Fighting for Control of Your Computer

This article in the Melbourne's The Age discusses attempts to take control over the software on your computer. These assaults come not from hackers but from the music industry and corporations like Microsoft. They come cloaked under the umbrella of Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM advocates wish to protect intellectual property such as the copyrights on songs and recordings. To accomplish that, however, the music industry would need to have direct access to your computer. There are laws before congress which would grant them just that.

Though the article is a bit inflammatory, tagging DRM as "treacherous computing," it brings up several good points. For instance, if DRM is going to be built into every device which can access recordable media (as proposed legislation entails), then organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and corporations like Microsoft would be granted access to every computer. They would need to be able to remotely read, identify and categorize every file on your computer to determine whether or not it matches a copyrighted song or piece of software.

Do you want these people to have access to your doctor's computer, the computers in your local police station or even in the Pentagon? Even if their intentions are noble (and that is certainly debatable), every piece of software and every gateway into a computer is a potential hole to be exploited by a hacker or irate corporate employee with an axe to grind.

The article goes on to note many of the other dangerous abuses of DRM technology. Specifically, it cites documents that, in effect, delete themselves or can only be viewed on certain computers. In this manner DRM has the potential to eliminate any paper trail and, thus, any trace of guilt in situations such as the Enron debacle.

Unfortunately, very few people understand the technologies involved, much less the potential repercussions of the laws which would seek to make such technologies mandatory. Nevertheless, backed by such powerful organizations as the RIAA, DRM legislation stands a very good chance of becoming law.


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