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[Fsfe-france] Rights Notification System : an alternative to DRM

From: Loic Dachary
Subject: [Fsfe-france] Rights Notification System : an alternative to DRM
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 2003 01:13:39 +0200


        Suite au thread "DRM Logiciel Libre" et aux centaines de mails
échangées sur la question, j'ai tout de même mis un certain temps à
réaliser que "DRM Logiciel Libre" est un oxymoron. Si un DRM est
Logiciel Libre alors il ne permet pas de controler l'utilisateur donc
ce n'est pas un DRM.

        D'ou le nom RNS (Rights Notification System). Mais comme
l'ambition est de remédier aux DRM, il faut mentionner les DRM en
négatif. Donc le thread initial était chargé de confusion et je
propose de continuer plutôt avec ce terme. Bien entendu, un RNS est
par définition Logiciel Libre. 

        J'ai essayé de synthétiser, tant que c'est frais dans ma tête,
ce que je crois positif dans cette idée. Merci d'être indulgent sur
l'orthographe, je n'ai pas passé ispell.



Rights Notification System : an alternative to DRM

[RNS functionalities, interface]

A RNS is a set of software components that relate licensing terms with
the work to which they apply. For instance, if a user is copying a
song for a friend, the RNS is asked to query the license and answers
with the legal terms governing the copy of this specific song. The
music player queries the RNS each time an action may be governed by
licensing terms.  Then, it notifies the user so that she can decide
what to do. A RNS also protects the privacy of the user with encrypted
storage of works or secure communication channels between a personnal
computer and a storage server. Generic meta information about the work
are accessible, such as the online shops where licenses can be
acquired to incorporate a song into a video game or a film. RNS
administration tools enable the user to find all works matching
specific licensing terms (copy allowed, public domain etc..).

[RNS free software, open standards, no dependency with proprietary]

The software components of a RNS are distributed under a Free Software
license. They are exclusively based on protocols, formats and
encryption methods that are defined by open standards. None of them
depend on proprietary software. If one of these conditions is not met,
we are not dealing with a Right Notification System but with Digital
Rights Management.

   Free Software - Let's say a software component notifies the user
     that the copy of a song is forbiden by disabling the "Copy"
     button. If the program is mistaken because it is unaware of the
     fact that the physical condition of a handicaped person grants
     her the right to copy, it needs to be fixed. If the software is
     proprietary such a modification requires permission from (is
     controled by) the copyright holder. The user is therefore not
     notified: her actions are controled by the copyright holder
     who is empowered to grant or refuse a license to change the
     behaviour of the software.

   Open Standards - If a protocol or a format is encumbered with
     patents, redistribution of the software using it requires a
     patent license. It deprives the user of the freedom given
     by the Free Software license.

   Proprietary dependencies - If a software depends on a proprietary
     library (for instance to interact with a protocol or to access a
     format), usage of the software requires to abide to the licensing
     terms of the proprietary library. As is the case with CSS, this
     license may require to prevent skipping advertisement.  Such a
     requirement is contradictory with the freedoms granted by a Free
     Software license.

RNS are programs acting as legal advisors to the user. Because of the
complexity of the law, there is no way for such a program to be
reliable. It will always be unable to accuratly understand how the
social context and the law interact, which is exactly why courts and
judges have not been replaced by machines. It is therefore necessary
to guarantee the user, with a Free Software license and no proprietary
dependencies, that her legal advisory program won't turn against her
by pretending to be a judge.

[Compare to DRM, highlight DRM inability to be efficient]

A DRM is characterized by the ambition to control the use of
copyrighted works. By contrast, a RNS is characterized by the
recognition that no program will ever be able to control the use of
copyrighted works. Despite these very different intentions, one has to
acknoledge the fact that a DRM or a RNS are equaly unable to control
the use of copyrighted works. No matter how hard they try, DRM will
always be defeated by the person skilled enough to circumvent the
technical measure and remove watermarking without damaging the
work. There is not such thing as a 100% efficient DRM. In addition, it
is often repeated by the media industry that the vast majority of
counterfeited works worldwide come from a single source. It follows
that if a DRM fail to protect a work once (only once), it becomes
useless to prevent illegitimate use of that work, worldwide.

[RNS business models, pay per view]

A DRM is, by nature, a mean to treat the users of a work as an ennemy.
It creates a breach between authors and their audience. On the
contrary a RNS bridges the gap between authors and their audience. It
also is instrumental to the development of business models based on
digital works. Editors such as Magnatune.com could use and provide a
RNS to their visitors so that they download meta information together
with the songs. User who discovered music they like could check these
meta information on their local machine to understand the licensing
terms of a song for commercial use. Even if the song was handed to
them by a friend of a friend (music on magnatune.com can be shared for
non commercial purposes). RNS meta information being used for
notification purposes only, there is no incentive to remove them.

Although the large players of the music industry will eventually give
up the nightmare of total control of all audiences (unless they
succeed to impose by law the chirugical implant of crypto chips in the
eyes and ears of every baby on earth before the age of one), it may
take a while before they realize that software companies are selling
them an extremely expensive fantasy. In the meantime, it may be up to
small players like magnatune.com to invent new businness models.  RNS
may be a key component to convince the vast majority of talented
artists who will never get a dime from the current model to go for a
new business model. Despite what the music industry claims, they only
speak in the name of a handfull of artists. Should the crowd of hungry
artists massively contribute to initiatives like magnatune.com, the
situation could change dramatically. Unlike thirty years ago, there is
no material obstacle to such a revolution. All it needs is a

[RNS and the law (no conflict with EUCD/DMCA)]

The DMCA or the EUCD both forbid the circumvention of technical
measures restricting the access to works. As was shown by four years
of practice in the United States, such legislations give control to
copyright holders over the users of their works, often preventing them
from exercising their rights. Should a library need to buy a
circumvention tool to remove a technical measure preventing copying
from a public domain work, the provider of the tool would be punished
under the DMCA or the EUCD. Circumvention tools are banned, regardless
of the fact that they may serve a legitimate purposes.

A RNS user, author or contributor cannot be threatened by the DMCA or
the EUCD.  The Free Software license grants her the right to use,
study, modify and redistribute the RNS and therefore suppresses the
need to circumvent it.

[TCPA and RNS]

TCPA is an absolute threat to Free Software, hence to RNS. 

Donate to FSF France online : http://rate.affero.net/fsffrance/
Loic Dachary, 12 bd Magenta, 75010 Paris. Tel: 33 1 42 45 07 97      
http://www.fsffrance.org/   http://www.dachary.org/loic/gpg.txt

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