are more likely to be copied. While I don’t provide copied movies to anyone else, how many others do? It takes only a few minutes to burn a second, third, or fourth copy, since the new ‘master’ is sitting there on your hard drive, which would otherwise not exist at all.

  33. “and consoles are eating away at the PC’s gaming mindshare”

    Slightly off, but: and making PC games stupider, because 1) many PC-games are developed for both the PC and XBox, which makes sense given that the XBox is a glorified PC 2) that silly controller used on consoles was designed for stupid games and thus all games designed for a controller become stupid. Example: Elder Scrolls IV – too much action-oriented to be a real RPG anymore.

    Actually it’s not that off: developing for the console pays because of way less chance of piracy, cross-developing for PC and console means stupid PC games. It’s all a result of attempting to battle piracy.

  34. “Not just a possibility but a likelihood. ”

    Jeff, a question. This is a very scary prediction. Given that you tend to be very sceptical of markets and corporations and all that in general, and that general attitude I don’t agree with, can you do the following? Give evidence for this happening that is acceptable _even_ _if_ I don’t share your general anti-corporate sentiments. That means no links from AlterNet, Tux Deluxe, RMS, or Socialist Worker Online (OK just kidding about that one :) ). But rather from some source either generally accepted to be reliable or one that’s not usually considered to be an ideologically anti-cap one.

  35. “Again, closed platforms are de rigueur in the console-gaming world (and consoles are eating away at the PC’s gaming mindshare), have been for 25 years, with few if any complaints from all but the most hardcore of hackers (in both senses of the word).”

    This assertion is very indicative of the arguments for DRM. On the face of it, it’s true and correct. However dig a little deeper and it turns out to be fundamentally wrong.

    Yes, consoles have attempted to be closed platforms for many years. Since the first Playstation was released, mod-chips have made a mockery of every attempt at DRMing a console. The X-Box made a really interesting case in that significant functionality was gained after mod-chipping such that a large number of customers modded simply for the extra functionality, not to pirate games. The second result from google says that I could go out and get my Wii modded by someone who does it frequently for about AU$200 (including installation).

    The big drawback is that if you’re using a pirate copy of a game you probably can’t go online with it. Wow, film at 11. That protection has been a part of PC gaming since at least “Half life”.

    “Actually it’s not that off: developing for the console pays because of way less chance of piracy, cross-developing for PC and console means stupid PC games. It’s all a result of attempting to battle piracy.”

    Developing for console pays because the target audience for console gamers is much MUCH larger than the target audience for PC/Mac gamers (admittedly with a fairly large overlap). Anyone who develops for Console because of “less chance of piracy” is deluding themselves. I’ve known people who could, without any knowledge of the system internals of the console and through information gleaned solely from Google, turn Game rentals into permanent acquisitions. The biggest hurdle was the initial setup of the process(It needed some specific models of dvd writers for optimum success rate), each individual disk was even more trivial than piracy on the PC.

    In the end the only kind of game that i’ve seen mostly piracy free is MMOs where the truly interesting stuff (the game world content) is kept on a central server.

  36. “that silly controller used on consoles was designed for stupid games and thus all games designed for a controller become stupid.”

    I hope this is ironic. If you can’t enjoy fun, simple console games, fine, but don’t treat us as idiots for doing being able to. I’ve grown enjoying videogames from the NES and Megadrive to the current PC, Xbox, PS2 and Wii. All of them offer or have offered great games.

    Often, it’s much harder to play a console game on a keyboard. Case in point: Street Fighter, and other Beat’em Ups, where fluid motion of the cursor is of the essence to activate special moves. I don’t go saying ‘PCs are making games dumber’.

    Following your spirit, we’d never have seen R-type, Contra, Ninja Gaiden, Ico, and many other great games born and lived only on the consoles. Hell, we’d never have had Super Mario or Sonic.

    It bears repeating: fun and simple != dumb.

  37. Often, it’s much harder to play a console game on a keyboard. Case in point: Street Fighter, and other Beat’em Ups, where fluid motion of the cursor is of the essence to activate special moves. I don’t go saying ‘PCs are making games dumber’.

    I’ve always found Street Fighter easier with the keyboard than with the D-pad + buttons of a regular game controller. It’s pretty easy to roll off hadoukens and even shoryukens with the arrow keys once you develop a technique for it, especially with a high-tactile-feedback keyboard which you should really be using anyway.

    Maybe I’m weird like that. Anyway, if you’re SRS about Street Fighter you’d have one of those arcade-like stick peripherals.

  38. I always found the -> | \ motion (right, down, left) to be quite tricky to pull with a keyboard.

    To each their own. Still, accusing controllers or joysticks of making games dumber is akin to accusing a hammer of making home improvement dumber. There’s a right tool for every job.

  39. Jon,

    Do bear in mind that regardless of their intended use, it is a crime in some jurisdictions to make, sell, or use modchips in and of themselves. They were explicitly outlawed in Australia until a high court overturned the ruling; they are almost certainly illegal under the DMCA in the US. Not wanting to have McGruff take a bite out of their ass, even theoretically, is a pretty strong deterrent for many; for the rest, losing their Live account (the penalty for going online with a modded Xbox) will suffice.

    Sony has been the smartest about this issue, providing a legitimate avenue for homebrewers with the PS3, and being rather wink-wink-nudge-nudge about PSP hackery. As a result of this, interest in modding the PS3 has dropped to almost zero. It’s why I say the future of Linux is behind a sandbox. If you throw the hackers a bone, while they’re chewing it they forget that their moral value system demands steak.

  40. >Sony has been the smartest about this issue, providing a legitimate avenue for homebrewers with the PS3, and being rather wink-wink-nudge-nudge about PSP hackery. As a result of this, interest in modding the PS3 has dropped to almost zero. It’s why I say the future of Linux is behind a sandbox. If you throw the hackers a bone, while they’re chewing it they forget that their moral value system demands steak.

    For the PS3/PSP, maybe. For PCs, definitely not. Hackers would respond somewhat differently to ‘We won’t let unapproved software get full access to the hardware on a single platform that we created and are the sole source for’ versus ‘We won’t let unapproved software get full access to the hardware on any platform, ever’–and that’s what it would have to be. How would ‘Linux only available behind a sandbox’ be implemented/enforced? Look at all the IBM PC clones–if there’s a market for TC-free hardware, then it’ll be produced.

  41. “It’s why I say the future of Linux is behind a sandbox. If you throw the hackers a bone, while they’re chewing it they forget that their moral value system demands steak.”

    Ah. I believe i’ve misunderstood your point. My apologies.

    My point was that ESR has the right of it. In a long enough timeline (historically measured in months at most), DRM is completely ineffectual at stopping people from doing the things you want to stop them from doing. At the same time it’s not stopping the “bad guys” it’s quite happily hampering the “good but different guys”.

    I’m not sure i’d agree that the two cases (that is, linux-on-console and linux-on-TC) are the same. In the linux-on-console case it’s firmly understood (from my understanding) that no-one really wants to play console games on linux. Whereas on TC, linux would fight to be a first class citizen. While i have no doubt that linux could exist in a sandbox, i highly doubt anyone will be going quietly if our desktop machines required that.

  42. “DRM is completely ineffectual at stopping people from doing the things you want to stop them from doing. At the same time it’s not stopping the “bad guys” it’s quite happily hampering the “good but different guys””

    I agree, but I wonder how could one turn this into a general case, to really get the point through i.e. to demonstrate that it’s not just an accident but a logical and expected outcome.

    First attempt: take a house. Putting bars on the window reduces your chance of getting burglared, but also reduces your enjoyment (really feels like living in a prison). It may or may not be an acceptable trade-off. Of course, if everbody knows you keep $1M in cash in your house , it does not reduce your chances of burglary much, because whenever you go on a holiday burglars will make a really dedicated effort, and will usually win. Then, let’s assume you don’t have $1M in your house but the window bars are openable, the vendor manufactured 100,000 of these and they are all openable by a master key. There is not much cash in one house but in 100,000 houses there is a big enough sum to be sure that the master key will be stolen copied and your bars worth nothing, other than reducing your enjoyment.

    Perhaps it’s not the best kind of example to make a general case, but feel free to make a better one.

  43. In the broad sense: DRM is nothing more than a manifestation of the emergent intricacy of our service-based society, where production of essential goods and services has saturated demand.

    It causes many things to exist with negligible net benefit to our total productivity or consumption, but significant gains to ‘assurance’ or reduction of responsibility for different parties.

    I finally got around to reading the World Domination 201 piece that I didn’t get around to reading when I first encountered it at the end of 2007. Ubuntu is doing quite fine in its own way, with the popular market; growth is slow but the ‘absolute’ measures were never necessary.

  44. Another group which almost universally demands an effective, unobtrusive DRM scheme: Small-time auithors of books intended for electronic publication.

    The e-reader industry as of late appears to have settled on the Mobipocket standard for DRM’d e-book content. Such a scheme will not be going away for as long as authors expect to be paid for their writing.

  45. The wider usage is also in wide usage now, misleading and sloppy as it may be. Same as hacker effectively meaning Cracker. Sorry. It surprises me, though, that you didn’t know the wider meaning already.

  46. Can we ever escape the want/need of those in power to control use of their product, especially with new technology and digital media? DRM today, who knows what is tomorrow. In each case, you can bet someone will be there to defeat these draconian measures in an effort to own the property they have purchased.

    Seriously, how long did CSS encryption last on standard definition DVDs?

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