Copy protection hard drive plan nixes free software – RMS

Marginalised or compromised

Richard Stallman says that plans to put content control into industry standard hardware pose a threat to the adoption of free software.

Proposals have been made to add CPRM (Content Protection for Removable Media) into the ATA hard disk specification, we reported on Wednesday. CPRM originates from the the 4C Entity and licensing is administered by License Management International, LLC, which also administers the CSS license.

"This resembles CSS and e-Books: it is another plan to impose additional power over people who use published information, on behalf of those who hope to control the power," he writes in emails to The Register.

"This plan seems to pose a threat to free operating systems. We will surely not be authorized in the US to implement free software to access any of the centrally-controlled data. So a free GNU/Linux system won't be able to do it."

"If users accept the domination of centrally-controlled data, free software faces two dangers, each worse than the other: that users will reject GNU/Linux because it doesn't support the central control over access to these data, or that they will reject free versions of GNU/Linux for versions "enhanced" with proprietary software that support it. Either outcome will be a grave loss for our freedom."

"We must hope that some countries refuse to pass laws to prohibit free software such as DeCSS, so that some part of the world can publish the software that will keep freedom alive, underground, in the rest of the world."

Stallman also highlights the term "copy protection". "The word 'protection' ... tries to disguise obstructionism and rampant power as an attempt to keep a program or book or song safe from harm. It is a propaganda word."

Indeed: it's a euphemism as incongruous as down-sizing or friendly fire. As an alternative, we quite like "copy control". But if you have snappier suggestions, we'd like to hear them. ®

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