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August 24, 2005
Open DRM = Dry Water
That's the consensus at EFF after we took a look at Sun Microsystem's plans for an open DRM project perplexingly called "Open Media Commons":
Yesterday, Sun Microsystems announced its new "Open Media Commons," with a goal of "[s]pecify[ing] open, royalty-free digital rights management and codec standards" to "ensur[e] intellectual property protection." The problem with this approach is that making DRM "open" and "royalty-free" doesn't make it any less damaging and counter-productive.
People have the legal right to make fair uses of content. They have the legal right to use materials in the public domain. They have the legal right to use publicly owned works, such as government-gathered facts. Any software system, open or not, that blocks us from making these legal uses of our digital content is bad, especially when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal for us to circumvent the copyright protection to make these legal uses.
This "Open Media Commons" says a lot about fostering sharing and so forth, but there's precious little to indicate that it will be any less threatening than the Microsoft DRM that it's supposed to challenge.
Using "commons" in the name is unfortunate, because it suggests an online community committed to sharing creative works. DRM systems are about restricting access and use of creative works. We wish that Sun's announcement brought better news for people worried about DRM taking away their rights, but it doesn't.
Here's EFF's official press release
. For more on the illogical nature of this kind of project, see Edward Felten's post from April of last year, A Perfectly Compatible Form of Incompatibility
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