Thursday, March 02, 2006

The big DRM mistake

Excellent article, The big DRM mistake by Scott Granneman at Security Focus.

"Digital Rights Managements hurts paying customers, destroys Fair Use rights, renders customers' investments worthless, and can always be defeated. Why are consumers and publishers being forced to use DRM?

One of my favorite magazines is The New Yorker...When it was announced over a year ago that The Complete New Yorker: Eighty Years of the Nation's Greatest Magazine would be released on eight DVDs, I immediately put in my pre-order. After it arrived, I took out the first DVD and stuck it in my Linux box, expecting that I could start looking at the collected issues.

No dice. The issues were available as DjVu files. No problem; there are DjVu readers for Linux, and it's an open format. Yet none of them worked. It turned out that The New Yorker added DRM to their DjVu files, turning an open format into a closed, proprietary, encrypted format, and forcing consumers to install the special viewer software included on the first DVD. Of course, that software only works on Windows or Mac OS X, so Linux users are out of luck (and no, it doesn't work under WINE ... believe me, I tried)...

The final indignity is that, although other DjVu readers provide for text selection, The New Yorker has removed that feature from its DjVu reader. You can print, but you can't select or copy. As a teacher of several technology courses at Washington University in St. Louis, this limitation, frankly, completely sucks. Suppose I want my students to read ten paragraphs from a New Yorker story that I provide on a password-protected web page. Too bad! I want to copy and paste some sentences into a presentation? Nope! A student expresses an interest in a topic, and I want to send her a New Yorker article via email that would help further her education? No can do.

I finally got so frustrated that I decided to break through The New Yorker's limitations and DRM...

t turns out that it's entirely possible to copy all the DVDs to your hard drive and then make one simple change in the SQLite database. The result? The slow-as-a-turtle, multi-DVD-swapping The New Yorker turns into super-duper fast The New Yorker. Ta-da!"

The whole piece is well worth a read.

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