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back to article Web daddy Tim Berners-Lee: DRMed HTML least of all evils

Tim Berners-Lee has warned against the risk of not standardising digital rights management (DRM) in the HTML specification, saying an approach that “does the least harm” might be the best approach. Web daddy Lee said Wednesday unless the geeks take charge and devise an acceptable standard, delivering a universal answer to DRM, …

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He does have a point

Sure, no-one likes DRM but as he states it's a fact of life. If DRM stops a media file ending up being endlessly copied between unrelated users it's doing its intended job and if you suppress the selfish "me want free stuff, me not pay for expensive film" attitude then is has its place.

The problem is the inevitable collateral damage current DRM systems impose: being tied to specific devices, platforms, software etc restricts a user to a much greater extent than they ever have been in the past and that is difficult to justify unless you happen to be a shareholder in a media organisation, where getting the same user to pony up multiple times for the same content isn't a bad thing. It's difficult to see how DRM can ever truly be open (to the extent that you get free software implementations, for example), but a single standard would at least least for much greater interoperability than exists at present.

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Re: He does have a point

Re: " it's a fact of life"

Evil is a fact of life. Death is a fact of life. That does not mean we have to help it along.

I think that the old guard has lost its imagination and vigor. I am older as well, but not being rich and famous and still being a working technician has kept my focus on solutions rather than capitulating to problems.

Patents and Copyrights do not create wealth. They destroy it. The only ones saying otherwise are the parasites who leach off the productivity of others.

We *need* DRM, but I am going to oppose it until we have the appropriate checks and balances in place and leadership I can trust. We are nowhere close and not likely to be for a while.

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Re: He does have a point

No, because it's not going to work.

It will be cracked as soon as there is any usful content.

Then companies like Macrovision will create extra crap to try and lock the door again. In the end no different then not having a standard to start with.

Look at Blu Ray, the DRM that was going to last for 40 years. Broken and now you get BD's (mostly from Fox ) that will not play on older players because they have been crapped up with extra copyprotection that lasts about a week. If you are lucky there will be an update to your player in a month or two so you can play your disc.

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Re: He does have a point

"Patents and Copyrights do not create wealth. They destroy it. The only ones saying otherwise are the parasites who leach off the productivity of others."

Copyright came in (18th century) so that writers could actually earn more than a pitiful amount off their work. Until the USA signed up to international copyright in the 19th century, they merrily reprinted works and collected 100% of the money. Charles Dickens, amonst others, watched publishers get very rich while he got zero. So copyright does create weath -- for the person who originated the thing of value. With copyright, both the publisher and the writer make money. Patents help the inventor get the reward for his innovation. If you invented some incredibly neat device, got it manufactured, and were not protected by a patent, your rivals would have copies out in two minutes and leach off your inventiveness without you seeing a penny.

These laws came in to foster creativity and inventiveness by appealling to the profit motive: people coudl be sure they themselves profited. Copyright and patents have a limited lifespan so that the originator does not have an infinite stranglehold. Talk to the inventors of Viagra, who make billions for a while, and now have rivals. It might not be perfect, but it is not the evil system it is made out to be: both copyright an patents arose to make marketing and sales more fair.

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Re: He does have a point

>"Patents and Copyrights do not create wealth. They destroy it. The only ones saying otherwise are the parasites who leach off the productivity of others."

Okay Btrower, that's a very sweeping statement. However, you neglected to summarise your system for rewarding inventors and authors in their place. Patents and Copyright aren't perfect systems, but then what are? Have you alternatives in mind?

Is your position informed by certain types of patents which perhaps shouldn't be granted, or perhaps by their application (for example, a small inventor not having the financial resources to defend their work from a large established organisation)?

Please expand upon your point of view.

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Re: He does have a point

"Evil is a fact of life. Death is a fact of life. That does not mean we have to help it along."

Well don't help it along. Go use a browser which has no DRM so you can't even accidentally use DRM. Boycott Netflix and any other streaming service which is contractually obliged and MUST use DRM to stream its content. Pretend that their needs are irrelevant and that somehow they'll relent if only you hold out for long enough.

In the meantime, everyone else will be enjoying these services without the hassle of running a large plugin for the same purpose.

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Re: He does have a point

Your arguments, while seductive, are just plain wrong. It does not matter if J.K Rowling had it bad and now is a billionaire with copyright but would have just been sad without it or 'heaven forfend' without the definite potential upside of making *billions* from beleaguered parents everywhere she did not write Harry Potter.

Copyright is a *grant* intended to make things better for *all of us*, not just a tiny select group of authors and a mountain of rent seekers. It does not make the world a better place and hence it does not serve its function and hence should be withdrawn. The rent-seekers who profit from it, a handful of superstars and their heirs who profit, plenty of creative dupes who have no reasonable hope of profiting from it *ever* and toadying politicians sucking up to their industry benefactors have pushed mightily for this advantage and why not? If we are dumb enough to pay rent on our own stuff, why wouldn't' they.

Thalidomide was intended to help pregnant mothers weather some effects of pregnancy. It had plenty of actual benefits but was decidedly net negative. Despite a truly *horrendous* and unacceptable downside known well before then "thalidomide was sold in pharmacies in Canada until 1962; Canada was the last country to end sales of the drug."

I am Canadian, so maybe I can work off my share of collective guilt for dragging our feet by making sure we are a leader this time.

Re: If you invented some incredibly neat device, got it manufactured, and were not protected by a patent, your rivals would have copies out in two minutes and leach off your inventiveness without you seeing a penny.

And what, exactly, becomes of those copies? If they have value, they get created and that value gets realized. With the labyrinth of patents crippling software development and the development of complex multi-faceted things that interest us, most of the things don't get made at all, even if the last inventor wants to give his work away for free.

There are very few 'inventions' that are very inventive and useful in the patent system. If there were, teams of us would be poring through patents looking for neat stuff. The overwhelming majority of it is crap. Of the few things in the system that are worthwhile they are effectively not usable because to actually make use of them requires other patents unknown whose cost you will not be able to determine until the trolls start knocking on your door. If the thing is *really* profitable, the big players whose patent portfolios are required for even relatively trivial things will sic their lawyers on you.

Lawyers do *great* with the Patent and Copyright systems. Shutting off their air supply would be worth it alone.

Re: "both copyright an patents arose to make marketing and sales more fair."

If you think that is true and, worse, think that it is what sustains it, I can't help you. If you care, the writers of the U.S. Constitution were fairly clear with their intent and it has nothing to do with marketing, sales and fairness.

Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution:

"The Congress shall have power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Note that they did not even think it valuable enough to mandate it, they simply allowed it. If you read the document in its historical context, you have to know that the majority of the founders would be shamed and appalled to see what clause 8 has done. They would *never* have put that in there if they knew what would happen.

Marketing and Sales are largely to overcome the fact that without marketing and sales people neither need nor want what is being offered. For things, like boner pills, that have a genuine demand, marketing and sales demonstrably *increase* the cost and *decrease* the utility of the product.

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Pirate

Re: He does have a point

@Hollerith 1

Copyright can be said to have been formalized in 1710 with the Statute of (Queen) Anne when the rights were granted to the Author for a period of 14 years - If the Author was still alive at the end of 14 years the right was extended for another 14 years, after which period the work went into the public domain. The purpose of the new act was for "the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books". This cannot really be compared to the present systems where, courtesy of the likes of Disney, works can be copyrighted by corporations with a term of 75 years...

For 150 years or so before Anne works were controlled by the Stationers Company who had exclusive rights to print and publish in return for censorship on behalf of the Crown. The US was bound by Anne until after 1776 when the government realised that they had little significant works to protect, and that most of the works that they wanted came from Europe. It was not in the interests of the US to encourage copyright until, as you mention, the C19th when they had significant quantities of original works that they wanted to protect internationally. I find that it is useful to remember this when criticizing the newer rapidly developing economies who can have a cavalier attitude to "Intellectual Property" (horrible weasel words).

I should mention that I am a copyright holder myself, although much of mine is available to the Commons.

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Re: He does have a point

> Patents and Copyrights do not create wealth. They destroy it. The only ones saying otherwise are the parasites who leach off the productivity of others.

Actually, there are really quite a lot of content creators rely on copyright to generate wealth for them, so clearly your assertion that "The only ones saying otherwise are the parasites who leach off the productivity of others" is clearly wrong.

Sorry if that spoils your clear and simple worldview.

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Re: He does have a point

The thing about it is it doesn't. (Stuff like the piratebay has a DRM free copy for anybody who wants it).

Netflix in only allowing streaming wastes a large amount of the worlds internet capacity.

(If they just had a box that cached the last n things watched or whatever it would be better.)

Same with analytics if all that was done server side then the internet's shared resource would be utilised more effectively.

DRM shouldn't be in the web it should be an optional add on for something like h264.

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Re: He does have a point

"Your arguments, while seductive, are just plain wrong. It does not matter if J.K Rowling had it bad and now is a billionaire with copyright but would have just been sad without it "

Except that your original argument was that it didn't create wealth and only leachers benefited, so it does matter in that it destroys the credibility of your argument.

" It does not make the world a better place and hence it does not serve its function and hence should be withdrawn."

That's a bald assertion you make. For a world where authors and artists and composers are not payed by wealth patrons, but by people buying copies of their work, it clearly serves to help return money to the content creators. Is the system perfect? No. Are the ever-lengthening copyright periods detrimental yes. But you haven't yet proposed an alternative system for funding easily copyable creativity.

"The rent-seekers who profit from it, a handful of superstars and their heirs who profit, plenty of creative dupes who have no reasonable hope of profiting from it *ever*..."

... and of course all the small-time photographers who would see their work used, un-paid by the Daily Mail.

"There are very few 'inventions' that are very inventive and useful in the patent system. If there were, teams of us would be poring through patents looking for neat stuff. "

Which lots of people do. Again, is the patent system perfect? No it's become distorted and the quality of patent examination and awarding appears to be horrible. That doesn't mean that the entire patent system is without merit, just that the award of patents needs to be tightened up.

You might not like copyright and patents, but you've yet to make a sound case for them being abolished.

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Re: He does have a point

It does not matter if J.K Rowling had it bad and now is a billionaire with copyright but would have just been sad without it or 'heaven forfend' without the definite potential upside of making *billions* from beleaguered parents everywhere she did not write Harry Potter.

If copyright did not exist, JK Rowling would probably not have written the Harry Potter series at all, and the studios certainly would not have made film adaptations of it. Now you and I may be fine with that, but as you allude to further down, we two are not "*all of us*" so we don't get to destroy the entire system solely for the benefit of our own prejudices.

Copyright is a *grant* intended to make things better for *all of us*, not just a tiny select group of authors and a mountain of rent seekers. It does not make the world a better place and hence it does not serve its function and hence should be withdrawn.

The only people who determine profit from copyright are the creators. The "rent seekers" as you describe them can only do with the material what the creators allow them to do.

[Snipping bit about Thalidomide as it presumes net negative of copyright, which has not been shown.]

I am Canadian..

We'll get to that in a bit...

[Snipping rambling replies which again presume that the system is a net negative which has YET to be shown].

Re: "both copyright an patents arose to make marketing and sales more fair."

If you think that is true and, worse, think that it is what sustains it, I can't help you. If you care, the writers of the U.S. Constitution were fairly clear with their intent and it has nothing to do with marketing, sales and fairness. [quotes US Constitution]

So, you're Canadian, posting on a UK site about an article about an International standard, and your choice of authority is the US Constitution? Why? Copyright was invented in Britain in the 15th/16th century (source), and patents were invented (but not patented, apparently) in Greece in 500BC (source) In both cases, they were created to ensure that those behind development of innovative ideas were protected from others wishing to profit from their work.

Now, I am a US citizen, and I hold our Constitution dear, but I do not believe it to be either infallible or the final authority on concepts which predate it and have international scope. Our founding fathers were wise in many ways, but they were also supremely skilled at attributing idealistic motives to decisions based primarily on base calculation and supporting said justifications with rather flowery language (cf. Declaration of Independence.)

Marketing and Sales are largely to overcome the fact that without marketing and sales people neither need nor want what is being offered.

Actually, the primary purpose of marketing is to determine what people want to begin with, so that production can focus on items that are saleable. Sales exists to those things which are produced for money, regardless of their market value.

For things, like boner pills, that have a genuine demand, marketing and sales demonstrably *increase* the cost and *decrease* the utility of the product.

Without marketing nobody would know that your boner pills would be in such demand, nor how much. This would lead to production under- or over-runs, which would drive up the cost of the product. Utility would not be affected on a per-product basis, but if the wrong products were to be produced, the energy put into them would not be available to improve the utility of desired products.

Without sales to ease the distribution of desirable products and find a way to offset at least partially if not in whole the cost of offloading undesirable products, the inefficiencies of marketing and production would lead to a glut of waste, which would increase the cost of all products.

You claim these basic definitions are demonstrably false. Fine. Demonstrate that fact, with a valid study which properly accounts for all confounding variables.

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Re: He does have a point

You might not like copyright and patents, but you've yet to make a sound case for them being abolished.

Quite right. The solution isn't to abolish patent and copyright, but to limit them. However, given the power of corporations that tilt such things in their favor, I'm not sure if we're better off having them in the world or not.

For patents, we're still better off, even with all the whining about rounded corners there is a lot of investment in R&D that wouldn't be made if something could be immediately ripped off as soon as it became a market success.

For copyright, I'm not so sure. Would people still write books and make movies if there was no copyright? People wrote book before copyright existed, so the answer there is obvious. For movies, they are already copied at or before release and yet still make millions, the only change would be that such copies would not be illegal. They'd have to do a better job of controlling leaks from studios but it could be done. Even if you could copy Lady Gaga's songs her fans would still want to see her in concert so she'd still be quite rich. You can copy a recording, but you can't copy the experience of seeing someone perform live (even if you're a Glasshole)

In an ideal world we'd scrap copyright, then bring it back but enshrine the limits of the terms in the constitution in the US, and by whatever means in other countries that would similarly make them very difficult to extend. That original 14 year term from the Queen Anne statute seems quite reasonable, with the 14 year extension needed.

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Re: He does have a point

@Dave 126

Re: " that's a very sweeping statement"

Back when the Universities were still teaching science like the science part mattered, I was taught to be wary of making statements with qualification. There are always caveats, but working scientists don't have time to plow through your ass-covering bullshit. If you have a conclusion, state it clearly. Patents and copyrights are clearly net-destructive and removing them would be net positive. There is a clear action statement there. Rent seekers want to muddy those waters by discussing the marginal benefits, if any and raising 'n of one' examples of people you might be glad became prosperous as somehow counteracting the massive net damage created by the system. I have explained a little more, but I would not be surprised if that only makes my strong and clear statement in to something less so.

Re: "you neglected to summarise your system for rewarding inventors and authors in their place. Patents and Copyright aren't perfect systems, but then what are? Have you alternatives in mind?"

First, any creative person I have known personally created stuff because they had a bug to create stuff. Did they think that after ten years of practice and then maybe another ten of slogging away in obscurity they would eventually become fabulously wealthy. Perhaps, but human motivation does not work like that. Rewards and behavior have to be reasonably proximate. What is proximate in this case? The experience of creation and the joy of having your creation. If you think about it, it is not generally in their 'day job' that people invent stuff. They do their day job for money, they do their hobbies because they enjoy pursuing their hobbies. Heck, most hobbyists are willing to *pay* to pursue their hobby. The act of creating ordinary stuff is something that people can slog away at during the day. That stuff is not patent-able anyway, nor should it be. Truly novel create stuff is its own reward. The work at Xerox PARC made some people rich but it was not investors and not the inventors. The rest of society *did* benefit, but a portion of those benefits were seized by companies like Apple who turned around and used them to stifle the use of inventions by competitors.

Our current system is based on scarcity. The notion that people need to be rewarded for creating things is based on the incorrect notion that somehow scarcity makes it necessary to pay them so they can live while creating things. Our only scarcity of the basics of life are now artificial. Technology has made it so that we now have a problem of not enough work. We can produce more, but our system is structured so we do not. A big part of that is entrenched rent-seekers and the existing power structure. Why do we not put everyone to work and to the extent that we don't need people to operate a factory because it is automated, lets redirect them to supporting the automation of other things. Instead of three people working 40 hours a week and one at home idle, why not have four people working 30 hours a week instead? The same wealth would be created, likely more. We don't let the idle person starve in the streets (well, they sort of do in the States, but not here in Canada). We just condemn all four to poverty -- three to a poverty of their precious time and one to material poverty.

Without copyright, the marginal cost of electronically reproducing a copyrighted work is below the cost of metering it. It is effectively zero. The entire cost of the world's media goes now to rent-seekers. They use some of that money to create new works, that is true, but not all of it. A good part of that now goes to pursuing rents and lobbying to criminalize the civil transgression of copyright infringement.

If rent-seekers had a compelling value proposition they would not have to pervert our justice system and deliberately cripple media to get us to pay them.

If we all had more spare time and the money currently being sent to places unknown to pay rent seekers was kept locally, we could (and I submit would) help talented artists to pursue their craft. Last I heard, most working musicians make most of their money from ... working. They play gigs. They teach music. They consult on, sell and repair musical instruments. Working artists do not make their living from rents. Rent seekers like Sony Music make their money from rents. Sometimes, they will rootkit your systems along the way to make sure you are paying your rent, but that is just the price you pay ... for allowing copyrights.

Re: "Is your position informed by certain types of patents which perhaps shouldn't be granted, or perhaps by their application (for example, a small inventor not having the financial resources to defend their work from a large established organisation)?"

Yes. Most patents I have examined are either obscure and worthless or obvious. Here, for example, is a patent that serves more as an example of how broken the patent system is, rather than a patent per se:

http://www.google.com/patents/US6368227

I dare say that most accomplished professionals in their field would look at patents in their area of expertise and, once the bullshit is swept away, they would pronounce the patent either obvious (or not really 'inventive') or worthless. If they know their industry and more about other patents they will realize that it is nearly impossible for any patent at all to be net productive in a mature industry. Companies do not use patents to protect their clever ideas. They uses them as weapons against competitors. Occasionally, a patent troll will gain access to patents and use them to seek rents. None of that activity results in more invention. It is all just wasteful of resources.

The net effect of things like patents and copyrights. is to take ten people with a pile of 100 things that should be allocated 10 to each person and turn it into a *smaller* pile of 99 things where one person gets 90, a couple of thugs get one or two and the rest either share one or get nothing at all. Bill Gates is no doubt a highly clever and productive guy. He might even be a hundred times as effective as normal, maybe a thousand, but is he really a million or a billion times better than average? Did he *need* all those extra billions of dollars to get up and go to work every day? Did rewarding him keep him at work?

I *do* know of some things that were patented in software that for my money were truly pretty clever. One is Lempel–Ziv–Welch data compression. I don't know if the creators ever made much money from it, but it created havoc in our industry and just ended up wasting all kinds of time, directly for people like me who had to recode stuff and indirectly for nearly everyone. As much as a software patent could make sense, that one did, but it *still* was net negative. These days a similarly inventive patent would likely not be effectively usable because to make anything one is always afoul of one patent or another.

I am a software developer and I invent stuff and I stand to inherit copyrights for more than a dozen published books. The patent and copyright system is still entirely net negative for me.

Most inventors are disproportionate users of inventions if you think about. Similarly, most authors are disproportionate consumers of written material. For the majority of members of those groups patents and copyrights far outweigh any realistically realizable benefit.

Ultimately, granted monopoly rights of any kind only reward the monopolist rent-seekers and their lawyers. I submit that we do not want to encourage either group. That reward comes not only at the expense of all the rest of us, it comes at the expense of reducing the overall aggregate wealth. It is not fair, reasonable or productive.

The complete abolition of copyrights and patents should *always* be on the table for discussion. It is not only an option, it is in my opinion the only reasonable one.

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Re: He does have a point

"Copyright is a *grant* intended to make things better for *all of us*, not just a tiny select group of authors and a mountain of rent seekers."

The problem with your argument is anyone can be an author, it's not just a tiny elite group. Additionally you have made another sweeping statement about what makes copyright useful in society.

You see copyright, at a philosophical level (not at a legal technical level) amounts to an protection for those who wish to provide the output of their work to others with the condition those others will not then treat it like it is their own work to do with as they wish.

Imagine a primitive world in which there is no legal system or copyright. If I say to you, you can have this story I have written in exchange for some money, but I don't want you to share it with anyone else without my permission. You are free to say "I don't want your story on those terms." If however you say "yes I agree, that's fine" and I give you the story, if you are honourable you will keep my terms. If you are dishonourable you might break them.

This is fine when there are only two parties who use the work. However though I can have agreements with you, in society without a state, that agreement won't necessarily be carried over to anyone else who might come across the work. I can say to you, "you can only have it if you agree that if you copy it and pass it on, you do so on the condition that whoever you pass it on to also pays me a fee and also must agree to these conditions and agree to transfer these conditions if they in turn pass it on".

Here is the key point, I don't have to like the details of any individual actual agreement, but I very much like it that there is a world where people are free to reach such agreements. If a don't like the details, I don't have to agree or take the work.

Clearly the way the primitive world example deals with third parties, doesn't scale well. It is easy to see that after a work has been copied on once or twice, the chance of the conditions continuing to be honoured are slim.

Copyright, in effect, is where the institutions of society have codified grant the ability to have this kind of agreement and have it on a more practical basis where it is backed up by society, the law and the power of enforcement (what constitutes proportionate enforcement is another question - and as Laurence Lessig has noted, I don't want to live in a society where my children who, in the privacy of the bedroom have stepped out of this codified honour system, downloaded a bit of music, are then treated like criminals as distinct from having been dishonourable in quite minor way - but that is a separate question).

Society solves this problem with ensuring third parties understand what honour should mean by, in effect, saying "it is good people should be able to have this kind of an arrangement and since there is the problem of third parties not being party to the original honour agreement and, consequently, tending not to feel bound by it, I, the state, will decree that I will allow general honour agreements to be proclaimed as applied to a work for all, and I will back this up with enforcement/protection where there are those who do not feel they should be bound to honour agreements with someone they have never met."

In this context it can be argued copyright grants the freedom to provide a work under limited terms. Anyone is free to provide work under *un*limited terms if they so wish. But most choose not to. Now there are many who try to argue, that copyright is bad. But it seems to me they are always taking the step of saying I will take a work and not honour the wishes of the author or society and that's OK.

Actually, most in society disagree with them. Most think copyright is a good thing (not so many on tech forums, but then I'm not sure even then that many disagree with the view as I have given it above. In any case surveys show most people agree copyright is good and should be enforced).

It seems to me you can only think of the providers of copyrighted work as "rent-seekers" if you are someone who doesn't recognise or honour the terms on which a work has been provided to the world or the terms as enforced by society.

I don't like all copyright holders. I often don't like the prices they all charge. I am free to consider them greedy. But it seems to me there is always this extra, unbridgeable step taken by those who argue there should be no copyright, and that they should be able to choose to take a work and go against the honour system they "disagree with" and simply take the work (I explore the reason for these quote marks later). I won't call it theft. That is too strong a word, too often used, and if it is used it must immediately be recognised it is not the same as theft of physical property. More to the point, I find it simply, to a minor degree, dishonourable. If I don't like the terms (copyright terms are dictated by society and price by the author or his/her agent) I am free not to choose to avail myself of the work.

I put "disagree with" above in quotes, because while there are those who will always adopt a creative commons license for any work, and it is often very commendable and charitable of them to do so - they remain few and far between. Most people, indeed I warrant even most of those who argue against copyright, tend not to avail themselves of the option to provide any IP they find themselves owning on a creative commons basis if they discover the IP is valuable. Odd that.

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@BTrower Your arguments, while seductive, are just plain wrong.

No, you are dodging the question. The US constitution which you drag in (odd, since you are Canadian), has little to do with Tim Berners Lee's position or how to remunerate inventors and authors.

Thalidomide, even less and it is a totally specious argument.

You make some valid points that there are _lots_ of blood-sucking patents, copyrights, lawyers & all. Most software patents are pretty pointless and do not create any benefits for anyone. I am with you on that.

But...

How would you set it up so that a normal author or inventor gets remunerated for their work if anyone can copy it?

Not talking about JK Rowlings needing to be worth $100M here.

Say Jane Schmoe author is writing a book. Possibly a brilliant book. How does she make a living in your worldview?

Hey, I know I'd be better off if I could read her book for free. And I know " *all of us*" would benefit too.

But if _she_ has no way to benefit from her work she likely won't be writing that book.

And I think we'd be poorer for that.

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Re: He does have a point

@Tim99:

Upvoted you. Well said.

I too am a copyright holder and except for a few things under GPL the rest are under liberal licenses like MIT or Creative Commons. If I could make the deal that my copyrights would be stripped along with the rest of the world's copyrights I would do it in a heartbeat.

If an informed public were to vote on it, even most copyright holders would vote in favor of abolition. It is the right thing to do (TM).

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Re: He does have a point

@Chris 3: Re: "there are really quite a lot of content creators rely on copyright to generate wealth for them"

The women who were relying upon Thalidomide to ease morning sickness were not left with a choice of suffering anyway or risking crippled babies. They could gain their relief with safer things. Similarly, copyright is not the only way that content creators can make money from their craft. Certainly it is not the only way they can make a living.

Even if the women could *not* gain their relief another way, the injury caused by thalidomide did not make continuing with it a reasonable option. Similarly, even if copyright were the only way that content creators could make a living from content creation, copyright as the cure is not an acceptable cost.

How would the mother who *knew* the risk of thalidomide possibly explain to a crippled child that they did it anyway? Similarly, how can someone who knows the risks of DRM possibly explain to their children or grandchildren that they *knew* DRM could make it so that only people with power and privilege were able to read a book? How could they explain that we *knew* DRM would make some things inaccessible to everyone, even wealthy and powerful historians, but did it anyway?

As it stands, textbooks and access to the right software are a significant cost of higher learning and some people just cannot afford it. We have locked them out of their own culture on the bogus claims of rent-seekers that somehow that is fair, reasonable and net better over all. It is not. People in poor nations are blocked solidly against participation in world culture because of *rents* demanded by rent-seekers who produce nothing of value.

We are *not* uninformed about copyright and we are *not* speculating about its risk. It is already creating damage and that damage continues to accumulate.

It is a hard world out there. I am sure there is a class of people, productive creators all of them, perhaps with high-ish seeming absolute numbers that will be directly injured if we abolish copyrights. Every decision even no decision at all caries with it costs and benefits. Injuring those people would be a cost of deciding my way. Locking generations of people out of their own culture, denying education to people and diminishing the whole world is a cost of yours. A benefit of yours is that an unidentified clan of creators will be able to eke out a living doing what they love. A benefit of mine is that *everyone* will be much better off with a much deeper and richer cultural experience, everyone will have radically increased access to education, inventors will have access to every one of the very best techniques and tools to pursue their creative endeavors and the world will be a richer place -- likely rich enough to allow *anyone* who wishes to create things to pursue their vision rather than a tiny handful of superstars.

Re: "Sorry if that spoils your clear and simple worldview."

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Abolition of various types of slavery does come with some disruption, even to the slaves. Sometimes, there might even be a period of disruption that makes slavery seem the better option. Most of the slaves working in the house are probably on the side of the masters. Certainly to plantation owners, slavery looks pretty good all around.

The issue of slavery may look murky from one side. In fact, the issue probably is. But the course to take is not murky for someone with a moral compass. Abolishing slavery is the course to take, even if it will harm some very beloved masters and even if it scares the most gentle of the slaves in the house -- even if some of the slaves in the field are against it.

Perhaps you work for gentle masters. You are at liberty to stay working for your masters even after we abolish slavery if that is your wish. I may be compelled to work in the house now, but I do not wish my grandchildren to be born into slavery, even if I have to work in the field for a while.

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Re: He does have a point

@Chris 3:

Re:"Except that your original argument was that it didn't create wealth and only leachers benefited, so it does matter in that it destroys the credibility of your argument."

Net wealth and it is parasites, not creators, in my opinion, who mostly benefit from the system overall.

The beneficial effects of thalidomide are a good thing. The detrimental effects are a bad thing. The gross disparity that makes Thalidomide *net* detrimental also make it *unacceptable*. Despite the possibility of benefit, the downside was so severe it was banned. Last I heard, it had actually been approved by the FDA, within strict limits, for use because of significant additional benefits for which there is no other viable option. To get this approval, the applicants had to convincingly demonstrate both that the net benefit was high enough and (with the limits) the net risk low enough to make it a *net* viable option.

If the people promoting copyright had a case for why copyright was net beneficial, they would make it. They have the figures. Thanks to the monopoly rights we gave them, they have the funds to do the research and prove it out. They would be fools not to. I put it to you that the reason the scientific case is not being made is because it *cannot* be made. That is, whatever actual data is available does not support the case for 75 year copyrights and patents on software and it likely does not support much else. The people on the other side of this debate are not idiots. Copyright is their bread and butter. Instead of spending time and money proving the case for why they are net beneficial, they have spent their time and money lobbying governments and supra-national organizations to *criminalize* the civil breach of copyright infringement.

Re: "But you haven't yet proposed an alternative system for funding easily copyable creativity."

Why do I have to? I have not proposed a system for funding Wikipedia either, but it seems to be doing OK. I have not proposed an alternative system for funding freely breathable air for that matter. Creation happens anyway. It happened for the millenniums before copyrights existed. Heck, it happened when you had to copy a book by hand and could not even reasonably make a single extra copy of a painting. It will happen still, long after copyright is a sad little footnote in history almost impossible to explain to future generations. I have, alternatively, proposed a system that would allow people to legally sing 'happy birthday' again. I have proposed a system to unlock incredible amounts of the world's wealth and an almost dead certain system to result in an incredible growth in creativity within a few short years and wealth overnight.

Imagine what you are saying. Because it is now easy to make the world's wealth available to all, we need to impose controls to stop making it available? Are you mad? Scarcity made things expensive. We found ways to eliminate scarcity. Let' use them. People whose business models depended upon that scarcity will have to find less destructive business models. Let's get on with the new age of 3D printing, instantly accessible knowledge, miracle drugs and cheap fusion energy. Do you honestly think that the world would be a better place if we were more vigorous pursuing copyright violations on Wikipedia in an attempt to force people back to using Encyclopedia Brittanica, because 'gosh, unless somebody is being paid to make the encyclopedia it would never happen?

Wikipedia is one of the top ten destinations on the Internet used almost daily by everyone. Here are the top ten by order of Alexa rank: Facebook, Google, YouTube, Yahoo!, Baidu, Wikipedia, Windows Live, Amazon.com, Tencent QQ, Twitter. Are they funded by copyright? It is not their access to copyright that made them annihilate the competition. They don't need copyrights to survive and for the smaller players copyright is probably half strangling them.

Re: "... and of course all the small-time photographers who would see their work used, un-paid by the Daily Mail."

Can you seriously be making that case? You think we should maintain a multi-trillion dollar worldwide copyright and patent tax** because it will disrupt stuff like that? I don't know what percentage of the world's near $100 TRILLION dollar GWP that would be, all in for every freelance contribution of every type to everyone of the world's obsolete and dying media companies, but it can't be much. I seriously doubt it is big enough to survive rounding errors on a scientific calculator.

I am quite certain that people who eke out a living selling pictures to the Daily Mail will find some way to eke out a living if we free the world from abusive taxation. The only difference will be that the tiny amount they might get will go much, much farther in a world of unfettered abundance.

** In one extreme example, the RIAA claimed damages against Limewire totaling $75 trillion - more than the global GDP - and "respectfully" disagreed with the judges ruling that such claims were "absurd" -- http://news.techworld.com/sme/3267255/judge-rules-punitive-damages-against-limewire-absurd/ -- via Wikipedia thanks to not copyright.

Re: "Which lots of people do. " (apropos of patent mining)

Nobody I know does it. I submit that even if it is 'lots' in absolute numbers it is not nearly 'lots' in terms of percentages of people who could or would if there was something valuable there. I *do* know people who review patents to find prior art to defeat them, though. Feel free to provide examples of websites extolling the virtues of mining existing patents. Patents are very often in the news, but only examples of outrageous ones, trolling or destructive lawsuits that pervert the free market movement of materials and capital.

Patents were supposed to induce inventors to reveal the secrets of their amazing new inventions at the expense of giving them a limited monopoly on the idea. We have paid the cost, but we clearly have not seen the benefit. What benefit there might be in the patent system for the few good ideas are obscured by mountains of junk patents and what patents aren't junk are written in such a way that even experts have trouble figuring out what they are trying to say. If guys in the patent office can't understand the patents, I submit that the main purpose of revealing them has been ipso-facto defeated.

From what I know, patents are paid for not by people who went looking for an idea to license, but rather by people who invented something and were sued by someone else who *claims* to have a patent broad enough to somehow include their idea or likely more often who claims to have a patent on some commonplace necessary aspect that nobody reasonable would seek to patent.

Re: "the award of patents needs to be tightened up."

We agree on this. I am for a radical tightening myself.

Re: "You might not like copyright and patents, but you've yet to make a sound case for them being abolished."

The natural case in common law is to allow me to go about my business as long as it does not interfere with yours. Copyrights and patents allow people with alleged 'ownership' of the 'right' to interfere with the activities of others without offering anything of value in return. I don't mind paying a photographer to photograph my wedding. I *do* mind being held to ransom for a picture already in existence, especially common stock stuff like a picture of the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids that is sitting on my computer. Images are one of the things whose cost is falling due to ever increasing capacity to take and store photographs. Paying for photographs might make sense when it costs $50,000 to buy camera equipment, years training how to use it and an expensive ecosystem to allow pictures to be developed and transmitted. It does not make much sense when everyone in the world has a camera, even the best systems are within the reach of ordinary hobbiests and storage and transmission are essentially free. Copyrights on photographs of stuff like tourist destinations and giraffes make not sense at all. Annie Leibovitz might suffer and that would be a shame. On the other hand, I am pretty sure somebody would pay Ms Leibovitz to keep on making her magic. I would pay a shekel or two to have her do a few portraits. Copyright is not driving that.

I am not sure why you do not think that making the entirety of the worlds artistic, cultural and intellectual wealth, lowering the cost of every item in production, making education much more available and generally increasing the worlds genuine tangible wealth overnight with the stroke of a pen fails to be a sound case. How, then, about saving the lives of people who otherwise cannot afford medicine? How about reducing the cost of medical equipment generally. How about, god help us all, just weakening the forces of evil by reducing their air supply?

Is there any other thing that we could do this week to make the world a better place than to free up all this pent up wealth by simply agreeing to do so?

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Re: He does have a point

While I agree that DRM is an evil best avoided at all costs we sadly don't have that option. Until the movie industry wises up to the pointlessness and collateral damage of DRM (like the music industry apparently has, judging from the number of sites where you can buy DRM-free MP3s these days) we're stuck with it. That being the case Berners-Lee is right. Put it in the hands of programmers and geeks as a standard in HTML. That gives Netflix (and other streaming services currently locked into Silverlight because of the need for DRM) the ability to use a standards based streaming solution and reach more customers, and it gives us, the users, the ability to set our systems up however we want and not lose the ability to access our streaming video service.

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Re: He does have a point

Re: " there is a lot of investment in R&D that wouldn't be made if something could be immediately ripped off as soon as it became a market success."

I am not so sure. A ton of money goes into experiments whose only purpose is to convince us that a new patentable drug is better than an existing one and a lot of that research is bogus.

There is no question that if we removed the 'rentability' aspect of ideas that everyone would use them freely. Would that make the world a better place or a worse one. I think everyone would agree that if we could make sure enough of the right research got done to keep things advancing the world would be a lot better off if everyone had access to everything at a price they could afford.

Instead of a system that makes some brokers and a few superstars rich and otherwise impoverishes everyone else I would like to see a system that makes most of us rich and impoverishes no one.

The world cannot be perfect, but not all of its imperfections are necessary. We can fix this.

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Re: He does have a point

"Boycott Netflix and any other streaming service which is contractually obliged and MUST use DRM to stream its content."

That's not the most helpful attitude. DRM has a time and a place. The main problem with DRM is the issue of ownership. If I believe I am buying an album, then I should have the same rights, the same capabilities, whether it is a download or on CD. I should be able to buy a new PC and be able to play my download from it. I shouldn't have to worry about an authorization service being taken offline in 1, 2, 5, 10 years time.

If I subscribe to Netflix (or Lovefilm, Spotify, Google Music All Access, etc.) then I am clearly buying a time based subscription. If the service disappears, so does my subscription. I'm only renting access, I don't expect to be able to keep anything. As long as it works, it makes no difference whether there is DRM or not.

The reality is if DRM wasn't available, then these subscription services could not exist. It would be too easy to subscribe briefly, download stuff, cancel, resubscribe, download, etc.

(That said, there are possiblities. Prevent people re-subscribing for a period after they have cancelled. Limit the amount of simultaneous accesses / continual accesses. But ultimately, it still needs to be secure between the client and the server, and have authentication, to prevent organised pirates from downloading material).

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Re: He does have a point

What you're failing to understand is that EME *is* essentially a plugin system - the CDMs required for it to work will be custom, closed binary blobs with all the platform-dependent problems that we currently have. And it seems likely at this stage (but who knows, since there's no reference CDM implementation) that open platforms and browsers will not be able to implement support for EME, and that EME must have a far deeper integration with the operating system for it to be effective, otherwise content can simply be captured in the OS once it's rendered.

There's also significant possibility for this to be further abused to lock away standard content - the potential damaging impact of EME on what we've come to know as the open web should not be underestimated.

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He does NOT have a point

Extrapolate the development of DRM into the future and we might well end up with a compartmentalized system managed via routine ('standard') DRM. There are obvious interest groups that would love this development: big publishers, control-freak security agencies, anybody that hopes to control and monetize your data consumption. It's a slippery slope.

The great success of the world wide web lies in its openness. Every move to restrict the WWW will limit what can be done with the web in the future. Leave it to the companies to compete on DRM, so at least we, the consumers, have a choice and a randomly chosen bad option will not be perpetuated forever.

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Re: He does have a point

@Steve Knox

Re: "If copyright did not exist, JK Rowling would probably not have written the Harry Potter series at all"

That is doubtful. You can read about Rowling's story here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._K._Rowling

Copyrights did not induce her to write the first book. Copyrights made her enormously wealthy after the fact.

Re: "the studios certainly would not have made film adaptations of it."

I am honestly not certain about this. It may well be true that blockbuster movies would not be made anymore or would be very rare. I would be sad about that because I greatly enjoy blockbuster movies. I am no fan of J.K. Rowling, in her capacity as wealthy public figure fighting to retain her privilege at the expense of children unborn, but I rather like J.K. Rowling's work, especially as realized in those films.

It would be my hope that we can still find a way to make great art, including enormous projects that create blockbuster movies. However, if we had to give that up to realize the freedom and wealth to be had by abolishing copyrights and patents, it would be well worth the price. My mind boggles at what we would have available as software if it were not for copyrights and patents. All kinds of things of interest to me personally would be made available overnight. Once all those tools were placed in everyone's hands and all that knowledge was freely available and there was no reason for much of the Balkanization that has numerous talented people working on different versions of the same thing, I am sure we would see amazing things that we otherwise would never see. We would surely see many things faster.

Re: "The only people who determine profit from copyright are the creators. The "rent seekers" as you describe them can only do with the material what the creators allow them to do."

That is simply false, at least operationally. The individual creators agree to signing away most of their rights the way you and I agree to shrinkwrap licenses. Our power to *not* agree to those licenses is purely theoretical. Even a Law Professor could hardly read and be sure he understands all the tortured contracts we are allegedly bound by. He who has the gold makes the rules. The artists managing the big rights holders like Disney, Sony, BMG, etc are few and far between.

There are a few artists like Tom Cruise or J.K. Rowling who have true creative control over things and can dictate terms. They are the exception, not the rule. Some of the big artists are pretty awful personally and might well walk away with all their marbles if not given more of a say than anyone else, but plenty are still artists with a keen desire to practice their art, for its own sake. Personally, I would be glad to dispose of the ones who are only in it for the money.

Re: [Snipping bit about Thalidomide as it presumes net negative of copyright, which has not been shown.]

Uh. No. It counters the argument that showing benefits somehow nullifies the danger. Whether it is proven that the instance of copyright has no downside has no effect on the principle that benefits must be weighed against costs.

Re: [Snipping rambling replies which again presume that the system is a net negative which has YET to be shown].

I have addressed this elsewhere. The default condition for stuff like this is that you have to prove it has a net benefit and should exist. It definitely has a direct and demonstrable financial downside for most of us. Its benefits are obvious for rent seekers and dubious for creators. For the rest of us, it is worth the experiment to abolish and assess the impact. If it works out that I am completely wrong and every artist in the world folds up their tents and decides to take up selling Real Estate, we can reinstate copyrights readily enough. Sure, the damage will be done to rent-seekers, but personally I will not weep for Sony's shareholders.

Re: "[quotes US Constitution] So, you're Canadian, posting on a UK site about an article about an International standard, and your choice of authority is the US Constitution? Why?"

Canadian: Because I was born here.

UK: because this is an international rag. Being based in the UK is amusing, but not very relevant.

International Standard: The name says it. It affects us all. What better place to discuss an International standard than an international forum?

US Constitution: The U.S. constitution is important because it still technically underpins the legal system in the most powerful country in the history of the world. It is also a good guidepost because it is wonderfully clear and thoughtfully written with the end in mind to secure the most important things to a body politic beginning with Liberty. The US is the big player here and that is where its rules come from. If we can abolish copyright in the US the rest of the world will follow. I think Canada is a swell place. Even though we don't have a big population we have a hell of a big country, one of the largest economies in the world, and are members of the G7. Although we are retiring enough that it is not always apparent we have a disproportionately large say in things. Despite all that, our copyright regime is largely irrelevant in this debate. Unless the U.S. regime can be changed, change here is pointless.

Re: "Copyright was invented in Britain ..."

Where copyrights were invented is historically interesting, but for better or worse they turn on the U.S. constitution. Why they were invented is trumped by why they were mentioned in the U.S. Constitution because the U.S. is the one that holds the power to maintain it or change it.

Re: "In both cases, they were created to ensure that those behind development of innovative ideas were protected from others wishing to profit from their work."

Really? Were they not really created to extend the monopoly on printing held by existing publishers in the 17th century? It was the publishers that lobbied for it, not authors. The only reason authors got in there was to proxy for the publishers to make an otherwise unwholesome law palatable enough to pass. Even then, it was enacted on the heels of persistent pressure from publishers to maintain their profits.

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Re: He does have a point

@Steve Knox:

Re: "Now, I am a US citizen, and I hold our Constitution dear ..."

With all due respect, even if you do, many of your countrymen do not. The defense of the Constitution is in a shambles right now. Amendments one through ten, the so called 'Bill of Rights' are integral parts of the U.S. Constitution, the law of the land and the only thing that formalizes the ceding of powers of the sovereign states and their peoples to the U.S. federal government. The U.S. federal government is 'not a thing', except as constituted by the Constitution. I just looked them over and all ten have been violated in one way or another, some of them, like the first, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth and the eighth have been all but gutted.

You and I probably have a different idea as to what duties a citizen has to defend their constitution. Whatever the case, your 'dear' Constitution is in a frightful state. I am more worried than you, it seems and it is not even my Constitution.

Re: "but I do not believe it to be either infallible or the final authority on concepts which predate it and have international scope."

Huh. A lot of your countrymen, particularly those aggrieved at the state of your Constitution, would part company with you here. In any event, it is not your call. The law is clear enough. Nothing in the U.S. constitution cedes authority to abridge the constitution even to your federal and state governments, except via properly ratified amendments to that Constitution. From what I have read, your founders took a very dim view of entangling alliances of any kind, let alone ones that might claim (wrongly) to trump your Constitution. I am a Canadian citizen and *I* find it offensive that foreign nationals presume to strike agreements with individuals in the United States to abrogate the law of the land. Whatever the case, if you wish to foolishly cede your country's sovereignty to a shady non-elected secretive supra-national organization seeking to profit at your expense in return for nothing, you will have to get the appropriate constitutional amendments passed by Congress and ratified by the States. Good luck with that. You can't just ink any deal you wish and have it supersede the law the land. The Executive has no legitimate authority to pass legislation and even the Congress cannot pass legislation that violates the Constitution. Sure, they do it, but it should not survive a legal challenge.

Re: "Our founding fathers were wise in many ways, but they were also supremely skilled at attributing idealistic motives to decisions based primarily on base calculation and supporting said justifications with rather flowery language (cf. Declaration of Independence.)"

Indeed. I have a somewhat more respectful view of your founders. They had their human frailties, but they were masterful at making sure those did not enter your constitution. As for the flowery language you disdain, permit me to quote the document you hold in such low esteem:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Thanks to an enlightened decision that makes all U.S. federal government documents public domain, you can freely get and read your own copy here:

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

Quoting the same document "...Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes ... [men] are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves ... But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government"

I highly recommend reading both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and documents from around that time written by the founders. If you understand the context and what they are talking about you will see that we have slid backward a long way. In some ways things are arguably worse off than they were prior to declaring independence.

Re: "Without marketing nobody would know that your boner pills would be in such demand"

Huh? I am not doing marketing and I am well aware that boner pills are in demand. Things of actual interest like this get into the news and travel by word of mouth. Anyone can see that (other things being equal) sales efforts are generally inversely proportional to demand.

Re: "production over-runs"

Production over-runs of pills that cost ten cents to make and sell for ten dollars are not likely to be a problem. It is true enough that you need some market research, but I was not referring to that aspect of the marketing effort. I have, by the way, been involved designing tests and doing statistical analysis of the results in real-world marketing efforts with large financial institutions. I have seen this up very close. Whether or not something meets the needs or desires of the customers is subordinate to what increases profits. If it comes to a contest between customer needs and profits, profits win every time. Studying customers is not the ends, it is the means to an end.

Re: "You claim these basic definitions are demonstrably false. Fine. Demonstrate that fact, with a valid study which properly accounts for all confounding variables."

I used the word 'demonstrably' in the context of sales increasing the cost of things and thereby decreasing their utility. A sales department whose activities result in no more sales than would take place otherwise becomes a cost center and cost centers are ultimately funded by customers through the prices they pay. We don't generally mount studies to prove things the

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Re: He does have a point

...not according to the stallman

You are describing both patents and copyright through rose tinted Google glasses and not necessarily the realities we see today.

Patents are now used as weapons to prevent progress and competition by companies that already have too much money, stamping on the little guy. They are shared and traded amongst the already powerful.

Copyright now = DRM = a means of locking you in to specific hardware, making you dependent upon particular patents. It also means exploitation of the creators of said content by publishers as it can prevent them from firing said publishers as THEY own the copyright, not the creator - yes we will publish your work but only if you sign it over to us mwahahahah - now, here's your 0.0001 penny after we made £10 per album/movie. Want more cash? Pimp yourself out at a music festival or awards show, or expose some skin to the press.

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Unhappy

@btrower

<long manifesto snipped>

To summarize. Canada was late banning thalidomide. That's sad. It was patented. Drug companies hid negative test results.

And relevant because?

Software patents are a mess. In the US. Most places don't even allow them.

Patents in general. I guess you've neither read a patent or tried to get hardware made.

True some areas are stupid. Natural hormones cannot be patented, hence hundreds of dispenser patents. I've read them. OTOH mfg a single crystal turbine blade is only really explained in the relevant patents.

Now in your patent free world you've just spent 15 years of your life working on oh say an intermittent car wiper system and you go to say Ford and show it to them.

Do they a)Hand you a big cheque b)Tell you their R&D lab developed it already c)Take it off you, say thanks and tell you f**k off or they will call Security.

Because in your world it's c.

And yes IRL there was such an inventor, and he sued and won because he could prove he'd done the work, carried out the experiments and refined the design.

IRL developers are rarely mfgs. IP allows that separation.

BTW the major disconnect and stupid 70+yr life of copyright is pretty much soley down to the DCMA (a digital capture of a performance for example is the property of the recorder, not the performer. That clause was inserted by a staffer of a representative who IIRC got rather a nice job with the RIAA later. Jerry Pournell provided that detail) and 1 company. Disney. And their protection of "The Rat" (not TM).

The problem with Big Media is some of their "properties" cost 100s of $m to make and without any copyright there is no enforceable way to make that back. That's important if you want to raise money for a production.

OTOH The cost of production for most music has sunk through the floor, along with mfg costs, which today are essentially bandwidth and on line storage.

And for Ford you can just as easily put Google.

The current system needs overhaul. But no IP will not make a better world.

My History teacher told me "Always beware of people who offer simple solutions to complex problems."

IP is complex.

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Re: He does have a point

Whoo, that's some expansion. Fair play to Btrower for expanding on his views, we seem to have moved from the Ancient Greeks (who first raised taxes to pay for courts, so that trading disputes didn't result in knife fights) through Bertrand Russell's 'Case for a Leisure Society', and made a detour around Thalidomide.

So, possible alternative means of funding artists and inventors include, but are not limited to:

-Private patronage by a powerful individual, eg Leonardo da Vinci by the Medici family, JS Bach by a bishop.

-Leisure Society - i.e with a 20 hour working week, people have enough leisure time to write, play musical instruments, write the software that they want to use, and potter in the shed.

-Bounty - e.g John Harrison's invention of the bimetallic strip and thus accurate clocks, to claim an award being offered by the British Admiralty

-Employment by an organisation that can bring the individuals work to market quickly enough for it to be a competitive advantage.

- Academic research, grant, i.e society as a whole funds research / artistic endeavour.

None of the above seem perfect systems either, though the Leisure Society should be discussed more... which is tricky when Gross National Product and Economic Growth are all politicians brag about.

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Childcatcher

@btrower

"The women who were relying upon Thalidomide to ease morning sickness were not left with a choice of suffering anyway or risking crippled babies. They could gain their relief with safer things."

Actually no.

It was sold as being safer than existing drugs (look up the advertising of the time). BTW Thalidomide was probably the wake up call to the importance of chirality (handedness) of a molecule. The drug was not contaminated.

" Similarly, copyright is not the only way that content creators can make money from their craft. Certainly it is not the only way they can make a living."

You really need to stop with this analogy. It's rubbish. IRL Drug companies would not commit $Bn (or in your case C$Bn) and a decade of time to drug research and discovery without IP.

Despite their shaky record of coverups on side effects they are one group who are a (relatively) good case for IP protection.

Are you a victim of the drug? Because if you're not you appear to suffer either from a serious dose of CEG (Canadian Existential Guilt) Syndrome, which can be amusing (for non Canadians), or you're playing the TOTC card. Which is pretty shabby.

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Re: He does NOT have a point

"Extrapolate the development of DRM into the future and we might well end up with a compartmentalized system managed via routine ('standard') DRM. There are obvious interest groups that would love this development: big publishers, control-freak security agencies, anybody that hopes to control and monetize your data consumption. It's a slippery slope."

You forget one important detail. Providers don't HAVE to use the Web. Nor do they have to publish their stuff in the ways WE want it. THEIR stuff, THEIR rules, and if you don't like it, the door's right there.

That's the most fundamental thing we have to realize. It's THEIRS, NOT OURS (if it were ours, we'd be communists). Unlike music, movies have large budgets, so they take big risks (a record bomb might be six or seven figures--a movie bomb is at least eight; Heaven's Gate was a $40M bomb 30 years ago). They're MUCH more risk-averse and more likely to take the ball than just let it go.

What Berners-Lee is saying is that if you don't standardize DRM on the Web, the content providers (who won't go without DRM no matter how much we kick and scream--live with it) will go OUTSIDE the Web to other protocols like RTSP, which may not be as open or as well-understood. Or they'll continue to encapsulate their HTTP traffic in proprietary ways. Either way, the Web becomes secondary to them.

So basically, DRM is here to stay, like it or not, and it can exist with or without the WWW. So the choice is yours: embrace DRM or relegate the Web. No middle ground is possible.

As for the whole patent/copyright debate, they both have their uses. They're an alternative to commissions by the rich, which were how the most recognized works of art were typically made before the modern system. Most artists need to make a living, and these give them a possibility without rich clients. We don't need to abolish them, just limit them back to the way they were before: short terms enough to make a living off but not enough to excessively milk. We should also account for the accelerated pace of some industries and make some terms even shorter (ex. make software patents 3-4 years long to account for rapid progress in the tech industry--and no, copyright won't work on a technique since you can weasel around copyright with a clean-room copy--that's how the PC Clone BIOS was made; only patents can cover ALL the bases).

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Re: He does have a point

@Dave 126:

Good for you. Indeed, we do need to fund creators somehow. Though a minor one, I am one. Like many who are passionate about their craft, I was almost entirely self-funded early on, made something of a career from farming myself out as a contractor and received some government funding (SR&ED).

Like you, I find the 'leisure society' an attractive notion.

Creators have always been motivated and have always gotten by. Ironically, it is harder than ever to be one in some ways because of the drag on the system from patents and copyrights whose only purpose was to foster creation.

Re: GNP -- Poor measure of prosperity, I agree.

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Re: @btrower

@John Smith 19:

Re: "It was sold as being safer than existing drugs"

I think you lost the thread of the argument there. Mea Culpa, I guess. I was referring to the time *after* it was known the drug had those risks but was still being offered. No question the actual mothers involved would not likely have gone down the horrific path if they were properly informed. That was the point. *Had they known*, condemning their child that way would be unconscionable. Similarly, since we have some clear indications of the downsides of so called 'IP', it is unconscionable to allow the risk when we do not have to do so.

The Thalidomide comes into it to counter the notion that somehow marginal benefits trump more compelling risks. It was originally introduced as a dramatic counter to the notion that somehow downside risks were unimportant.

I am unconvinced as to the upside of copyrights and patents, but even accepting they exist, they cannot be worth the obvious risks which we are now realizing.

The City of London Police are tampering with DNS under cover of enforcing the newly criminalized copyright infringement. This threatens the Internet in a profound way. We are overly vulnerable to what in my opinion is a broken DNS system, but while we are vulnerable, people with no legitimate mandate are interfering with the global network. Abolishing copyright will not stop them from attempting to control the Internet, but it will take away this excuse.

Aaron Swartz released academic journal articles that had been trapped behind a paywall. For this formerly civil breach of copyright violation, "Federal prosecutors later charged him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution and supervised release." "On January 11, 2013, just after the second anniversary of his arrest, Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment, where he had hanged himself." -- via Wikipedia.

We can't bring Aaron back (the technique is patented), but while we have this debate, prosecutors are using the same justification to pursue others.

Re: "IRL Drug companies would not commit $Bn (or in your case C$Bn) and a decade of time to drug research and discovery without IP."

This is speculation on your part. Meantime, we have examples of real malfeasance on the part of your 'IRL Drug Companies':

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/11/pfizer-caught-gaming-the-system-loses-viagra-patent-in-canada/

Class action suits are underway to get Pfizer to disgorge illicit profits from this, but thus far, even with their patent invalidated (and only in Canada, mind), Pfizer still has the proceeds from more than a half decade of improperly overcharging for the drug.

Re: "Despite their shaky record of coverups on side effects they are one group who are a (relatively) good case for IP protection."

I sort of agree here, because you don't have much better ones, but if that's the best you've got, you practically make my argument for me. Generic drugs in Canada are a godsend saving Canadians literally billions of dollars. Our patent regime still sucks, but the one in the U.S. is positively gruesome. The U.S. is one place you to *not* want to be poor and sick.

Re: "Are you a victim of the drug? Because if you're not you appear to suffer either from a serious dose of CEG (Canadian Existential Guilt) Syndrome, which can be amusing (for non Canadians), or you're playing the TOTC card. Which is pretty shabby."

History is littered with all kinds of examples of nasty stuff, illustrating one failing or another. Thalidomide is but one. I chose it because it served my purpose as an example. That is about the extent of it.

AFAIK, CEG is not 'a thing', but now that it is here at the Reg, I guess it will be :)

Re: " or you're playing the TOTC card. Which is pretty shabby."

TOTC? Enlighten me. If you mean 'To Old To Care', then I am afraid I may be 'Too Old To Understand' what you are getting at.

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Re: He does NOT have a point

@Charles 9:

You make some good points and your notion of reasonable term limitations might be a compromise we can all live with. I would still, from this side of the table, push for abolition as long as they are co-opting our Legislatures, Police Forces and Criminal Justice Systems and hounding people literally to death.

I mentioned earlier that we *need* DRM. I did not want to flesh that out much because, for practical purposes, it will be entirely net evil until we can recapture our governments and put in place protections against abuse. I honestly don't think we are going to get there anytime soon so DRM measures are currently just destructive.

For the record, the reason that DRM is needed and *will* eventually come despite any effort to stop it, is for privacy and security. Once we have the entirety of the planet under digital control we need to be able to ensure that people can't, for instance, use automobiles as remote control weapons. We need, as individuals and as collective entities to be able to control read/write access to some things. Since we cannot predict what permissions will be required in the future we need to have a system of permissions allowing future uses.

As a good thing, DRM would protect your personal data from access by anyone you have not authorized. There may be some data you do not wish to survive your demise and other data you wish to become available only after your demise. You need to be able to issue and use proxies for things and they need to be fine grained enough so they give enough (but only enough) permission to accomplish the task. Proper DRM will allow this. Done properly, with the correct safeguards in place, DRM will allow appropriate control to the appropriate entities and deny attempts to exercise inappropriate control.

Right now we have a very profound disjoint between what is appropriate and what DRM proponents are attempting to do. DRM as currently proposed is an illicit power grab with far reaching consequences.

The 'body politic', you and I, the entity ultimately with the only legitimate claim to power, is currently not even properly represented in the negotiation of the rules governing DRM.

As a bad thing, DRM will guarantee that some of our cultural artifacts will be irretrievably lost. That is going to happen no matter what we do, but with the correct safeguards losses can be made acceptable. DRM will mean that you can be locked out of using your own systems and information be held to ransom to regain access or even make you pay rent on an ongoing basis. This will happen, but again safeguards are possible. DRM creates a mechanism whereby the state can monitor everything you do, change your data at will, erase you permanently and irrevocably from the digital world, etc.

Effective DRM is possible. Nearly anything can be broken, but it is possible to make the cost of cracking DRM prohibitive for any normal entity. Before we allow this dangerously powerful technology to take root we need to put in much stronger safeguards than those being proposed.

I do not trust our governments to manage DRM wisely. Even if I did, regimes change. Something lawful when you did it can be made retroactively unlawful after the fact**. Proof of your guilt can be manufactured, proof of your innocence erased. Your bank account can be emptied. You and your children can be forced into effective illiteracy and denied participation in your culture by denying access to any and all media. This does not stop getting ugly at access to digital data. Every device will shortly be on the network and every device will shortly be capable of being controlled by someone else against your wishes. This includes automobiles and appliances. It includes medical devices. Our power grid is coming under this control.

Strong and capable DRM and a system under its control can be dangerous indeed. Given that our PKI web of trust relies on wholly untrustable entities, I do not think it is time to embrace DRM.

"In the long run, we are all dead". Inevitable is not the same as desirable. Some losing battles need to be fought. The one against DRM is one of them.

**Prosecuting retroactive crimes has no force in common law, but it is happening anyway. What *can* be done by the state is not necessary limited to the law as we know it.

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Unhappy

Re: @btrower

"The Thalidomide comes into it to counter the notion that somehow marginal benefits trump more compelling risks. It was originally introduced as a dramatic counter to the notion that somehow downside risks were unimportant."

It's emotive and frankly a rather extended metaphor at best. BTW Thalidomide is still proscribed.

It turns out to be q good immuosuppresent for transplant cases.

Obviously if you're a women transplant recipient who wants to get pregnant things get complicated....

"Re: "IRL Drug companies would not commit $Bn (or in your case C$Bn) and a decade of time to drug research and discovery without IP."

This is speculation on your part. Meantime, we have examples of real malfeasance on the part of your 'IRL Drug Companies':"

"Speculation." Fine. Explain how you would get new drug development funded.

Understand this. I consider "Pharmaceutical" companies to have pretty much all the attributes of a) Big Corps b) Drug dealers.

The differences is they have better PR and can legally hire lobbyists (not something the average corner boy can do ).

Generic drugs. The only reason they exist is because they were in patent and the patent expired. I'll also note that AFAIK generic mfg do no R&D.

IOW They are pharmaceutical freetards.

CEG is more of a throaway, but I'd define it as a pervasive sense (among Canadians) that "We're guilty," although what of is undefined. My actual big hope is for "conslutant." (Not TM).

City of London Police

Despite this being a police involvement I don't think this is a crime and (AFAIK) still a civil matter. How FAST and their friends have got the CoL plod involved I don't know. Yet another good reason to dump any ISP on the list in the article I think.

Look up "Think Of The Children."

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How about this.

The big players in our industry could change all of this by pooling their 'IP' (hate the term) and then simply allowing people to subscribe to the pool and lay down arms or prepare for battle. I just wrote the following by way of reply to Microsoft asking: "What one specific improvement could Microsoft make that would have the greatest impact on your satisfaction?"

"Little progress can be made by merely attempting to repress what is evil; our great hope lies in developing what is good." — Calvin Coolidge

Change. See below.

Immediately: Restore our licensing and find some way to compensate us for the difficulty we have encountered. Specifically for my company, but I would announce to the extremely angry communities like TechNet subscribers that you were going to make this right, with action, not talk. Then act.

The above would restore our relationship to where it was, which was not great. It would slow our transition to Open Source, but would not stop it.

To reverse the current trend, Microsoft would have to make truly dramatic changes to restore trust. The organization that is currently in place cannot be trusted. Its structure all but forces it to be predatory and abusive.

Microsoft should be broken into a number of smaller companies. Lines of cleavage would have to be determined using information only known to Microsoft, but I would not trust anybody in the existing organization to make the determinations.

Roughly, the following should be broken into separate companies:

Operating Systems

Server products

Office products

Consumer products

Enterprise Services (consulting)

Infrastructure (network)

Hardware

It is hard to see how the above, even if *badly* executed, would not improve shareholder value. I would tend to use traditional GAP techniques to value the above and split a single Microsoft share into as many shares in each as would create an approximately equal per share IPO share value. The above would surely be more profitable and worth more money as a going concern. Even it lost some 'monopoly premium' it would likely be a wash because it would free the company up to aggressively compete and allow the company to divest itself of unprofitable elements.

Shareholders given the opportunity to hold shares likely to be worth $500 and possibly worth $1000 or more vs shares worth $350 would probably vote yes. I am not sure how this would fit with current regulations, but a move this big is important enough that negotiating an exception to the rules would be possible.

If it were me doing it, I would move the entirety of the patents and related properties to a separate entity to which the companies would subscribe and would work with other large patent holders like IBM, HP, Dell, Apple, Oracle, etc to similarly place their patents and related properties in the pool and subscribe as well. So called 'Intellectual Property' is a cancer infecting the entire system and ultimately benefits nobody including the ones holding the most lucrative patents. Ultimately, none of us are served by holding back invention and the creation of wealth and ironically, patents and copyrights and even overly aggressive Trademark protections have precisely this effect.

The largest companies, which generally also hold the largest patent portfolios have the most to gain by moving us to a patent and copyright free world. Eliminating the destructive advantage of these weapons would be too little to influence their share of the pie. It would just make a much, much, bigger pie.

Competition is good. War is not.

The poor of the world are not unhappy because others are rich. They are unhappy because they are poor.

To make this work, someone with enough clout to be credible needs to take the helm during the transition. The obvious person is Bill Gates. I am not a fan, but if he told me that Microsoft was going to do the above and he would make sure it works, I would believe him.

Doing the above would remove issues with anti-trust. It would free all of the divisions up to aggressively compete. It would insulate stronger portions of the business from weaker ones. It would allow the portions of the company to regain the trust of their clients. It would allow the company to assess which elements make it strong and which elements exist only because they make others weak, including Microsoft itself. I am thinking about dog systems the company keeps just because they are shared. I am also thinking about organizations of personnel whose placement within the existing system make them counter-productive and difficult to shift out of the way.

Microsoft built their company on *value* propositions. The products either increased profitability beyond their cost (things like development tools), replaced more costly systems (things like server systems) or allowed companies to remain competitive in terms of the value they offered (things like Windows and Microsoft Office).

The above was not based on a 'zero-sum' game. Microsoft helped others to create more value in the world and shared in the creation of that value. Microsoft always shared disproportionately. That was not fair, but it was tolerable as long as everyone got more.

Microsoft is currently operating based on a 'zero-sum' game. For them to prosper, others must lose. Microsoft is OK with that, but others are not. Microsoft has long since gone from figuring out what people want or need to create more wealth to figuring out how they can gain a greater share of existing wealth, even if that is net destructive to wealth overall.

Microsoft has actually shifted things to a 'negative-sum' game. Whether one cares about the toll on people or society in general, the 'negative-sum' game is ultimately a losing one for everyone, Microsoft included. It is bad business.

This is not the first time I have written such a thing, but it is coming close to the last time. Whether Microsoft is a positive participant in the coming age or not, we are about to enter a time where enormous wealth will be created, beyond what prior generations could have imagined. Microsoft can be a leader in this or it can lose its relevance and go the way of Xerox, Kodak and other former leaders. Right now it seems clear that Microsoft is determined to take the worst course, but there is no inherent reason that it must.

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Re: Anyone fancy reading that?

and doing a synopsis?

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Re: Anyone fancy reading that?

nope

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Re: Anyone fancy reading that?

I think it was a variation on the adage "It is better to have a piece of a big pie than to have the whole of a small pie", but I'm not sure.

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Re: Anyone fancy reading that?

I've read it and it pretty much amounts to "me no likie Microsoft".

The entire post is based on the assumption that Microsoft doesn't add their IPs to pools and allow people to licence them thereby preventing industry growth when the entire opposite is true.

Microsoft's mobile earnings are almost completely made from licensing IPs to Android OEMs, of all the news stories about embargoes on products for IP infringement Microsoft is the one being embargoed because they are licencing rather than denying access to those IPs.

Not saying Microsoft is the good guy, their actions are somewhat predatory and follow the Patent Troll bible of licencing the IP at the highest point where its still preferable to licence than go to court but when your post is about companies not allowing access to IPs its the wrong company to talk about. Google, Apple or Samsung would have been better examples as they have on numerous occassions refused to licence patents and IP specifically to prevent competition.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Anyone fancy reading that?

Skim read as far as "Lines of cleavage" - now just thinking about boobs.

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Re: Anyone fancy reading that?

"The entire post is based on the assumption that Microsoft doesn't add their IPs to pools and allow people to licence them thereby preventing industry growth when the entire opposite is true.

Microsoft's mobile earnings are almost completely made from licensing IPs to Android OEMs"

But Microsoft doesn't help develop Android. Microsoft is not a member of the Android Project, nor do they submit patches.

Instead, they sue Android manufacturers for independently developed and sometimes obvious parts of the Android system. For example, having the operating system contain certain UI elements for all applications to use (US Patent 5,889,522), or attaching notes to a read-only document by using a separate file (Patent 6,957,233), or using a phone to schedule a meeting (Patent 6,370,566). But their deep pool of patents and the court system's presumption of the patents' validity means it's a challenge to fight the patents.

The dubiousness of the patents means Microsoft can't shut down Android entirely, but they can tax it and make it more expensive than it deserves to be.

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Why does HTML have to contain DRM

Any and all of the major players could write real "applications" instead of web interfaces and solve the problem immediately.

This is only about the corporates wanting some cake, eating it and then shitting the remains all over the users....

HTML is not the only protocole that exists, use something else.

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Re: Why does HTML have to contain DRM

The HTML doesn't contain DRM, the video content of services like Netflix does. This change involves defining a few events and properties on the video tag which allow the likes of Netflix to load decryption keys into the video player when it complains that it needs them.

The browser does not have to implement the DRM these services need. It could be a null implementation and doubless that's exactly what will happen for any browser that a user builds from source.

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Coat

Sure let him

In the end (at about 2 days after the release of the first browser based on these standards) some1 will break the DRM encryption and release a patch which I will install and thereafter continue exactly as before not giving a crap about DRM and commercial IP.

However it should be noted that I do pay for content and programs which I use and think are good since that puts food on the table for good providers of content and good programmers. Thereafter i usually go right ahead and rip/patch it to be able to use at my discretion instead of the way it is limited from start.

Just my 0.02€

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Holmes

Re: Sure let him

The problem is that not everything will be available DRM-free.

Sure, movies and video games will be cracked as soon as they're released. But what about Internet-connected cameras that currently use ActiveX plugins? What about bank web sites?

And what about future developments? For example, I can imagine, with little imagination, very bad consequences of DRM in the eventual mass-market version of Google Glass.

DRM is a pernicious threat to personal computing, and I oppose it.

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Linux

"What's best for the user" -- No DRM

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DRM? No thanks

If DRM gets to be part of HTML5, most websites would be fully encrypted & protected. You won't be able to legally know what they are doing... scary

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Devil

Open code

I would be fine with DRM in browsers if I could be sure that the DRM code did nothing else but prevent me from viewing the video (or whatever) outside of the authorized context. What I don't like is secret code blobs running inside the browser, having access to all of the stuff I might choose to give to the browser. It's very similar to a smartphone, especially Android - I am fine with running magic stuff, but clearly Google has not, and never will, properly protect the information I have in the phone. So, I'm left with looking at the permissions an app wants, and don't download those that want more than I'm willing to give. (I'll ignore the fact that you can't use anything from Google unless you give it access to basically everything!)

To me, a browser is very similar - it is something I want to be able to use safely, but I can't if it allows arbitrary code blobs from corporate entities to have access to my private info. At least currently I can and do turn off Javascript. Will I be able to turn off these DRM code blobs? What if El Reg puts up a DRM-ed video - will simply viewing that page give a corporate DRM code blob access to my various logins, passwords, history, etc.? Bad.

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Re: Open code

Why cant it work via the plugin framework that exists in most browsers with a couple of treaks

the browser delivers the encrypted stream to the plugin system, if there is a suitable drm plugin installed then the plugin system feeds the encrypted stream in and accepts the decrypted stream out ready to pass to the renderer.

if it can be handled in this way then the drm plugin wouldnt have access to anything like history, passwords etc

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