I hate DRM. A lot. And while I started off hating DRM because of the ways it restricted fair use, the more I worked on the issue, the more I realized that this was just the tip of the iceberg.
DRM is not really a technology - it's a law. The digital locks on your devices can generally be removed, because preventing the owner of a device from modifying it is really, really hard.
Which is why DRM was a longrunning joke - the subject of a million snarky warez crack-screens - until 1998, when the USA enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), whose Section 1201 makes it a felony to provide someone with DRM-removal tools.
Importantly, DMCA1201 doesn't prohibit infringing copyright - it prohibits removing DRM, EVEN IF YOU DON'T BREAK COPYRIGHT LAW. That means that if you have to remove DRM to do something legitimate, you risk prison.
Manufacturers quickly realized that anything with software in it - increasingly, that's everything - can be designed so that using it in ways that harms their shareholders requires bypassing DRM, and thus is a literal crime: Felony Contempt of Business-Model.
We've had 22 years' worth of US experience with this, and it's UGLY. But despite that experience, other countries have followed the US's lead, adopting near-identical legislation, under severe pressure from US corporate lobbyists and the US Trade Rep.
The latest country to jump off a bridge because America did it first is Mexico, where, on Jul 1, the Congress adopted a copypaste of the DMCA (with the minimal safeguards stripped out) as part of Trump's USMCA deal (the successor to NAFTA).
But Mexico's legal system has an important circuit-breaker built in: an independent Human Rights Commission that can send legislation like this to the Supreme Court for constitutional review.
After an all-out campaign by Derechos Digitales, R3D, Creative Commons Mexico and EFF, we convinced the Commission to send this law to the Supreme Court, at the very last minute:
That triggered a round of Congressional hearings this week, where EFF lawyers Corynne McSherry and Kit Walsh are testifying:
In support of our Mexican partners, I've written a lengthy history of human rights abuses that came about as a result of DMCA 1201, incorporating 22 years' worth of bitter truth about how laws that indiscriminately ban breaking DRM hurt human rights:
Included in the document:
* Free expression (blocking fair use, allowing app store gatekeepers to wield the censor's pen)
* Self-determination (DRMs that allow sharing "within a family" get to decide what is - and is not - a "real family")
* Rights of people with disability (you can't remove DRM to block seizure-inducing strobes in video, or use text-to-speech, etc)
* Archiving (you can't remove DRM for long-term preservation)
* Cybersecurity (researchers who discover defects in widely used devices risk prison for publishing their findings)
* Competition (DRM lets dominant companies block interoperability)
This week, I launched my first-ever Kickstarter, and while it's exciting to watch the numbers tick up (if you've backed it, THANK YOU!), the only reason I had to do this was because Amazon won't sell my audiobooks, because they don't have DRM.
LibGuides: Number of Libraries in the United States: Home
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