Cory Doctorow has an op-ed about DRM in the current issue of Communications of the Association of Computing Machinery, an academic journal for computer scientists. As he has so many times before, Doctorow explains that the DMCA makes it illegal to break DRM, which in turn leads to DRM being used not just to enforce copyright, but also to stifle competition. Furthermore, the restrictions against disclosure of security vulnerabilities gives malware makers a leg up—information that could help security firms counter their threats goes undisclosed.
Doctorow explains that these are critical issues when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), the concept of everyday devices that gain Internet communication and processing ability:
DMCA 1201 is turning all of IoT into a playground for malware, where reporting vulnerabilities and releasing third-party improvements to systems are chilled by a law that was stupid in 1998 and is deadly in 2015.
Malware is always frightening, but it is much worse on systems already designed to treat their owners as adversaries. Infections on devices that take pains to hide their processes and files from their owners are much more difficult to detect and root out. Those devices are supposed to run programs that user-space apps cannot see or terminate, so malware that avails itself of this privilege becomes nearly bulletproof.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is launching Apollo 1201, an initiative intended to reform the DMCA through litigating its constitutionality. Doctorow notes that many academics and researchers quietly violate the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions all the time, and many legitimate projects never launch due to fears of DMCA litigation. Doctorow feels it is critical that, as the Internet of Things ramps up, the DMCA get reformed to allow free speech and safer devices.
I wish them the best of luck. As it stands right now, the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision is quietly ignored by just about everyone who wants to get around it for personal purposes, but stands in the way of wider projects that could do a lot of public good. The sooner we can reform it, the better.
(Found via Boing Boing.)