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4 Microsoft Engineers Predicted DRM Would Fail 10 Years Ago 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-that-companies-have-listened-yet dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ars is running an article about a paper written just over a decade ago by four engineers at Microsoft. In it, they talk about the darknet, and how it applies to distributing content online. They correctly predicted the uselessness of DRM: 'In the presence of an infinitely efficient darknet — which allows instantaneous transmission of objects to all interested users — even sophisticated DRM systems are inherently ineffective.' The paper's lead author, Peter Biddle, said he almost got fired over the paper at the time. 'Biddle tried to get buy-in from senior Microsoft executives prior to releasing the paper. But he says they didn't really understand the paper's implications — and particularly how it could strain relationships with content companies — until after it was released. Once the paper was released, Microsoft's got stuck in bureaucratic paralysis. Redmond neither repudiated Biddle's paper nor allowed him to publicly defend it.' The paper itself is available in .DOC format."
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4 Microsoft Engineers Predicted DRM Would Fail 10 Years Ago

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  • by Applekid (993327) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:18PM (#42148517)

    The DMCA has, in fact, prolonged the life of DRM by making it a literal crime to circumvent it. At least in the US.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:48PM (#42149091)

    The paper presentation at CCS 2002 was pretty good. I was one of the about 60 people in the room and 5 minutes in I had the feeling of witnessing history in the making. And yes, in the Q&A part, they did directly confirm that they thought DRM was completely doomed from the beginning.

  • Re:alright, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:49PM (#42149099)

    The rest of the engineers didn't actually gave a crap about it as they were paid to implement those DRM. Ever had that feeling,"oh my this guys are paying me to do this, what a bunch of jacks, this will never work".

  • The money quote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mystikkman (1487801) on Friday November 30, 2012 @07:03PM (#42149331)

    Te hoped that writing a paper saying so would reassure Microsoft's critics in the technical community that Redmond wasn't planning to lock down the PC in order to satisfy Hollywood. And by making it clear that the people behind Microsoft's "trusted computing" push were not fans of DRM, Biddle hoped he could persuade the technical community to consider other, more benign applications of the technology he was building.

    snip

    It didn't work out that way. "I almost got fired over the paper," Biddle told Ars. "It was extremely controversial." Biddle tried to get buy-in from senior Microsoft executives prior to releasing the paper. But he says they didn't really understand the paper's implications—and particularly how it could strain relationships with content companies—until after it was released. Once the paper was released, Microsoft's got stuck in bureaucratic paralysis. Redmond neither repudiated Biddle's paper nor allowed him to publicly defend it.

    At the same time, "the community we thought would draw a connection never drew the connection," Biddle said, referring to anti-DRM activists. "Microsoft was taking so much heat around security and trustworthy computing, that I was not allowed to go out and talk about any of this stuff publicly. I couldn't explain 'guys, we're totally on your side. What we want is a program that's open.'"

    The so called "community" is and was rabidly anti-Microsoft regardless of the actual merits of the case. There are umpteen journalists(eg. Farhad Manjoo of Slate), who railed endlessly against Palladium, but when Apple implemented the Palladium spec to the letter in the iPhone and iPad, locked out developers and users from their own machines, the exact same people went "OOH SHINY" were falling all over themselves singing its praises.

    See http://www.salon.com/2002/07/11/palladium/ [salon.com] and http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2012/03/new_ipad_how_apple_s_tablet_strategy_parallels_its_unbeatable_ipod_success_.html [slate.com]

    Now we have the slow decimation of user and developer freedom led over the past 5 years by the iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook,locked bootloaders on Android phones like the Droid, tablets etc., Windows Phone and now Windows RT. As they say, the first cut is the deepest, the war was lost when the public started buying iDevices in droves and they *still* can't keep them in stock. Now everyone can say if it's okay for the market leader Apple to do it, so can we. This is the harm with the "raise hell if it's MS, ignore and pump it if it's Apple etc." attitude of the community and Slashdot is no different for the most part. If, instead of playing fanboys and haters, if pundits and tech folks actually stood for openness like RMS did, we might have had a different future today.

    The cat is out of the bag though. Apple charging 30% of even the services offered through apps is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • by mlts (1038732) * on Friday November 30, 2012 @07:06PM (#42149371)

    I am going to be a devil's advocate again: It did work extremely well on the PS3, where a "complete" break wasn't achived until recently, and for a console that is almost five years old, that is a pretty good accomplishment.

    Satellite is well protected with no "master cards" available on any black market. So far, no cracks are out there in any form.

    The iPhone 5 has yet to have even a single usable JB. The 4S has had only limited windows of time where it was jailbreakable.

    Even with e-readers, I've yet to see a cracked AZW file in the past two years. Amazon must be doing something right with their Kindle DRM. (I hope to be proven wrong, but I was curious about this earlier, did some quick searching and found any supposed decoders just were links to malware/Trojans.)

    DRM is alive and well.

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