[AUUG-Talk]: Downloading and playing legal music

David Newall david.newall at auug.org.au
Mon Oct 24 20:51:30 EST 2005

Chandana De Silva wrote:
> On Mon, 2005-10-24 at 17:05 +0930, Daniel O'Connor wrote:
>> eg: Say I have some DRM player for Linux, it decrypts the audio and plays it 
>> to the sound card. It would be *trivial* to modify ALSA (or whatever) to 
>> record the audio to disk. In fact I believe ALSA can already do this.
> Again see what I have to say in my earlier message. Also, this is just
> one line of thought. I am sure that if the FOSS community put their
> minds to it, many more, and better methods will come up.

There is a fundamental inconsistency between protecting a recording from 
being copied, and being able to reproduce said recording such that a 
person can enjoy it in the way intended by the artist.  No amount of 
copy-protecting a poem, for example, can stop me from scribbling a copy 
in my notebook as I hear or read it.  Similarly I can plug my speaker 
leads, properly matched, into the recording socket of my CD recorder.  
The best that publishers can hope to achieve is to push the point of 
copying closer to the point of analogue reproduction, which presumably 
results in an inferior copy (although technically inferior reproduction, 
unshackled from technical hoops like DRM, would be viewed as superior by 
many, if not most, of the people.  Similarly, as Maltby San pointed out, 
given effort, the technical measures can be bypassed, pushing the point 
of copying closer to the original digital rendition.

The concept of copy protection was explored, in depth, by the software 
industry in the 70's and 80's, and the software industry lost.  The 
lesson that was learned then, but which appears to have been forgotten 
now, is that copy protection punishes those who would use the product 
'legally', whatever that means, while doing little to stop those who 
would take an illegal copy.  It's a game, you see, between the 
publishers, who have a solid business case for developing techniques to 
protect their interests, and the people, who have almost no benefit to 
gain from defeating these techniques other than the challenge of doing 
so.  How can a publisher prevail against the people?  Publishers are 
limited by money and skill.  The people have no such limit.  In the mean 
time, the publishers continue to punish their customers.

At this point in time, early in the twenty-first century, motion picture 
publishers have close enough to zero percent of the online market for 
their product.  That's not to say that billions of dollars of value 
aren't being traded every year, just that publishers aren't getting much 
of it.  And that's because they refuse to enter the market until such 
time as they can be assured that their property remains inviolate.  
Sadly for them, and for those of us who'd like to pay them for movies, 
they will never succeed.  Never.  Not ever.  Not with the best technical 
efforts, and the most unreasonable laws; not even then.  Those amongst 
us considering creating artistic content should take heed: do not give 
publishers your digital rights lest they refuse to sell any of it.

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