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Lessig blesses DRM

It's open source DRM, so it's good. Huh?

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If you arrive for work today and discover a grisly pool of brain tissue and bone fragments where a colleague used to sit, we may have the explanation right here.

For in a move that risks causing Scanners-style head explosions across the land, Professor Lawrence Lessig has endorsed DRM.

Not just any old digital rights management, but Sun's open source DRM initiative, the Open Media Commons.

"In a world where DRM has become ubiquitous, we need to ensure that the ecology for creativity is bolstered, not stifled, by technology,". says Lessig - or somebody purporting to be Lessig.

"We applaud Sun's efforts to rally the community around the development of open-source, royalty-free DRM standards that support 'fair use' and that don't block the development of Creative Commons ideals," says Lessig.

Debian coder and software freedom campaigner Benjamin Mako Hill finds this strange. "Lessig's position seems to be that DRM is bad and should not exist. But in a world where it does exist, he thinks that not-quite-so-bad DRM is better than the alternatives. Is that the sort of message we want to be sending?," he writes.

"The fact that the software is 'open source' is hardly good enough if the purpose of the software is to take away users freedom - in precisely the way that DRM does."

Presumably, Lessig's position is that the development process has sanctified the evil. But others may take the view that a noose is a noose is a noose. As Mako points out, Lessig sits on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation - which has already come out against Sun's OMC - and the Free Software Foundation. Whose position on software freedom should be clear enough .

Lessig thinking

"Hmm. Why won't this song play?" - Professor Lawrence Lessig

Maybe it's all a terrible mix up. Or maybe ... maybe it's a really bad dream!

We'll certainly be exploring this issue tomorrow with both Sun Microsystems and the Great Man (one of these parties is speaking to us - while the other is sulking at us - and you can guess which one is which) tomorrow.

But given the health risks this news poses, we felt it best to warn you without delay. ®

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