Lessig, Stallman on 'Open Source' DRM

Best of all possible shaftings?

"If you look at the issue from the perspective of the FSM, you come to a completely opposite conclusion, which is: the whole point of DRM is to deny your freedom and prevent you from having control over the software you use to access certain data. That's the direct opposite of our goal. So our goal is not served by having a free program that implements DRM. It doesn't make anything any better for our freedom. So from the point of the Free Software movement in general, a TiVoized program is not good at all, because it doesn't deliver the freedom that Free Software stands for."

Stallman offers a neat encapsulation of this approach:

"We're not very concerned with how a program was developed, we're concerned with what people are allowed to do with it now."


Stallman then explains the perils of TiVo-ization. This was the case that prompted the writing of Clause 3 of the revised GPL 3.0, [draft - rationale behind change, which is currently in a lengthy consultation process.

What's TiVo-ization, Richard?

TiVo uses a lot of free software, he explains. It's a stripped down GNU/Linux system, containing portions including the kernel which are under a GPL license and have the source code available.

"Released under GPL, this would be great except for one thing," says Stallman. "If you install a modified version in it, it won't run. The hardware has been set up to detect modified versions and not run them."

Stallman then reiterates the four freedoms that he says underpin Free Software. Real programmers count from zero, so freedom Zero is the freedom to run the program as you wish; One is the freedom to study and change the software; Two is the freedom to redistribute copies as you wish; Three is the freedom to distribute modifed versions as you wish.

"TiVo nominally gives you Freedom One, but practically it does not; it turns it into a sham," he says.

Stallman says the specific example is important - and he implicitly rejects the idea that the market will supply demand for these freedoms in this case.

"If the TiVo was one amongst a spectrum of products that run that software, then it might not matter. You might be OK, and no one would get TiVos anymore. But in fact, often there is no other alternative, and we know there are conspiracies amongst large companies to ensure there is no alternative. So we can't just count on competition to make this problem unimportant," he says.

"We're trying to make sure Freedom One will never be turned into a sham."

Stallman sums up the position that DRM will never be 'free'.

"The crucial thing in Free Software is a moral principal - after all, Free Software didn't begin in 1982. Licenses had existed before 1982. So Free Software is not about a 'model', it's about an ethical stand. Users must have these Four Freedoms."

So what was Professor Lessig's rationale for supporting an 'open source' DRM? He explained more on his weblog the following day, and went into even more detail with us this week.

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