Dancing at the Microsoft Palladium
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This was a very nice article, with a balanced point of view, but it made no mention of one other player in the DRM game that could be significant. "[Palladium] will live or die by user acceptance"...but this is America, where campaign financing and legalized bribery of public officials are one and the same.
Fritz "The Mouseketeer" Hollings (D, Disney) has attempted in the past to make such a DRM scheme mandatory to protect the media industries. He failed once with an absurd bill that would have made DRM mandatory in all electronic devices (yes, even your toaster must not be allowed to inadvertently make pirate copies of the latest pop hit), but Sen. Hollings has also been known to use self-compromise, by which I mean that he submits an absurdly extremist bill so that his next bill, a "compromise" that contains what he really wanted in the first place, would seem quite reasonable in comparison. His next bill, I would guess, would be the much less controversial option of mandating that Palladium be turned on as default, and that it stay on. After all, the technology would already exist to protect our poor, beleaguered media oligopolies, who currently only make money hand over five loosely closed fingers instead of hand over fist; shouldn't we ensure that that technology is used to SAVE them?!?
All in all, I see an exquisite little dance (well, as little as you can get with elephantine corporate entities) going on, with the dancers each apparently knowing their steps without having to consult one another. The dance goes like this:
The RIAA and MPAA send the invitations for the dance party by campaign financing Senator Hollings to get them some mandatory DRM legislation.
Senator Hollings begins the dance by demanding absurdist levels of DRM management, thus clearing the floor for the other dancers. Microsoft takes advantage of this to present a move that gives them the dual benefits of improving their security (and image) as well as providing a DRM compliant OS.
Senator Hollings then sidesteps over to a more reasonable proposal: if a complete electronic DRM gestapo is unfeasible, how about just in computers?
They're the most dangerous ones, after all, and the means are already in place.
Microsoft happily flips the DRM switch to on, then waves about its "Get out of Jail Free" card (aka the Son of CBDTPA) and can honestly say "It's not our fault, we were going to let the consumers decide, honest!"
The RIAA and MPAA campaign finance Sen. Hollings until he can afford to buy out his opponent in the next election, which might otherwise go a bit bad for him.
The consumers (aka almost everybody else) that make up the dance floor will continue feebly begging for the dancers not to aim for their crotches while dancing.
The pleas will be ignored...but you can be sure the dancers will have cleats for the next dance.
And if Sen. Hollings fails to get his compromise bill into place, MS loses nothing; they still have their patented DRM OS that will probably be more secure than previous offerings, and they can try to sell it to the public like they originally announced. Much good karma, little bad.
Do I doubt the sincerity of MS' security division's desire to finally make good? Not really. They don't have to be aware of the overall dance as long as they make sure that their leg doesn't inadvertently kick one of their dance partners or step on the wrong foot.
With luck, DRM may die from massive outrage before Sen. Hollings can ram it down our throats, but I'm not counting on it. Despite all its flaws and some blatant unconstitutionality, the DMCA was passed and still has not been struck down, and I see a dim future for us when the Son of the CBDTPA reaches the floor.
Again, kudos on the informative article,
Jon "Shimatta" Baxter
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