Digital Rights Management and Logic

The Sony DRM fiasco is due to a common failure of requirements management logic. If an engineered system relies on certain properties, whenever you add a new requirement, you need to check consistency. You have a boat that has EnoughCargoSpace and ReasonableEnergyCost and you decide to add the requirement CantLeak. So you encase the entire boat in a meter of steel. Amazingly the boat no longer meets its other requirements. The weightless nature of software encourages people to forget that there are inescapable tradeoffs. If you impose a rule “B: The DRM system is all powerful” then you have contradicted “A: No Software Can Turn Off Security.” DRM engineers need to come to terms with “Some of the properties of a computer are more critical than protecting IP.” In my drm paper (published in LinuxDevices in 2002) I discussed potential security and safety issues when DRM interacts with embedded software. It’s bad enough to open a door to virus software on home PCs, but imagine the effects in medical devices and elevators!

See also Moshe Yudkowsky on the ColdPlay story

Update: See also – no kidding.

Update: So how much of the Song BMG fiasco was caused by bad engineering practices and how much was caused by bad management practices? These two types of bad are often synergistic.

Update: Boing Boing covers continuing fallout.

Update: See the Linux Devices story on DRM


One thought on “Digital Rights Management and Logic”

  1. Digital rights management is the epitome of social hypocrisy and the sign of a decaying society which is largely incapable of truly embracing change.

    Adding DRM to consumer electronics is basically the pathway to “Orwellianize” anything humans use to communicate.

    In my many years as a technology expert, I have yet to see a single idea, product or thing that truly commands that the author be granted full protection for 17 years periods.

    Show me a flying car and I’ll reconsider but for the time being, books that babble about anything, music that’s just awful and movies that are worthless instantly benefit from the copyright protection… without any consideration for merit or value.

    With the DRM non-sense getting implemented in PCs, anyone “improperly” using these pieces of copyrighted crap risks being jailed after losing to vicious lawyers financed by established “entertainment” groups.

    You can fight DRM all you want, as long as the elected leaders don’t smack down the big entertainment moguls, we’re in trouble, unfortunately.

    With DRM, common-sense has “left the building”.

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