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February 20, 2006

Chile, TPMs, and encryption

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Right now, the delegation of Chile is describing their proposal for a development agenda for WIPO.

Chile's proposal is of the nature of charging WIPO with studying and promoting things OTHER THAN intellectual property. Chile wants WIPO to study the importance of the public domain, and to consider the protection of the public domain as part of WIPO's mission.

Now, I might just mention that while the public domain is related to intellectual property, it is only related in that it is the OPPOSITE OF intellectual property. Why should the World Intellectual Property Organization be charged with protecting the OPPOSITE of intellectual property?

Hello, Free Software boys. Here I make exactly the point that the CC system works precisely because of the existing flexibility within the copyright system. Happy blogging, and thanks for linking.

Interestingly, in the course of making the proposal, the delegate has mentioned the "danger " of TPMs (technological protection measures) several times. He has raised the specter that even works in the public domain could be kept away from the public by TPMs.

Notice the logical movement here. The free culture folks have moved from arguing against using TPMs (of which DRM is simply one) to protect works still under protection, to arguing that TPMs would be used to restrict access to items within the public domain as well.

This is akin to saying that since TPMs could potentially be used to do bad things, TPMs should be outlawed.

So the debate over TPMs is becoming surprisingly parallel to the debate we went through a few years ago over encryption. Except that the parties have exchanged their logic.

In the encryption debate, "computer users" argued that encryption should be permitted even though it could certainly be used for undesirable purposes. Now, "computer users" are arguing that TPMs should NOT be used because they might be used for undesirable purposes.

In a sense, all TPMs are is a form of encryption. So what is it? Do we only like encryption that works for users, but oppose encryption that works for owners? If you can use encryption to protect the contents of your email, something you own, why can't a company use a form of encryption to protection something they own?

The DRM/TPM debate is simply about the right to assert control over something you own. It has nothing to do with viruses, or spyware, or privacy. The recent uproar over the rootkit fiasco was about spyware and malware, not about DRM.

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