Aug 1

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Great Rant by Cory on Apple and DRM

Over on BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow blasts the rumored DRM support in the MacOS X kernel for Intel:

If this "feature" appears in a commercial, shipping version of Apple's OS, they'll lose me as a customer -- I've used Apple computers since 1979 and have a Mac tattooed on my right bicep, but this is a deal-breaker.
In his usual lucid way, Cory goes on to explain why open data is more important than free software, and how the proposed DRM cuts to the heart of the essential freedom to switch to another program, or another computer. Well worth a read.

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Comments: 25

  aram [08.01.05 10:58 AM]

Ok.. here is where I call irrational panic.

First of as someone who wrote a lot of papers back in the day in "pfs write pro" and had to go back and save the ones I wanted as text, I understand what he's saying about open format. Its a pain to have to keep changing documents. Lots of law offices still use wordperfect for that very reason. "lock in" is bad. Jpg,png,gif,tiff are great beacuse I have high confidence I will be able to open those files in the future. I'm banking my photo collection on tiff (and the ability of imagemagick to be able to convert those images into something more usable if it comes along)

Apple has demonstrated a dislike of DRM (Jobs is quoted as saying that PHDs looked into and said its impossible to stop the cracking completely). Look at the itunes DRM which isn't difficult to strip off, just takes a little work. And I mean very little. However without DRM the copywrite holders wouldn't release there material for sale. Maybe someday they'll get it, I don't like it but understand it. There is nothing about itunes/ipod that forces you to use DRM. If I want to release my music as mp3, itunes will play it, with or without DRM. The mac is a content generating machine. If itunes/iphoto/imovie/logic force the creation of content that must have DRM , people will use other software. I really doubt the OS will require DRM.

There is very little doubt that you will be able to have data that you create in any format you like. I don't see how the internal Kernel working of a beta os changes that. Its not even a final version of the OS and people are griping. Do people not watch DVDs out of the principle that the video image is encrypted? Nobody cares as long as it works and doesn't get in the way.

Rampant copywrite infringment exists. At work we get access to the "" ebooks. It logs you out after a couple minutes of inactivity. This anoys a friend (who doesn't like netlibraries on page at a time thing either) so he takes one line from a book, into google and gets many sites with the book in electronic form, by section (not by page), free and faster, and usually served from another country.

As long as the OS doesn't mandate you have to use DRM and it doesn't get in the way, why would anyone care.

  w [08.01.05 11:20 AM]

Rich Wareham, developer of the Mac virtual desktop app Desktop Manager, makes an execellent point,

"In actual fact the story was about Apple including a trusted computing driver in their latest developer kernel. Of course the story nicely skips the fact that Linux also has such a driver."

He then follows up with some interesting speculation.

  John Dowdell [08.01.05 11:34 AM]

Tim, I've been starting to think of this as people's control over the bits they generate... some of this is rich-media data (audio files, video files, website designs, etc), while more of it is text data (the words I publish, financial records, web-reading patterns).

Cory can vote with his dollars as he wishes, no problems there. But do you have thoughts on how control over your media verges over into control over your data? It feels like there's something there, but I'm not sure how it balances out yet...?

tx, jd/mm

  mardoen [08.01.05 12:27 PM]

I don't think this is any big news either; or rather, I'm not too afraid of a data format lock-in that I can't avoid as a customer. I figured he has to ramble in this seemingly exaggerated fashion just to make sure that Apple doesn't think that most people don't care, not because he thinks they will start encrypting our text files.

  irt [08.01.05 12:34 PM]

i'm not sure why this is considered a great rant - it doesn't offer insights or any real substance. i've got a lot of respect for this blog (radar) but have been giving boingboing a miss for a while now because of doctorows frequent (and often naive) ramblings. and i agree with the other commenter who calls this up as irrational panic.
doctorow is an intelligent chap & clearly has a lot of influence in the right circles. i just wish he didn't do both his readership and himself such a disservice by writing ill thought out (knee jerk?) posts on what is still rumour.

and as for him having his apple tattoo removed, i expect apple execs probably think him crackers for having one in the first place.

  flynn [08.01.05 12:37 PM]

This whole story kind of disillusions me about the fact checking that is going on in the so called bloggosphere. Just because some dumbwit at slashdot can't tell "the Rosetta kernel", meaning the innermost part of Rosetta from "the Mac OS X kernel", everyone and his dog spread FUD.

May I remind anyone that Mac OS X is the last major OS to implement a TPM driver? Linux's own "drivers/char/tpm/tpm.c" has already been mentioned above...

  Rebort [08.01.05 01:03 PM]

Everyone's made great comments -- I can only add that I felt this "rant" to be melodramatic as all get out, especially after some of the more informed comments on Slashdot.

And yet still, very few people fail to mention these are hastily slapped together development boxes and *not* commercial products. So what if Apple tries to prevent Mactel OSX from appearing on bittorrent the day after the boxes ship to developers?

Doctorow is a bright fellow, but with this kind of thing he slides into a territory between "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and "Chicken Little."

I wish he could inform with the self-involved hysterics.

  Zac [08.01.05 01:33 PM]

...blasts the rumored DRM support in the MacOS X kernel for Intel

Maybe he should wait until something is confirmed before getting into rant mode?

A perfect example of what is wrong with the net. People writing off the cuff material based on innuendo and getting into a lather without really knowing if there is a reason to.

Why people link to this sort of drivel escapes me.

  Tim O'Reilly [08.01.05 03:17 PM]

Wow. I've rarely seen such unanimity in comments.

What I found so interesting about Cory's comments was:

1) I liked his depiction of the dialogue between the GNU/Linux zealot and the Mac OS X user -- it's very accurate in my experience -- and sums up a significant divide in the F/OSS community.

2) While Cory may be over-reacting about the particular rumors on Apple and DRM, I don't think he's over-reacting about the threat that over-zealous copyright interests provide to the kind of computing environment that has made so much open source software possible. I don't think he's wrong that there are folks who would very much like to limit the ability of anyone to use technology in unintended ways.

But I do have to say that the response in these comments is a fairly strong "radar" signal in and of itself, that says to me that our core audience has more tolerance for DRM and related technologies than I would have expected. Thanks for the correction.

  John Dowdell [08.01.05 04:41 PM]

Russell Beattie has a related item today, where other bloggers repurpose his bits without his knowledge or consent:

Sticky problem... the warez/MP3 scene was only the first to evolve...?

  mardoen [08.01.05 04:59 PM]

Just to clarify my position: I don't like DRM at all, under any circumstances. I realize that it can be a nice thing for content creators, but in general it's a bad thing for the customer.

To paraphrase my first posting: Cory imho did not write this because it's an actual threat. Nobody actually believes that Apple will DRM all your data (thank god). Cory wrote this to create attention, to let Apple feel that people are _not_ tolerant towards DRM technology.

And Tim, I think (and hope) that you misread some of the statements above. They are generally more targeted towards Cory's method of communication. After rereading the comments I don't find that anybody disagrees with your point 2), and neither do I -- they just point out that the existence of DRM on an operating system in itself must not mean a total lockdown of content.

Please don't believe that most people tolerate DRM. They don't.

  flynn [08.01.05 11:27 PM]

Tim, it's not about tolerance for DRM. As a person who cares about digital rights I have a hard time being associated with paranoia spreading, bad fact checking and general knee-jerking. This is not the first time Cory "over-reacted" like that. The case here is not about Apple adding DRM, the case is Apple adding support for TPM, a thing all major computer vendors have done by now. If Cory wants to rant about open formats, fine. I don't see however how it relates to reporting about developer systems noone is supposed to know anything about anyways...

  Curt Hibbs [08.02.05 06:30 AM]

I don't get it.

I read through all these comments about Cory overreacting *before* I read his post, so I braced myself for the outlandish. But to my surprise, I discovered that it is the commentors to this blog entry who have overreacted.

I found Cory's post to eminently reasonable. It didn't even have the tone of a rant. I thought this issues of DRM and the importance of open data were well laid out. He always referred to the Mac's potential use of Intel's Tructed Computing in the kernel using the qualifier "if".

I'm sorry, but I really don't understand why all of these "knee jerk" comments were posted here.

  Zac [08.02.05 08:15 AM]

As some posters have already noted, I don't like DRM either. I just don't like baseless rants that smack of attention seeking more than reporting, news or commentary.

I think we all know and appreciate the issues that DRM pose but currently there is no proof that Apple is doing or plans to do any of the things that Cory mentions.

So why the Chicken Little routine on his part?

Sometimes the man reminds me of John Dvorak and his attempts to gain audience through controversy,

  Zac [08.02.05 08:17 AM]

-- I'm sorry, but I really don't understand why all of these "knee jerk" comments were posted here.

Well if you don't agree with the comments thats one thing but what is the point of being pejorative? You liked the article and didn't think it was a rant. Other disagree. No need to start tossing around comments like "knee jerk".

  Tim Almond [08.04.05 04:46 AM]

It means that the price of being a Mac user will be eternal vigilance: you'll need to know that your apps not only write to exportable formats, but that they also allow those exported files to be read by competing apps.

Excuse me, but how is this any different to the non-DRM world of an Apple Mac running Microsoft Word saving in .doc format? Is Cory somehow suggesting that Apple will be able to "take over" Neo Office/J and somehow alter its zipped XML formats?

I don't like closed formats, but in the end, I don't see much to fear from a DRM layer on the Mac. It seems to me that DRM relies in part on the applications that run to work with that DRM. So, don't run the apps.

  Al Abut [08.06.05 11:43 PM]

To those not getting why Cory's essay was alarmist and unfounded, Jon Gruber sums it up very nicely, as usual.

Pretty much the gist of the trusted computing junk on the developer machines is to keep OS X off of non-Mac hardware, as it stands now.

  Oskar L-B [08.07.05 04:15 PM]

Comment by mardoen: "I figured he has to ramble in this seemingly exaggerated fashion just to make sure that Apple doesn't think that most people don't care, not because he thinks they will start encrypting our text files."

That's what's going on here, and why I think Cory's post - however exaggerated and based on rumors it was - made a valid contribution to this important debate: showing Apple that its customers don't tread lightly on this subject.

  Chris_B [08.07.05 07:29 PM]

A large part of what annoys me about Cory's rant (and this is typical of his writing on these matters in general) is that he seems to think that he is somehow special as a consumer and as someone who has "directed [so much] business to Apple over the years". This combined with the sub-rant concerning "GNU/Linux" gives the whole rant a childish tone.

I sent an email to him pointing out that if he cared so much, why isnt he addressing this from a market point of view by exercising shareholder's rights to raise this issue to Apple themselves in a shareholder's meeting. If he really is taking the "moral high ground" as opposed to throwing a temper tantrum, why not address the issues in such a way that he might "do good" for something besides his own highly inflated sense of self importance.

  Derrick Story [08.07.05 09:49 PM]

As mentioned earlier by Al, I also encourage folks to read John Gruber's piece titled Trusted. I think he raises many good points that are important to this conversation.

  Brady J. Frey [08.08.05 08:53 AM]

I concur -- Daring Fireball brings out a great rebuttle to such fears:

  Retard [08.08.05 01:30 PM]

Second the Daring Fireball link. much better than the first.

  Brian [08.10.05 12:55 PM]

Cory D. is an egomaniac. Every day it seems, the feed I get through Watson is littered with "news" detailing his every move - Cory goes here, Cory goes there, Cory writes a book - buy it, Cory buys an iPod... (all sourced from BoingBoing of course). It all seems so hypocritical given the memory of his rage against Mel Gibson's "self-serving" "The Passion of the Christ".

Along with buddy Dan "The Sky is Falling" Gillmor, Cory's smear campaign against Gibson serves as an excellent parallell to his current position on Apple's "evil" intentions with regard to Trusted Computing. Before the movie had come out, based on the reports of those with "advanced" (see also: stolen) copies of the script (see a pattern here?) the duo piled on, promoting the idea that Gibson's flick was an "Anti-Semitic Snuff-Film", writing it off as some sort of "Vanity Project".

Attempts to turn this platform for communication into the 'BlogosFear' must be diffused through the kind of reasonable discourse we are having here.

  John Burger [09.01.05 07:47 AM]

Er, "the proposed DRM"? WTF, the only one who has "proposed" it is Doctorow.

  Wendell Banks [01.30.07 12:41 PM]

It is good for consumers to see dialog regareding what they can and can't do with there computers. My fear is not copy protection. I fear not being able to add hardware to my computer or being able to record my own audio or video material without the quality being degraded by confused software. I also don't want to feel cheated by buying a powerful computer only to have much of the power wasted on spying on me.

The biggest concern for me, is that with all the challenges to produce less buggy software, there are to many lines of code telling the machine if this than stop working or if this than degrade performance. By the way, I googled apple drm trying to run from Vista. I come from a windows world where heavy handed DRM is the rule.

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