Hardware DRM is Evil


intel viiv mce modelsI’ve changed my position on DRM. Originally, I felt all types of DRM were “evil”, but now I’ve opened up to the idea that software-based DRM is sometimes necessary (subscription services, on-demand services, file security, etc.) and that the real evil in DRM lies in hardware key tie-ins.

Let the battle begin! ZDNet has posted an entertaining death-match session from the LinuxWorld conference in Boston between RealNetworks’ vice-president, Jeff Ayars, and Georg Greve, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) on integrating DRM into the Linux platform. Obviously, after reading Ayars’ statements, it’s apparent he has no clue about the philosophy behind the open-source software movement. Moreover, he comes across as a real ass when he says Linux risks being excluded from the consumer market if it does not add support for copy-restriction technologies.

Ayars further states that he would like to see Microsoft Vista/Intel Viiv-like hardware DRM technologies – Protected Media Path, Protected Video Path and Protected User Mode Audio – supported in the Linux kernel. What’s this guy smoking? Greve, on the other hand is quick to point out the consumers don’t want DRM restricting their use, and above all, not corrupting their hardware like the recent Sony rootkit fiasco.

“So fortunately it is up to the consumer to decide what the consumer market wants. And its answer is clear: It does not want DRM!” Greve proclaims. “The sooner we bury the foolish notion of putting each and every use of a computer under control of the media industry, the sooner we can start looking for real alternatives.”

The only thing that irked me about the ZDNet article was its lack of distinction between hardware DRM, software DRM, and the combination of the two. Why? Because latter in the article they reference Linspire’s chief technical officer Tom Welch’s interest in integrating DRM into Linspire. But when you read his statements, you realize that he only wants support for Apple’s FairPlay and Microsoft’s PlaysForSure DRM-wrapped content on top of Linux – none of which (currently) require “protected hardware” for playback. The funny thing is that both technologies could easily be integrated into applications running on Linux by each company providing a closed-source, proprietary library plug-in.

It’s also worth noting that the Linux community, for the most part, is tolerant of using proprietary drivers provided by commercial companies – case in point: Atheros provides Linux drivers via the MADWIFI project for networking products that integrate its 108Mbps, Super-G technology (Netgear, D-Link, etc.), ATI and NVIDIA both offer closed-source Linux drivers for their video cards, and HP has been a long time supporter of Linux offering drivers for its printers and some of its PC hardware to name a few.





Filed in: Industry Buzz


  • Andrew McLaughlin

    I love the accompanying picture to the post. They do look evil. :-)

  • http://www.alexandergrundner.com Alexander Grundner

    Photo caption 1:
    “Here you go… just take this candy and everything will be alright.”

    Photo caption 2:
    “Try it. All the other kids are doing it.”

  • Qooop

    No, you was right the first time, says I. That be’in the DRM in any form it be not but bad. There you go and that what I says. If’n I can’ts put that what be digital onto any gadget that I’ve spent me treasure to buy then what that to me I have lost and damn the cook.