Digital Magazines, eBooks and Audiobooks, My Rants, Standards and Automation

DRM or copy protection

(DRM) Copy Protection History

In the olden days, copy protection was exactly that;  copy protection of a piece of software, which prevented the owner from making a backup, unless the copy protection included a mechanism to allow for it. Copy protection came in a cypher key, or in a physical lock key, such as a USB device (serial or parallel).  Your data was not affected, unless of course you lost your lock key, which prevented you from using your program, and as a result rendered your data useless, because it was forever gone.  Because of the horrendous nature of the processes involved, and the not insignificant overhead it added to the software, most companies have done away with such foolishness.   Microsoft(R) did the most to get rid of the copy protection, by putting out competitive products (Office(R)) without it, and by introducing Xerox(R) PARC GUI interface, but that is another story.  Their far and away, biggest competitor at the time, Lotus(R), quickly fell behind, and was eventually bought by IBM(R) to die a slow death.

The present day agreement by boredom

Back to the present;  today, we have gone way beyond copy protection.  The marketing powers, figured that since software copy protection was so bad, and the public rebelled against it, we should rightly not use it.  But we could protect data the public bought in the form of books, magazines, audio and video media.

All they had to do, is simply to provide us with a two hundred page EULA, in legalese of course, that the average law student would not want to read;  oh, and if there was a quick bypass clause that rendered the end-users’ agreement to the EULA, well that is it.  Lock, stock and barrel.

And it worked;  our legislators, have all succumbed to the lobbies, agreeing that fair rights copyrights are a good thing for the masses, just as in previous generations, if you weren’t born in the privileged class, you didn’t belong there.  What has got me perturbed is that even Europe has fallen in step.

Fair Rights Management

Do I disagree with “fair rights”?  ” N O ”

I am not opposed to an author protecting they’re work and reaping the benefits of their toils, physical, or mental;  both are toils, and deserve to be rewarded, especially if that is how a person is earning their living.

However, there is a difference in public fair use copyright, and in no-rights.  Because that is what today’s Digital Rights Management has become.  The publisher of the works, not the author, makes certain assumptions:

  • They alone have the inaliable right to protect the author
  • They alone will guard the fair use copyrights
  • They at any time render your media collection in to garbage, by the simple virtue of software upgrades
  • Their fair use algorithms and cyphers should render the published work, unusable in the event of their demise

Wait, Tas, no, that can’t be their intent.  I am sure it is the same as classical media;  we’ll always have it.  Books and scrolls have been around since the birth of time, well, almost.  Unless you were educated, and were sequestered in a monastery for life copying a scroll, you couldn’t copy it;  come to think of it you couldn’t read it if you weren’t in the priveleged class, but I digress.  But if I was a king or queen and purchased a scroll or a book, that was mine.  Let’s see:

  1. I could not copy it, no copiers, and even had I access to a mechanical copier, it would be difficult to cut the spine off and re-attach it in order to run the pages through a copier.  And how would I make a presentable book.  No, just send it to the monastery and pay the fees to have hand copied.
  2. But I could have it around forever, within my lifetime, and could then bequeath it to my descendants, who could have it around within their lifetimes, and the bequeath it to their descendants, and so on and so forth. Hmm!  Let think on that for a moment.
  3. When audio came around, in the form of records or tapes, well, I couldn’t copy it, but I could still bequeath it to my descendants and so on.  Oh, I know, tapes…  the industry gave us tape recording technology so we could create our own playlists.  (That’s because they we selling us one good title for the price of twelve, but again, I digress).
  4. By the time video came around, an argument could be made about limiting copying of audio and video tapes.  However, it wasn’t the public that was doing most of the copying, it was pirates who were turning around and selling the copies.  A point can be made, of course, that the public was supporting the pirates by buying the bootleg copies.
  5. By the time of digital media, it became evident some sort of copy protection was required, because computers and DVD copiers had the ability to make perfect copies non-stop.  (See, I knew there was a salient truth in copyrights;  it just took me a while to get to it).  But again, it isn’t the general public who makes the copies, it is the pirates, and the digital kiddies, who then distribute them.
  6. The point is that if I were to go to Wally’s place and buy a bunch of DVD’s, I would have no clue which of those may be bootleg or not.  (And neither does Wally).

Fair Rights Use

So what do we do?  I think we need to devise a system which adheres to the following principles in Fair Rights Use and DRM:

While the distribution company is in business:

It must provide for the identity management of the copyrighted works’ buyer, that’s only fair

It must provide for a number of views the buyer can have;  for example I now read my books on my iPad, my iPhone, or my Windows or Unix computer.  As long as I am the owner of those devices, I should be allowed to download and access the content, within say ten devices.  If I upgrade a device, the identity management should allow for either automatically upgrading keys, or it should allow me as a user to delete one device and add another.

The distribution company must not use a proprietary encoding scheme, simply for taking user’s right to fair use, away;  I don’t care if they use an encoded or signed PDF, or AAC or MP4/M4V, as long as I can use that in a dire circumstance by bypassing the identity management system

Dire Circumstances

And here we are speaking of the distribution company going out of business, dropping the old file scheme, or even deciding they don’t care about protecting older media;  at worst it may mean global thermonuclear war or Armageddon.

Users should be able to access their media without an identity authentication server;  This means that once I’ve downloaded the media to a device, my iPhone for instance, the identity authentication system should give me a Ticket Granting Ticket (TGT) to that media publication, based on the device’s and the user’s identity.  Just so we understand, this is mostly how it works today, with the exception of some Intel Video Cable DRM.  If I download a movie, I get the ticket and I can play it offline.  If I download an ebook or emagazine, I can play it on the device for as long as I like.

The problems start during Dire Circumstances;  if my iPhone’s OS is upgraded and there is no longer any support for the proprietary media player, I, as user would be in trouble;  I would no longer, be able to read/play/watch/listen to the work I’ve purchased.

And here is another issue;  these companies would like to tell us we are not purchasing a copy of a work, we are renting it, as long as ‘they’ allow us to;  I am sorry that is a bunch of crock.  When I pay for a legitimate copy of a work, it is mine.  Just like a book or an album, I should be able to give it away, sell it or bequeath it.

These articles concern mostly publishers of eprint and evideo works, but could be applied to audio and other electronic distributions

The solution

Fair Rights Certificate underwriters, you get what I am saying, I hope.  An underwriter, hopefully global in nature, that will maintain the Identity Manager’s Root Certificate, for a specific line of distribution schema for a number of years, what ever applicable copyright laws allow for, in whichever country you live in.

This underwriter will certify the code in the distribution media’s keys, will release the restrictions on the media, if the root certificate is, no I don’t mean not found, but annulled.  The only way for an annulment to work, would be by the publisher notifying the underwriter that the particular root certificate can be annulled.  And of course, the onus will be on the publisher to renew the certificate each year.  A second way for the annulment would be if the publisher does not renew the certificate, because the are no longer in business.  I would then submit that the underwriter would annul the root certificate, so all media sold under that cert can become non-DRM’ed.

And finally, there must be a guarantee by the underwriter, that the media contains code to de-DRM if a key authority cannot be found in a certain amount of time.  And no, I do not mean in 80 years subject to renewal by a lobbied legislative body.

An identity transfer mechanism must also be available, so if I want to sell a copy of a work to someone in Tasmania, I as Tas can do so.  Of course, I will no longer have rights to that work, the same as if I’d sold a physical book or an album.

Easy, peazy?

No.  Definitely not easy or peazy.  But it must be done, because I want my purchases protected.

My case

I have been buying emags and ebooks since the beginning.  I’ve been through several generations of software, in which the publisher has been kind enough to re-format and allow me access to all of my old emags.  However, there is another publisher who does not appear to care about my purchases either way.  They’ve both told me I have access to the publications because of their generosity and benevolence.  And they both keep updating and changing their encryption schemes every few years.

Which only servers to make me angrier;  I’ve paid the same for that emedia as I would any other physical media.  Where are my representatives in government now?  Obviously not listening to me, but to the publishers.

I think it is time top change that.

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