Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How Sun's DRM dooms them and all they touch

Cory as usual is spot on on the subject of DRM

"David Berlind has written about Sun's "Open DReaM" crippleware project, a DRM that pretends to be "open source" and an "open platform" in a cynical bid to curry favor with copyfighters and studios. The gimmick is that Sun's technology has to be run as signed code on trusted computing hardware, which means that while you can see the code, you can't change it, improve it, or build on it.

Once you have code you can't modify on hardware you can't access, "open source" can't be meaningfully used to describe a project. The key to free and open source software is the right of users to understand, modify, and distribute their changes to the tools they use -- to continue a tradition as old as the Enlightenment and as fundamental as the scientific method.

Sun's project doesn't subvert DRM, it subverts open source. It complies -- barely -- with the letter of older OSS definitions, while gutting their spirit. It's a car with the hood welded shut, with an "open" engine underneath the welding-seam.

This is a betrayal of the OSS community by Sun, which should know better. There is no market for Open Dream. No music listener woke up this morning wishing for a way to do less with her music. If Sun wants to compete with the Microsoft-controlled Open Mobile Alliance (which this project is really all about), then they should deploy set-top home Java servers (Sun, after all, is in the Java business and the server business, not the crippleware business) that grab music and video off the net, air and through the analog hole on your home theater, organize it, sort it, transcode it, and load it onto your laptop and phone -- and that use the paid mobile data networks run by the carriers (3G, EVDO, GPRS) to stay in synch.

This is a business-model that plays to Sun's strengths, that delivers value to carriers and handset vendors, and that doesn't set Sun on a doomed path to finding a way to deploy a technology of sufficient brokenness to court Hollywood."

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