Friday, October 06, 2006

Anti-piracy vendors in denial


The European Anti-Piracy Association (AEPOC) is giving itself airs and graces. Apparently, conditional access (CA) and Digital Rights Management (DRM) are vital for the EU Information Society.

While I agree they are essential technologies for protecting content to allow the content makers to make money, they are a long way from being enablers. In fact, the main (unstated) aim of DRM appears to be greed - locking out other content suppliers (cf Apple iTunes vs the MP3 format, and see the IPTV stories below). After all, why else would the rights to show football matches raise so much money?

This view only becomes true when all the CA and DRM technologies are available on all platforms to give a truly open choice - which with evolving technology and evolving hackers is never. Even the top 3 would do. But this will require reconfigurable hardware that can be flexible and cost effective enough, which is still some years away.

And if CA and DRM is so important, how come there are tens of millions of videos on Youtube, all without protection. AEPOC of course thinks this is a mistake.

"While security is the prerequisite to convince rights owners to make their content available in the first place, we see a critical role in CA and DRM to support the consumption of content on many different platforms and devices for a modern and lifestyle-oriented media consumption – thus supporting the EU goal of an Information Society", said AEPOC President Jean Grenier.

"Looking at the many social software platforms that put consumer created content in the focus, also individuals – as one of the stakeholders in terms of content creation – will soon wish to be able to protect their work and possibly even be rewarded for their contributions,” said Mathieu Goudsmits, Vice Chairman of AEPOC. “Thus security and rights management is not only a necessity for the larger movie studios but also beneficial to every single creator and artist."

What is important is protecting user’s vital data, and we cannot do that effectively yet – the UK’s ID card debacle is a classic example. But there’s no money in it for the providers, is there?. So I would have MUCH more time from a proposal from the members of AEPOC on freely available, highly secure data protection systems rather than DRM. THAT is the enabler of the Information Society, along with lower cost interactive terminals and free access to community information (paid for by advertising that you WANT people to copy and send to other people, surely, hmmmm).

Have you not heard of Open Source, people? PGP Pretty Good Privacy started there and shows that it can work for security. Donate some technology into the Open Source community to protect personal data

Don’t get me wrong – CA and DRM are vital for the commercial roll out of digital TV systems, and that could form the backbone of the information society, and opening up those networks for social networking and information is vital, I agree.

But CA and DRM at this point is a block, NOT an enabler. Unless the industry faces up to that rather than being in denial then there are going to be problems for everyone and the roll out of the Information Society will continue at the current snail’s pace.

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