Feeds

DRM is your fluffy friend – Ballmer stakes out MS' turf

Why disappearing documents are good for you

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Sooner or later it had to happen. Microsoft is putting a lot of money into Digital Rights Management, and expects to get a lot more money back out so long as it can persuade consumers that DRM is their fluffy friend, and most certainly not a fiendish plot to allow the music companies to squeeze even more money out of them. This time, the knife was pointing at Steve Ballmer when it stopped spinning, so the prez's name went onto a DRM apologia sent out as Microsoft's regular customer information email.

It's a tough one, but Steve rises to the challenge. Consumers benefit from being stopped from copying stuff through the efforts of "pioneering entertainment companies" (i.e., the ones using Microsoft DRM to stop the consumers copying stuff). "Online distribution offers a convenient way for people to access their favorite content wherever they are, at any time." Hell yes Steve, why bother with portable MP3 players when you can just buy the stuff over and over again? Steve doesn't directly mention MP3 players, but one does suspect they may be covered by the next bit: "But digital piracy is against consumers' long-term interests; it undermines the economic incentives for artists and producers to continue creating and distributing the work we all enjoy. With rights-managed licensing, consumers can help sustain the flow of fresh creative work, confident that they have legitimately acquired rights to content that is authentic, of highest quality, and virus-free."

You begin to warm to the music industry's pitch that piracy is killing creativity, no? Nor us. In further support of this much-needed shot in the arm (surely 'snort up the nose? - Ed) for creative artistry, it is also A Good Thing that content providers be allowed to interfere with your computer as and when they feel like it. "Windows Media," says Steve, "uses one of the strongest encryption systems available. To raise the protection level still further, a content owner can change the media file encryption keys daily, or even every few hours." So if you momentarily forget yourself and somehow fail to legitimately acquire rights, don't worry, because they can vape that inauthentic content instantly, and you'll be clean again.

Having issued the tricky commercial for the pigopolists, Ballmer moves onto slightly safer ground with a series of cuddlier-sounding, more personal scenarios. "Anyone who uses a personal computer for word processing, email, data analysis or other common purposes is creating digital content - content that if unprotected might be misused by others. One of the touchstones of our Trustworthy Computing initiative is responding to customers' demands for technology that protects the confidentiality and privacy of their information."

Over the years Microsoft has gone a fair way to make customer demand supplant patriotism as the last refuge of the scoundrel. Who are these customers, and why are they all demanding protection? Ask yourself how much content you create that you're worried about people stealing. Sure, you've got stuff you want to keep private, but you probably manage this quite successfully already. The people who really want and need DRM are the content suppliers, who will be able to use it to gradually squeeze free stuff (not just 'pirated' stuff) out of the Internet. Ballmer's pitch is therefore particularly dangerous in that it presents this process as good for everybody, not just for the content vendors. It's an added convenience for these vendors and for the DRM supplier if everybody has it, it is most certainly not in everybody's interest.

Here, for example, we have the whistleblower's nemesis, the unreadable or disappearing document: "...our forthcoming Office 2003 productivity software suite will enable users to designate who can open a document or email message, and specify the terms of use - for example, whether they can print, copy or forward the data. A rights management add-on for Internet Explorer will extend these protections to Web content." And you won't be able to do business with people using Microsoft rights management unless you're playing rights management too.

This will not result in a neo-Stalinist world where information flow is tightly circumscribed and where embarrassing/contentious documents disappear from the Web at the drop of an injunction you'd never even heard about. On the contrary: "As these technologies become widespread, their protection will help encourage wider sharing of information within and between organizations, improving communication and productivity by assuring information workers of the confidentiality of their documents and data."

On second thoughts, that neo-Stalinist world we mentioned back there is precisely what Ballmer is describing here, isn't it? ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
IRS boss on XP migration: 'Classic fix the airplane while you're flying it attempt'
Plus: Condoleezza Rice at Dropbox 'maybe she can find ... weapons of mass destruction'
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
New Facebook phone app allows you to stalk your mates
Nearby Friends feature goes live in a few weeks
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.