Open Source ioe12 Part 2

Notes taken from Cory Doctorow’s ‘The coming war of general computation video‘ for ioe12 course.

Something more important – General Purpose Computers

DRM 0.96

  • Physical defects to the discs
  • Or other physical things that the software could check for
    • Dongles
    • Hidden Sectors
    • Large Manuals
    • etc.
  • These failed because
    • commercially unpopular
      • reduce usefulness of software to legitimate buyers
        • couldn’t back up software
        • lost ports to dongles
        • forced to transport large manuals
    • they didn’t stop pirates
      • trivial to by-pass authentication
      • ‘experts’ would reverse engineer & crack the software and this version would become widespread

[Video time 7m25sec]

By 1996 there was a ‘solution’

  • WIPO Copyright Treaty passed by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization
    • Laws to prevent use of cracking programme extraction and storage of any information retrieved
      • No layers required to enforce

but this made unrealistic demands on reality, for example you couldn’t look inside your computer while it was running programmes.

[Video time 9m20sec ish]

Cory says that 2011 is the hardest time it will ever be to copy things.

[Video time 13m20sec]

Special purpose technologies are complex & you can remove features from them without doing fundamental disfiguring violence to their underlying utility.

Generally this works

But null & void for general purpose computer & general purpose network, the PC & the internet.

There is a superficial resemblance to achieving regulatory goals.

  • e.g. remove bit torrent from the internet because it enables copyright infringement
  • all it takes to make legitimate material disappear from the internet is to say that it infringes copyright
    • fails to attain the actual regulatory goal – it doesn’t stop people from violating copyright

But it does satisfy the:
“Something must be done, I am doing something, something has been done.”

Thus any failures that occur can be blamed on the regulations not going far enough. Rather than the idea that it was flawed from the outset.

Now we get specialised computers that run specific programmes to e.g. stream audio, play games, etc. but can’t run other programmes that might undermine company profits.

This is the ‘Computers as Appliances’ approach

An appliance isn’t a stripped down computer, it is a fully functioning computer with ‘spyware’ out of the box to prevent ‘misuse’.

DRM always converges on Malware. Companies & governments can run software as surveillance to prevent activity, e.g. ‘brick’ a product that has been tampered with.

On the network side, attempts to make a network that can’t be used for copyright infringement always converges with the surveillance & control measures used by oppressive/repressive governments. Refer to SOPA.

Cory sees this as a century long conflict, and copyright is just the first part of this.

“Can’t you just make a general purpose computer that runs all the programmes except the ones that scare and anger us?”

“Can’t you just make an internet that transmits any message over any protocol between any two points, unless it upsets us?”

[Video time 22m]

“Copyright isn’t important to pretty much everyone.”
Copyright is trivial.

Freedom in the future will require us to monitor our devices and set meaningful policy on them; to examine and terminate the processes that run on them, to maintain them as honest servants to our will and not as traitors and spies working for criminals, thugs and control freaks.

We have to win the copyright battle to allow us to move forward. There are organisations that help with this, supporting open and free systems.


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