DRM or Not?

The other day, somebody at Intel announced that the latest generation of Intel processors and mobo platform would incorporate a form of DRM.

This got some people upset, even though it was hardly news that Intel was going to eventually do this; they’ve been talking about this for years.

This led Intel to issue a rather bizarre press release.

It’s a superb example of what I call “technical accuracy.” “Technical accuracy” is a bunch of verbiage that is technically true, but is meant to mislead you, which it usually does unless you read the statement like a lawyer looking for loopholes.

Here’s all the quote we need:

“The Intel Pentium D Processor and the Intel 945 Express Chipset family do not have unannounced embedded DRM technologies.”

This statement is technically true. Neither product has unannounced embedded DRM technologies.

Instead, they have announced embedded DRM technologies, in this particular case, almost certainly version 1.2 of the Trusted Computing Group’s Trusted Platform Modules. This is what “LaGrange” is.

Some outragees have expressed the touching sentiment that AMD certainly won’t do such an awful thing. You fools! AMD announced that eight months ago, and more recently announced it would be incorporated into its new 2006 lineup. They call it “Presidio.”

We talked about this last September, too.

Does that make you want a Mac, or an XBox360, or a Sony Playstation 3? I think you really ought to look at this, especially the top of the list. AMD and Intel are there. So is IBM. So is Microsoft. So is Sony. So forget about that.

Nor is any official version of Linux likely to save you. Most commercial versions will incorporate TPM components, and if TPM is at all competent, if it finds a TPM-less OS that ought to be, it just won’t work.

Should some rebels show up, rest assured that those doing this will give the legislators something to do by asking them to mandate their system.

If They Do This, I’ll Never Buy A Computer Again!!!

See ya. Don’t let the door hit you in the buttocks on the way out. Sorry, but the players in this game have bigger fish to fry, and no executive is going to do a perp walk for you.

Why Is This Happening?

That’s very simple. Governments (at least those in advanced countries) do not want the amount of theft of intellectual property to continue. Sooner or later, if something isn’t done about this, they’ll order the technology companies to put a stop to it if they want to continue selling products in their countries.

The technology companies are terrified at what some technically-dimwitted legislatures might demand (after seeing some proposals made in the U.S. Congress, I can hardly blame them). So they’ve come up with a way to stop this digital theft to try to keep legislatures from mandating it.

It’s not that most of these companies (especially the hardware companies) terribly want to do this; they’re doing this from fear of what might be done to them otherwise.

No Big Deal, Somebody Will Break It

Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but it’s probably pretty safe to say that breaking a hardware-based DRM like TPM will be a lot harder than breaking software-based copy protection. If it isn’t, well, those legislatures aren’t going away.

More likely than not, anybody who does do any breaking is likely to spend some serious, serious hard time as a result, not a measly three or four year sentence. That ought to discourage the relative handful of people capable of breaking and entering.

I’m not going to claim that things like this are going to completely shut down piracy. It probably will make it a lot harder, though.


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