Monday, February 06, 2006

GPL 3 and DRM!

I have been coming across a lot of articles talking about the new version of the GPL (GNU Public License) lately, and specifically the issue around DRM or Digital Rights Management. One thing really strikes me about the articles. The fact that, in many cases, we are mixing multiple issues together, that shouldn't be mixed together.

DRM, in the consumer products world, is one thing, and DRM in the corporate information world, is entirely another. In the first case, we are talking about movie studios, music labels, etc. trying to control the distribution of a copyrighted work so that everyone pays for their copy of that work. While, I can understand this, as they want to be compensated for the costs of producing that work, the control mechanisms being used go far beyond ensuring that you paid for the copy. They try to completely control what you do after you have paid for the copy. These copy protection schemes, like the software copy protection schemes of the 1980's will fail, because people will not tolerate them for long.

In the other case, protecting corporate information, such as trade secrets, is certainly something that open source software needs to support. Corporations of all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of business models, have a need to protect certain information. If anyone doesn't think that corporate espionage doesn't exist, they are naive. Digital signatures, encryption, permission based controls, all have their place where protecting corporate information is concerned. In fact, these are all things that are in place, in one form or another, in open source software today. We should not mix these two forms of DRM, and put them in the same basket. If we do, then we are in jeopardy of losing the very corporations that are helping to make open source software a success.

Software licensing is not the area to be trying to combat DRM!

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