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Hacker’s Blog

January 18, 2006

Copyright and The Choice Between DRM and Security

Filed under: Security — Hacker @ 7:43 am

Slashdot | The Choice Between DRM and Security

Seeing the above made me think about Copyright and Security. It seems that Copyright used to be a security mechanism to protect one’s creations. Before the digital age, copying creative works was expensive. Those who sought to make a profit from copying other’s work could find themselves at the wrong end of the law and thus were taking a large risk with their capital. Gift copying was too expensive for most and had limited distribution, even as audio and video cassettes became common.

Now in the digital age, commerce is global and it is hard to track down copyright pirates. Worse, gift copying has practically no cost to the gifter. Thus copyright can no longer protect information profitably. Note that doesn’t mean copyright is useless, just not useful for ensuring profits from the distribution of a creative work.

None of this is new and there are others who have studied and written about this in much more detail. What I think is interesting is to take the pure security view. This is hard for a security techie like me, because we have been taught that security is some piece of technology.

Technology is not the best word to use here, since its meaning has morphed over time. Copyright was a ‘technology’ by the old definition. Now we use technology to refer to automata. This causes us to forget a lot about what information security is about and can be. We techies get so lost in the bits and algorithms that we forget that much of the security we rely on today is as insecure as copyright.

As the world becomes more digital, there will be new options, such as DRM, that can provide protections where old ones like Copyright fail. In some ways, these protections are even stronger than what was available before, but they also come with a price, such as privacy. As a security practitioner, one has to dig deep to understand the history of the protection of an asset as well as the potential consequences of new protection technologies.

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Like we really needed this.