Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Digital Rights Management and iTunes: why we should fund Chinese hackers

MacInTouch Home Page:

A father posts on Macintouch about a fascinating problem with Digital Rights Management:
I'd like to raise an issue that I'm faced with and I'd like to know if others find themselves in the same situation, or if this is a time-bomb waiting to ambush others.

Since iTunes opened, I've been purchasing music for my young daughter. This is music that I have generally no interest in, it's music for her library. At the same time, I have my own music library which also includes music from iTunes. All of this music was purchased under a single iTunes account (after all, it is my credit card).

My young daughter is now not as young and is getting ready for college in the fall. I wrote to iTunes to ask how I can transfer her music to her own account so she does not have to share my account with me forever. iTunes wrote back that there is no way to do this. A few back and forth emails have not gotten me any forward progress on this issue.
There are all sorts of variations on this theme. Divorce, marriage, etc. How many more can we not imagine? Digital Rights Management currently binds content to machines accounts, and the machine account is (in theory) bound to a person. The goal, ultimately, is to bind digital media it to a single person by biometric methods (or the old "chip in the left ventricle" technique :-).

I had my first "bite" from Apple's DRM the other day. I had to activate a new machine, but the new machine had an older version of iTunes. When I played a tune I'd downloaded (for free of course, I don't buy music with DRM) iTunes informed me I had to upgrade to a new version of iTunes to play it. Apple did this because they needed to close a security frailty in their FairPlay DRM system. It's nibbles like these that remind me of what that the DRM-beast will look like when it's full grown.

We ought to establish a fund to support Chinese hackers. Soon we'll all be needing their services ...

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