Rant Mode Equals One: Score: Digital Privacy 0, Digital Piracy 1.

Posted by PaulFerris on Nov 7, 2005 5:52 AM EDT
Lxer.com; By Paul (FeriCyde) Ferris
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Without a doubt there's a ton of people swapping the latest No Doubt album via some illicit P2P program, but that's not the piracy I'm referring to here -- I'm talking about your Aunt who had her computer compromised because she clicked the wrong email, subscribed to the wrong broadband service, or simply left her computer on during the night. Oh, let's not forget: Maybe she slid the wrong CD in to listen to some music she bought, as well.



FeriCyde Chat

Hear the drum 
pounding out of time
Another protester 
has crossed the line (Hey!)
To find, the money's 
on the other side

Can I get another Amen? (Amen!) There's a flag wrapped around a score of men (Hey!) A gag, a plastic bag on a monument --GreenDay Holiday


Just in time for Christmas, Sony gives us the gift that keeps on taking: A CD copyright theft prevention mechanism that root-kits your PC. Awesome public relations move, Sony -- helps offset the possible goodwill your Linux kit for the Playstation created back when the PS/2 was announced. Of course, Sony is a big corporation, so maybe it's just one divisions' idiocy here.

But I digress.

There's a lot of talk about Piracy on the Internet. Those poor middlemen, er musicians, losing their profits while people trade music illegally on-line.

And lots of peoples' intellectual property has been compromised lately.

All of those people who have had their rights compromised by an ever-changing system. Poor Aunt Betsy, Grandma, Mom and Dad. Wait, are we talking about the same thing here? Oh, you thought I was sympathizing with huge media conglomerates? Does something like that sound like the Rant Mode Equals One you've come to know, get torqued off about, and love?

Without a doubt there's a ton of people swapping the latest No Doubt album via some illicit P2P program, but that's not the piracy I'm referring to here -- I'm talking about your Aunt who had her computer compromised because she clicked the wrong email, subscribed to the wrong broadband service, or simply left her computer on during the night. Oh, let's not forget: Maybe she slid the wrong CD in to listen to some music she bought, as well.

There's some serious piracy going on, in other words, and it has nothing to do with record or movie digital rights -- it has everything to do with malicious people commandeering identities, bank accounts and PCs via the Internet. That piracy exists thanks to the casual attitudes from the folks in Redmond over the years regarding the serious topic of security. The security problem presented by a typical Microsoft-laden PC creates a major problem for the average PC user. It makes using a typical PC loaded with their software a liability that is out of the technical reach of your average Joe.

Worse, however, is the legality of the situation.

The kind of legislation that large corporate interests have lobbied into existence doesn't help you in situations like this -- it actually goes the other way. Microsoft, for example, with legal ease, can remotely disable things on your computer according to the law. You see, your United States representatives in congress weren't thinking of your digital rights -- they were too busy focusing on the poor folks in Redmond and those of the Music and Movie industry.

And now we get something even more intolerable: Sony root-kitting a PC so they can "protect" their rights by taking yours. Oh yes, I'm saying you have a right to say what kind of crap software gets installed on your PC. Rather, you should have that right. If congress were keeping up with the times, doing their job and focusing upon individual rights -- you would.

Instead, you've got crap like the DMCA, which strengthens the rights of large corporations at your expense. Digital Mickey Mouse is safe, thanks to that and a host of other laws written to serve the greater corporate good. What about your right to digital privacy? What about some laws to safeguard your PC from exploits like Sony's root-kit? Guess what, another corporate focused piece of legal tripe called UCITA gives Microsoft the ability to remotely disable your software -- it's great for saying what you (as an individual) don't get. Call it what you like -- it's another form of individual piracy, Microsoft style.

It's time to write your congressman about this. It's time to take back your digital right to privacy and protect yourself from on-line piracy. To say "No, it needs to be against the law for anything but what I want to have happen on my PC." Similar to breaking and entering, there should be the need for a court order to install something like a tap or Sony's root-kit. That would prevent at least overt stuff like this from happening. At least we'd have a legal basis to go after Sony for this kind of crap. As it sits, the law probably forbids you from disabling the stupid root-kit (that's possibly going to take some reverse engineering, now isn't it? Aren't you circumventing a DRM mechanism doing it? Aren't you!?!)

Tell your congressman you've had enough of Microsoft and Sony's view of problem. Explain in your own words that they've been given enough chances to protect your privacy and digital safety -- and that they've failed miserably in the process. Tell your representative that in 2005, the idea that somehow large corporate interests protecting your digital property with mechanisms that don't respect your digital privacy goes against your grain. That's my plan -- not a bad one I think. Maybe you can come up with some better ideas than this, but I'm starting here.

Now, there may be some problem once this law gets passed. It might be somewhat illegal to run a Windows computer. After all, how can you "lock down" (snort) Windows from remote exploit and installation of things like Sony's root-kit? I mean, the functionality is built right into the product and too many "legitimate" uses for it exist for Microsoft to simply cut it off.

Imagine what's going to happen if a law gets passed saying, in effect "You put something on my computer without my knowledge, and that's breaking and entering."?

Well, you got a quandary there. Not for computers with GNU/Linux loaded, by the way. A long time ago, these rights were understood fundamentally by the people that lobbied the product into existence from a community perspective. It's a nice feeling, knowing that your computer is working for you, and that there are not little gremlins and trolls doing Lord knows what to your data while you're not looking.

Gee, it would be so horrible if Microsoft had to scramble to close vulnerabilities, just to sell their products, wouldn't it?


Paul (FeriCyde) Ferris is a Linux professional and community member. He has been using Unix and Linux for a combined total of over 16 years. His articles have graced LXer.com, Linux Journal, LinuxToday, LinuxPlanet, NewsForge and various other Linux news and technical information sites. His recent expertise with enterprise-class implementations of Linux have lead to the creation of the the batchlogin project, his first large-scale Free Software project. A husband, father and more, yet his technical passion is Linux and has remained so for the past 12 years.

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