John Gilmore, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has urged users to boycott hardware containing CPRM copy-control mechanisms. Last week we broke a story of moves to build CPRM (Copyright Protection for Recordable Media) cryptography into the industry standard ATA hard disk specification. If implemented, the initiative could rapidly end the use of the PC and new emerging devices for freely exchanging audio, video and information.
Users, says Gilmore, should demand a policy declaration from vendors that they eschew "covertly controlled hardware", and only buy products that are truly open, he argues in a post to the C2 crypto mailing list.
"No copy protection should exist ANYWHERE in generic computer hardware! It's up to the BUYER to determine what to use their product for," writes Gilmore. "It's not up to the vendors of generic hardware, and certainly not up to a record company that's shadily influencing those vendors in back-room meetings."
Gilmore says moves are also taking place to build copy-control into monitors ... BIOSes and the operating systems. Some of these we've heard of but, not all - but if you have then get in touch.
"I don't know whether the movie moguls are holding compromising photos of Intel and IBM executives over their heads, or whether they have simply lost their minds," he wonders.
Gilmore also argues that by giving their customers the freedom to own digital media - or at least, to decide when they want to own it -hardware vendors stand to increase their own bottom line.
ATA drives are not only used in PCs, but in the emerging digital video recorder business led by TiVo and Replay, and are also appearing in MP3 players such as Creative's Nomad portable jukebox. Under the CPRM scheme, local file ownership permissions are trumped by crypto keys issued by the "publisher" of the content, who strictly controls copying, moving and deletion of the data on the local device. The move will also cause immediate problems for PC RAID, backup and file optimisation software, IBM acknowledged last week.
Here's the full text of Gilmore's call to arms:-
Subject: IBM&Intel push copy protection into ordinary disk drives
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000 13:16:03 -0800
From: John Gilmore
The Register has broken a story of the latest tragedy of copyright mania in the computer industry. Intel and IBM have invented and are pushing a change to the standard spec for PC hard drives that would
make each one enforce "copy protection" on the data stored on the hard drive. You wouldn't be able to copy data from your own hard drive to another drive, or back it up, without permission from some third party. Every drive would have a unique ID and unique keys, and would encrypt the data it stores -- not to protect YOU, the drive's owner, but to protect unnamed third parties AGAINST you.
The same guy who leads the DVD Copy Control Association is heading the organization that licenses this new technology -- John Hoy. He's a front-man for the movie and record companies, and a leading figure in
the California DVD lawsuit. These people are lunatics, who would destroy the future of free expression and technological development, so they could sit in easy chairs at the top of the smoking ruins and light their cigars off 'em.
The folks at Intel and IBM who are letting themselves be led by the nose are even crazier. They've piled fortunes on fortunes by building machines that are better and better at copying and communicating WHATEVER collections of raw bits their customers desire to copy. Now for some completely unfathomable reason, they're actively destroying that working business model. Instead they're building in circuitry
that gives third parties enforceable veto power over which bits their customers can send where. (This disk drive stuff is just the tip of the iceberg; they're doing the same thing with LCD monitors, flash memory, digital cable interfaces, BIOSes, and the OS. Next week we'll probably hear of some new industry-wide copy protection spec, perhaps for network interface cards or DRAMs.) I don't know whether the movie
moguls are holding compromising photos of Intel and IBM executives over their heads, or whether they have simply lost their minds. The only way they can succeed in imposing this on the buyers in the
computer market is if those buyers have no honest vendors to turn to.
Or if those buyers honestly don't know what they are being sold.
So spread the word. No copy protection should exist ANYWHERE in generic computer hardware! It's up to the BUYER to determine what to use their product for. It's not up to the vendors of generic hardware, and certainly not up to a record company that's shadily influencing those vendors in back-room meetings. Demand a policy declaration from your vendor that they will build only open hardware, not covertly controlled hardware. Use your purchasing dollars to enforce that policy.
Our business should go to the honest vendors, who'll sell you a drive and an OS and a motherboard and a CPU and a monitor that YOU, the buyer, can determine what is a valid use of. Don't send your money to Intel or IBM or Sony. Give your money to the vendors who'll sell you a product that YOU control.
Since retiring from Sun Microsystems (he was the company's fifth employee) Gilmore has spent a decade campaigning on privacy and free speech issues, advocating the wider availability of strong cryptography, and supporting the GNU free software project.
Footnote: We've been inundated with mail since we broke the original story - for which, many thanks - and roughly half of this correspondence requests links and contact information for people to shout at. The T.13 committee which administers the ATA standard, the 4C Entity (IBM, Intel, Toshiba and Matsushita), which owns and advocates CPRM, and John Hoy's LSI, LC all have public websites. Let us know what you hear.®