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Fred von Lohmann - Media Industry Resistance to Change and DRM
San Francisco, April 2007 
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Von Lohmann chronicles the legal actions which have met new media technologies for more than a century, demonstrating that neither current conflicts, nor the extreme language, are unprecedented. He goes on to outline how the lawmaking process in the United States structurally provides incumbent industry players with an advantage. Lastly he challenges the notion that Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems will provide an antidote to the copyright owners' woes.

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00:00:00 Interview with Fred von Lohmann
00:00:05 The last 100 years have been a story of resistance on
00:00:10 on the part of incumbents, largely entertainment companies,
00:00:14 in their response to new technologies.
00:00:17 You've seen literally since the turn of the 20C
00:00:21 with the creating of the player piano, over and over again,
00:00:25 new technologies creating new media opportunities.
00:00:28 That disrupt existing businesses being resisted
00:00:32 very powerfully by those incumbents.
00:00:34 So you can start with the player piano, which was really the Napster of 1906.
00:00:40 It really made life very difficult for music industry - sheet music.
00:00:45 Songwriters who sold sheet music largely to the public.
00:00:49 After that of course there was the LP record
00:00:53 also part of that same story, and then broadcast radio
00:00:57 which was also met with a great deal of consternation
00:01:00 by the songwriters and music publishers of the day.
00:01:04 Cable tv in the 70s was viewed as a pirate medium,
00:01:08 all the tv networks felt that taking their content
00:01:11 and putting it on cable that ran to ppl's houses
00:01:14 was piracy pure and simple. Huge amount of litigation around that.
00:01:18 The VCR, another famous example,
00:01:21 when it was first introduced by sony in mid 70s
00:01:25 there were law suits immediately brought by the movie studios
00:01:28 who felt that who said that the VCR was to the american movie industry
00:01:33 what the Boston Strangler was to the woman alone.
00:01:36 And than after that, of course we have seen additional examples:
00:01:39 The first mp3 player by diamond Rio,
00:01:43 so the initial company -long before ipod- they were met with law suit,
00:01:48 digital audio tape recorders, they where introduced
00:01:50 late 80s, early 90s, also sued initially.
00:01:55 And of course most recently peer to peer filesharing software
00:01:58 many law suits filed there.
00:02:01 The new XM radio recordable tape satellite,
00:02:07 that technology has also been sued.
00:02:09 So really we see a litany of resistance
00:02:12 resistance is the hallmark of the incumbent
00:02:16 media industries response to new technology.
00:02:19 ~Ironically, it's those new technologies
00:02:22 which ultimately have enriched those new industry.
00:02:25 Take the VCR for a good example, the technology
00:02:28 which was called the boston strangler for the movie industry,
00:02:31 turned out to be their biggest money maker in history.
00:02:34 And throughout the 80, 90s and to this day home video
00:02:38 - the market unlocked by the VCR -
00:02:41 has become the biggest source of revenue for the whole business.
00:02:46 Well the legislative process in the US surrounding copyright law
00:02:51 has had one recurring problem
00:02:55 and that is that the laws tend to be made by lobbyists for lobbyists.
00:02:59 And so the question is who can pay the lobbyists
00:03:03 and lawyers to bush congress year in year out for new copyright laws.
00:03:09 Well, for the most part those lobbyists have been employed
00:03:11 by the entertainment industries - they're the one who have money
00:03:15 and interest to push in washington for copyright laws.
00:03:19 So no surprise that laws get passed are ones written by lobbyists
00:03:24 and in the interests of major media companies of the day.
00:03:27 To the extent there's been resistance
00:03:29 - the resistance has really been in the form
00:03:32 of lobbyists hired by the technology sector.
00:03:35 And that's a good thing for innovation and in the long run for consumers,
00:03:40 but it's obviously not a perfect solution because technology companies,
00:03:44 their interests aren't always precisely aligned with consumers
00:03:48 So over the past 15 years of we've seen lots of legislations,
00:03:53 some of which has been passed, all of which has pushed for more copyright,
00:03:59 longer term, more protections, very few exceptions,
00:04:04 the ratchet has been a one way ratchet.
00:04:09 So another example of legislation
00:04:11 which has been part of a one way ratchet for more copyright
00:04:15 has been the digital millenium copyright act.
00:04:18 Which basically gave copyright owners
00:04:20 the ability to put technical restrictions on their works,
00:04:25 what many people call DRM. And if they've done so,
00:04:28 they get to dictate the terms
00:04:31 on which you're allowed to use the work.
00:04:35 DRM faces some fundamental problems.
00:04:37 It's never going to work at stopping digital copying.
00:04:41 The basic problem was laid out in a paper
00:04:44 that's come to be known as the Darknet
00:04:47 written by 4 senior MS security engineers 2002
00:04:51 and they started from a few premises
00:04:53 DRM is always gonna be broken by someone
00:04:57 there's no DRM system that's proof
00:05:01 against the efforts of a PHD in computer science
00:05:05 and that's never going to be
00:05:07 we've seen that time and time again
00:05:09 DRM systems are introduced and broken
00:05:15 when it comes to media content, like popular movies
00:05:19 there always be a motivation to break it
00:05:22 it's not to say that we can't use DRM to protect your medical records
00:05:27 or your family photo albums,
00:05:30 perhaps there's a of lack of motivation for anyone to try to break that
00:05:34 but when talking about the latest Spiderman movie
00:05:37 there's no shortage of motivation around the world
00:05:39 for smart computer hackers to try to crack the DRM.
00:05:43 And so far and for the foreseeable future
00:05:46 that's going to continue to mean these systems get broken.
00:05:49 It's impossible to build a foolproof system
00:05:52 and all the computer security experts agree on that.
00:05:55 Second premise of the Darknet argument is that
00:06:00 once a copy has been taken out of its secure envelope
00:06:03 once some hacker has broken it, at that point
00:06:07 those copies will be made available through other channels
00:06:11 we have today the ability to make copies
00:06:14 and distribute copies inexpensively
00:06:19 since Napster if one copy leaks out on the internet
00:06:24 very rapidly it's available to everyone.
00:06:26 The thing to keep in mind is when the person downloads the movie
00:06:31 from a torrent site or from Limewire or some other P2P network,
00:06:38 or if the person gets a copy from a friend on a blank CD or DVD,
00:06:44 there's no need for that person to break the DRM,
00:06:47 the DRM is gone, only the first person in the chain
00:06:51 needs to be able to break the DRM and once one person
00:06:55 has extracted the content from the "secure" envelope,
00:06:59 from that point forward the content is freely accessible
00:07:03 for anyone who's able to run a filesharing tool, make a copy on a hard drive
00:07:10 and of course many millions of ppl are in that position.
00:07:13 So as long as we live in that environment, an environment
00:07:16 where DRM can be broken by someone somewhere
00:07:20 and a world where all of us are connected by channels
00:07:23 that allow us to make and distribute copies inexpensively,
00:07:27 DRM is really in a hopeless quandary.
00:07:29 There is no way DRM is ever going to make progress
00:07:32 against the ability to make unauthorised digital copies.
00:07:37 It's simply a tool that's ill-suited to that particular purpose,
00:07:41 and we've seen this time and time again, if we look at DVDs,
00:07:45 obviously DVD encryption was broken,
00:07:47 all the movies that were released on DVD are now widely available
00:07:51 through unauthorised sources on the internet;
00:07:53 the same is then true of CD copy protection, that has been an utter failure
00:07:57 at stopping the distribution of unauthorised music
00:08:01 even the new Blue Ray and HDDVD formats
00:08:05 their DRM has been utterly compromised as well,
00:08:10 literally every movie that's released in these formats
00:08:13 is going up on unauthorised bittorrent sites on a daily basis.
00:08:18 So it seems quite clear that DRM is never going to stop
00:08:22 or even impede unauthorised copying.
00:08:25 In fact the MS engineers went one step further
00:08:28 and said not only does it not do any good
00:08:30 but it actually harms copyright owners
00:08:33 because DRM ends up making the legitimate product,
00:08:37 the authorised product, less attractive than the authorised product,
00:08:42 because for the consumer that goes out and buys the DRM-encrypted copies,
00:08:48 actually lays out the money to purchase it,
00:08:50 they find that the copy they purchased is less useful...