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Cory Doctorow takes on DRM

EFF press release

Posted January 25, 2015
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Worthy cause: Fighting for the rights of cybernauts and technology users everywhere. © EFF

Digital rights champion rejoins EFF to fight "pervasive use of dangerous" DRM technologies.

Chief hack's note: The following is a press release sent to the Rake & Herald by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organisation we wholeheartedly support. Apart from the addition of crossheaders, hyperlinks and some minor stylistic changes to comply with our house style rules, it is otherwise posted here verbatim.

San Francisco – Leading digital rights champion and author Cory Doctorow has rejoined the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to battle the pervasive use of dangerous digital rights management (DRM) technologies that threaten users' security and privacy, distort markets, confiscate public rights and undermine innovation.

Doctorow will be a special consultant to the Apollo 1201 Project, a mission to eradicate DRM in our lifetime.

Apollo 1201 will challenge the use of DRM as well as the legal structures that support it.

"Apollo was a decade-long plan to do something widely viewed as impossible: go to the moon," says Doctorow.

"Lots of folks think it's impossible to get rid of DRM."

"But it needs to be done."

"Unless we can be sure that our computers do what we tell them, and don't have sneaky programs designed to take orders from some distant corporation, we can never trust them."

"It's the difference between 'Yes, master' and 'I CAN'T LET YOU DO THAT DAVE'."

Working in the United States and across the globe, Doctorow will accelerate the movement to repeal laws protecting DRM, assist EFF with DRM-related litigation and work with industry to kick-start a vibrant market in viable, legal alternatives to digital locks.

For many years, EFF has fought the use of DRM technologies, explaining that such technologies – as well as the laws that support them – impede innovation, security and basic user rights and expectations, while failing to inhibit copyright infringement.

One example of this lose-lose proposition is Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which generally prohibits unlocking 'access controls' like DRM.

That ban was meant to deter illegal copying of software, but many companies have misused the law to chill competition, free speech and fair use.

Software is in all kinds of devices, from cars to coffeemakers to alarm clocks.

If that software is locked down by DRM, tinkering, repairing and re-using those devices can lead to legal risk.

Section 1201 has also put a dangerous chill on security researchers, who face potential legal penalties for finding and disclosing critical flaws in systems – from smartphones to home automation.

As a result, the public gets to find out about compromising vulnerabilities too late, or not at all.

"We've seen DRM misused again and again, whether it's to thwart competition in printer-ink cartridges, to prevent videogame fans from modifying their consoles or to block consumers from reading the parts' specifications on their own cars," says EFF intellectual property director Corynne McSherry.

"Cory has an unparalleled ability to show the public how bad copyright policy tramples on everyone's rights."

Doctorow worked for EFF for four years as its European Affairs Coordinator and in 2007 he won EFF's Pioneer Award for his body of work on digital civil liberties.

He's the originator of 'Doctorow's Law', which has helped many around the world understand the dangers of DRM: "Anytime someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn't give you the key, they're not doing it for your benefit."

"No matter how noble your cause, you can't advance it by insisting that computers everywhere be equipped with spyware to stop people from running the 'wrong' code," Doctorow says.

"The bad guys will still figure out how to run that code and everyone else will end up with critical infrastructure that, by design, treats them as untrustable attackers and, by design, lets remote parties covertly seize control of the computers around them."

"We all deserve a better future – one without DRM."


See also How press releases work, posted 7/8/12.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
describes itself as "the leading organisation protecting civil liberties in the digital world". Founded in 1990, its mission is to "defend free speech online, fight illegal surveillance, promote the rights of digital innovators and work to ensure that the rights and freedoms we enjoy are enhanced, rather than eroded, as our use of technology grows". EFF is a member-supported organisation. The original version of the above press release can be read online here.

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