Why Johnny Can’t Code Redux

David Brin  David Brin

A long time ago (BK – Before Kids) I was lucky enough to meet David Brin at Ad Astra, the Toronto Science Fiction convention. It’s easy to meet people who have opinions. It isn’t often that you meet someone smart enough to explain to you exactly why the opinion is right. David Brin is one of the few I’ve met who are that smart.

A long time ago in Internet Time (2006) David wrong an article for Salon called Why Johnny Can’t Code. It’s a great article, and I recommend everyone read it, and share it.

Got reminded about the article when Michael (our oldest – he’s 28 now) and I were out yesterday picking up plumbing parts – the downstairs bath tub faucet was leaking hot water.

While he was driving (I wasn’t in shape to drive yesterday – heck, I barely managed to get into the car) we were talking about games. Michael is good at games. Really good. And he reminded me of one of the reasons why.

Apparently (I’d forgotten) a long time ago I’d taught Michael how to use a hex editor to view (and change) save game files. We’d done a lot of fooling around with the old Gold Box AD&D game Pool of Radiance, making things like a ‘Shield of Fireballs +5’…

Why does this all hang together?

Because it is getting harder for kids to learn how to code as David Brin pointed out, and it is getting harder for kids to learn how to use a hex editor too. I’m serious. The big growth area for games is phones and tablets. Have you ever seen a hex editor for IOS or Android? How about for any of the Playstation or XBox game consoles?

So we are moving further into a culture where people use things that they don’t understand, can’t play with to understand, and where it is often illegal to play with stuff in that matter (read up on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – it makes it illegal to modify ‘copyrighted works’ without the consent of the ‘owner’ and yes, this does include save game files).

Which is sad. Really sad.


Wayne Borean

Tuesday June 2, 2015



Gene Quinn’s Experience with Plagiarism

Gene Quinn
Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn has a problem. He’s found out that while the Internet is a great way to get your ideas to a wider audience, it’s also a great way to meet jerks.

Continue reading “Gene Quinn’s Experience with Plagiarism”

Futurist Prediction – The CPU Registry – And You Thought the Long Gun Registry Was Bad…

Me and my junior editor, Kleopatra
Me and my junior editor, Kleopatra

If you think the Long-Gun Registry was a debacle, think again. Wait till you see the CPU Registry.

Continue reading “Futurist Prediction – The CPU Registry – And You Thought the Long Gun Registry Was Bad…”

Copyright Wars Volumes 1 & 2

The Author and his Deceased Editor
The Author and his Deceased Editor

Greetings and salutations! On September 1, 2011 I had the great pleasure of publishing the first two volumes of my Copyright Wars series. They are up on both Amazon and Smashwords, and should be available on the Kobo, IBook, Diesel, and Sony Reader platforms in a few days. I published them under my imprint. Yes, I’m legally a Canadian publisher, you can find me listed on Collections Canada.

Continue reading “Copyright Wars Volumes 1 & 2”

Technical Protection Measures – When They Work And When They Are A Disaster

I’ve been writing a lot about Technical Protection Measures (TPM) aka Digital Rights Management (DRM) over the last nine months, but one thing I haven’t covered is why some sorts of TPM appear to work, at least partially, and others are obvious failures. Since some appear to work (partially) people who don’t understand the technology and the market, think that all TPM systems should work. They ignore the failures, and what the failures are telling us.

The previous articles are:

1 – An invitation to Doctor Ficsor to explain the value to the citizens of Canada in ratifying the WIPO Internet Treaties

2 – Dr. Ficsor is wrong about many things – why should we believe him?

3 – Doctor Ficsor is wrong again

4 – James Gannon Presentation – Copyright Viewed By A Lawyer – Correct Legally But Wrong – Part 1

5 – James Gannon Presentation – Copyright Viewed By A Lawyer – Correct Legally But Wrong – Part 2

6 – James Gannon Presentation – Copyright Viewed By A Lawyer – Correct Legally But Wrong – Part 3

7 – Why Is Michael Geist In Favour Of Digital Rights Management/Technical Protection Measures?

8 – Digital Right Management and/or Technical Protection Measures Cause Climate Change

9 – Bill C-32 – The New Canadian Copyright Act

Disclosure: I filed a submission during the Canadian Copyright Consultation calling for the banning of Technical Protection Measures, a stand that was somewhat less than popular in many quarters. The reason that I did this is because I believe that the adoption of TPM in Canadian Works will cause widespread damage to Canadian Culture. My stance, and my refusal to back down, is one of the reasons that James Moore, the Canadian Culture Minister, has blocked me on Twitter.

Based on my dealings with James, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is either clueless, or that he has his orders, and he is going to follow them through come hell or high water. For those not familiar with Canadian Politics, the current leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Stephen Harper, who is our current Prime Minister, is a reputed to be a control freak who runs the Conservative Party like a Kindergarten class. Of course this doesn’t mean that James Moore doesn’t believe in what he was doing when he drafted Bill C-32, or that either of the suppositions above is correct. There may other reasons that I haven’t thought of yet because of a lack of data (it has been reported by Michael Geist that the PMO ordered the ministers involved to ‘satisfy the United States’ – PDF of paper here).

Second Disclosure: As a programmer I was responsible for designing a couple of TPM/DRM systems about fifteen years ago. While I’m not the world’s biggest expert on designing TPM/DRM systems, I understand the basics of how they work, and why they are generally ineffective. If you don’t believe that they are ineffective take a look on The Pirate Bay at all of the software torrents that contain cracked versions of the software (by cracked we mean software that has had the TPM/DRM inactivated), or contain Serial Number generators (you don’t need to inactivate the TPM/DRM if you can devise a way of generating legitimate serial numbers)

Why Does TPM/DRM Appear to Work?

In some cases TPM/DRM does appear to function as it’s advocates claim. There are specific reasons that this happens:

1 – The product only works on one platform, such as a game console

2 – The TPM/DRM is ineffective enough that it doesn’t cause problems for the consumer

3 – What you are producing is something that the consumer has no choice in purchasing

4 – The product offers better value than the preceeding product

Considering item 1, if a game only works on a Playstation 3 (PS3) because of architectural issues, copies will also only work on a PS3. Since the vast majority of people don’t understand how microprocessors work, the lack of PS3 emulators on the market, or PS3 clones that are able to run PS3 games, is mistaken for effective TPM/DRM.

For an explanation why this is so, while I cannot claim to be the world’s greatest expert, I do have some experience of programming in Assembly Language. Assembly Language is a mnemonic system to enable a programmer to work directly with the processor itself. While most current Microprocessor operating systems are written using ‘higher level’ languages, Assembly is often still used for the real basics. If you own a PC compatible computer you may see a ‘BIOS’ screen, the BIOS or ‘Basic Input Output System’ is usually written in Assembly. Assembly is also used in specialty applications, your Microwave oven controller may use it for example. Assembly is the most powerful way to program, however it’s also the most difficult. It requires an intimate understanding of how the processor works, and is processor specific. Most software today is written using higher level, easier to understand languages, which means that it is easier to make the software work on more than one system (for example the excellent Videolan Player is available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OSX, GNU/Linux, and a wide variety of other operating systems, used on a wide variety of processors).

When you run an assembly language program through the Assembler, which is the program that turns Assembly Language into the appropriate sets of ONES and ZEROS for your processor (seriously – that is all that is in any program, a lot of ONES and ZEROS), you end up with a an executable file. Since each type of processor uses a different variation on Assembly Language, and has different features, an executable file designed to run on a Cell processor will not run on an X86 processor. Also porting an Assembly Language program from one computer to another is a difficult task, because of the differences between processors.

By comparison, the Java language was specifically designed to be capable of running on a wide range of microprocessors, running a wide range of operating systems. This means a programmer using Java can target a far wider range of customers than a programmer using Assembly Language, however the Java programmer will not be able to work as closely with the processor. Each language has advantages for certain situations.

Since the PS3 uses a modified IBM CELL processor, and your desktop computer probably uses some variation on an X86 processor (for example my laptop has an Intel Core 2 Duo), the two processors do not use the same Assembly Language, and what will run on one won’t run on the other. At least not without a lot of work, and usually a super powerful processor. You can use an emulator if you have a powerful enough processor, for example the VICE emulator for the antique Commodore C64 computer. But as I said, this requires a lot of processing power. The C64 computer ran at 1 mhz, and for VICE to emulate it well the required system is a Pentium 2 computer running at 333 mhz (call it 333 times as fast – it’s actually somewhat faster than that) or something more powerful.

Therefore to emulate the powerful Cell Processor based PS3 using an X86 processor based system, would take a very powerful computer, more powerful than anything available on the market at the present time. Seriously. The Cell Processor in the PS3 is a really powerful computer chip. There was actually one super-computer built using PS3 systems. Because of that there are no emulators currently available.

Since other systems are unable to run PS3 games at the present time, it appears to the uneducated that the PS3 TPM/DRM works reasonably well. You don’t expect to be able to play a PS3 game on your Mac or PC after all, so it’s not an inconvenience to not be able to do so.

Considering item 2, Digital Video Discs (DVDs) are protected by the Content Scramble System (CSS). The Content Scramble System is an example of an ineffective TPM/DRM. It was first broken in 1999, and later broken using brute force methods (DVD-CSS uses a 40 bit encryption key. Using a brute force approach a modern computer with a dual core processor can break the encryption by tossing numbers at it in seconds).

This means that DVDs can be played on almost any platform, irregardless of whether there is a legal player available. Programs such as Handbrake can be used so that you can shift video from a DVD to your computer hard drive for conveniences sake (for example if you need to travel, and do not want to carry your valuable DVD collection with you.

Breaking the TPM/DRM on a DVD is a trivial act. There are so many illegal software packages (at least they are illegal in the United States) that finding one takes very little effort. Also both Microsoft and Apple have licensed DVD-CSS, so any Apple computer with a DVD drive, or any PC running Microsoft Windows with a DVD drive, can play a DVD. And there are hundreds of brands of DVD player. Some game machines can also play DVDs, such as the Sony Playstation 2 and Playstation 3 (our first DVD player was a Playstation 2, which we still have), the Microsoft X-Box 360. We have three stand alone DVD players, a Playstation 3 console, two Playstation 2 consoles, seven laptops, and four desktop computers in our house, all of which have the capability to play DVDs. I generally don’t use my MacBook to play DVDs, I prefer using our upscaling DVD player and large flat screen TV (it’s easier on my eyes), but my wife and daughter both regularly watch DVDs on their MacBooks.

Because of the ability to use DVDs on so many different pieces of hardware, and of course the fact that it is so trivial to break the protection, many people aren’t even aware that there is any TPM/DRM system in use on DVDs. This makes DVDs very valuable, because of the ability to enjoy your favorite movie or TV show anywhere, anytime, including sitting on a park bench, or on an airplane.

Another example is the Fairplay DRM Apple developed for use in their ITunes music store. The Fairplay system allowed you to keep copies of your music on more than one computer, or on your IPod music player. It also allowed you to burn your music to a writable Compact Disc (CD). Since Compact Discs don’t use TPM/DRM, you could then ‘rip’ your Compact Disc, and end up with music which had the TPM/DRM stripped out.

Attempts by other companies to sell music using the Windows Media DRM system failed, because of the excessive restrictions imposed by the record labels. Consumers quickly learned that buying from Apple was a painless and pleasant experience, while buying from a store which used the Windows Media DRM meant that you got music which you couldn’t enjoy when you wanted to, where you wanted to, and sales of music which used the Windows Media DRM tanked.

Considering item 3, say for example if you owned a grocery store, and the next nearest grocery store was fifty miles away. Under those circumstances it would be far more expensive for your customers to go elsewhere. If you were charging $4.00 for a five pound bag of sugar, and your distant competition was charging $3.00 per bag, by buying from you the customer is seeing a significant cost saving, as it would cost your customers a lot more than $1.00 for fuel to visit your competitor (never mind how much time they would save).

However if your customer needed to visit the area where your competitor’s store is, say to visit relatives, it would make sense for them to visit your competitor, and buy sugar there, since they have already used the resources to get there. So TPM/DRM can appear to work when the customer has no choice about where to buy.

Of course entertainment isn’t like food. Food is a necessity of life, entertainment is nice, but you can do without it, or create your own, so there are no examples that I know of where TPM/DRM has worked because the consumer had option but to buy.

Considering Item 4, TPM/DRM can also appear to work when the new form offers significant advantages over the older form. When you compare VHS tapes to DVDs, DVDs are smaller (easier to store), more robust (the electromagnetic tape used in VHS was fragile), and gave far better picture quality. What you lost was the ability to record, which apparently was not all that important to many people.

Oh, and you soon had the option of playing DVDs on more than just one platform. You couldn’t stick a VHS tape into your computer and play it, but you could use your computer to play a DVD. Because DVDs offered so many benefits, widespread adoption was extremely quick. If DVDs hadn’t have offered all of those benefits over VHS tapes, the changeover either wouldn’t have occurred, or would have taken far longer.

And of course DVDs are less expensive to manufacture than VHS tapes, which is why there is such a large selection of good quality entertainment (I picked up a DVD containing some absolutely wonderful Warner Brothers cartoons at the local drug store for $5.00 Canadian, which is a fantastic deal for something I will watch over and over again).

Why Doesn’t TPM/DRM really work?

In other cases TPM/DRM doesn’t work as intended, and there are specific reasons that this happens:

There’s three major reasons why TPM/DRM doesn’t work.

1) All types of TPM/DRM can be broken

2) Restrictions that inconvenience the consumer drive the consumer away

3) The competition offers a better alternative

Considering item 1, this is something that non-programmers have a real problem with. Because programming is a mystery to them, the idea that someone can modify things to make them work differently isn’t readily apparent. To a programmer, it’s as clear as day.

Let’s look at some examples. About seven or eight years ago I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I took a course in water color painting. When I walked in on the first night, I didn’t have a clue how to do anything with water colors. Oh, sure, I’d seen a lot them (I love used to love going to the Art Gallery of Ontario before my leg got really bad). But I didn’t understand how it worked. By the end of the course, eight weeks later, I was able to produce a half dozen paintings, with varying levels of skill. Sure, I’m no Bob Ross (Bob Ross used to do a TV show called ‘The Joy Of Painting), but they looked pretty good to me, and I had a great time learning how to do it.

It’s the same thing with programming. It’s really not that difficult to learn, though most people will never become super proficient at it (and my painting ability will never rival Vincent Van Gogh). Most people don’t know just how relatively simple programming is. Oh, if you are working on a huge project (say for example putting together Microsoft Windows) it can get really complex because of the shear size, but the basics are fairly simple. In fact programming is similar to making up a new recipe. You need certain things added, in a certain order, within a certain time to do certain things, and if you want to do something different, you may need to moves some things around, and possibly add or remove something else.

You can consider basic programming to be similar to the math that you learned in Primary School, while building a complete computer operating system would be closer to an engineer working out the stresses which your car undergoes when it hits a wall. But both start off with 1+1=2.

This is why there is such a huge push for anti-circumvention legislation, like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Many content distributors bought into the ‘TPM/DRM will prevent copying’ argument, and now that they’ve found that this isn’t true, they are panicking. To maximize profits they want to resell you everything you’ve ever bought, just like they were able to when the change over from Cassette Tapes to Compact Discs happened, or when the changeover from VHS Tapes to Digital Video Discs occurred. They would like to be able to charge you for moving your music from a Compact Disc to your IPod, or for streaming a video from one computer to another. They don’t understand that if they manage to do this, it will kill their sales. What is the use of buying something that you cannot use?

Considering item 2, what happens when you don’t treat a customer with care and attention? Easy, you end up with an upset customer. Say you needed to take a hotel room for the night, and it was infested with cockroaches. You’d probably complain to management. What if you ordered a steak medium rare, and it arrived well done? I’ve seen people walk out of restaurants when the food order was really wrong. Would you consider going back? Depends on how upset you are, and how badly you were treated.

What does this have to do with TPM/DRM? A lot. When Wal-Mart opened an online music store using Windows Media DRM, one of the problems that they had was that the TPM/DRM was so restrictive that it was driving the consumers nuts. Wal-Mart wasn’t supplying the customer what they wanted, which was music that they could listen to when they wanted to, where they wanted too, and their competitor Apple was.

Or think of the Blu-Ray copy protection system. If you don’t keep your Blu-Ray player connected to the internet, so that it can get the newest software updates, you can’t always play the newest movies. If you don’t have an internet connection, well, you have a problem.

And then of course there’s the problems with playing existing media, if a software update works in unexpected ways. There has been several instances when a software update made older Blu-Ray discs unplayable. While fixes were later issued, the inconvenience of being unable to watch what you want, when you want, frustrated a lot of consumers. After  all, that’s the whole reason for buying a Blu-Ray or DVD disk.

Considering item 3, with the wide adoption of large screen television sets, the DVD player manufacturers designed and started to manufacture and sell upscaling DVD players. These players took the standard DVD quality image, and made it cleaner and clearer on larger screens, for far less than the cost of a Blu-Ray player. Since DVDs are less expensive than Blu-Ray discs, and many people already had large libraries of DVDs, upscaling DVD players have sold really well. Oh, Blu-Ray players do provide a superior picture, but it’s not enough better to make the investment worthwhile.

The image quality with an upscaling DVD player is so good that with most smaller ‘large screen’ television sets, say those under fifty inches, it comes very close to matching Blu-Ray image quality. Remember that I said that DVDs were less expensive than Blu-Ray discs? I’ve started to see Blu-Ray titles in the bargain bins, while the same title in DVD is still selling at full price. At present Blu-Ray just doesn’t add enough value to out compete DVD. Not yet. Maybe not ever. The VHS to DVD switch over occurred relatively quickly. The DVD to Blu-Ray switch over appears to have stalled, and may never restart.

And of course they consider ‘pirated’ material as competition. Many companies claim that they can’t compete with piracy. Curiously Apple is able to do so, and does so very well. Apple has sold billions of music tracks, and will continue to sell billions of tracks, because they are giving the customer what they want, even though the customer could probably find the same material on a Torrent Site or on a Peer to Peer network.

Or consider Baen books. Baen is one of David Weber’s publishers, and every David Weber hardcover book from Baen comes with a compact disc, that contains electronic copies of all of David’s books published by Baen. The only restriction mentioned is that you are not free to sell the disc. According to the MPAA/RIAA/CRIA/BPI, etc. this is a suicidal business model, but Baen has been doing it for years, and David Weber regularly makes the New York Times bestseller list. Disclosure – while I’ve never meet David Weber, we know several people in common. I am a big fan of David’s books, and have bought every single book he has ever written, so yes, this is a plug. Go out and read some of his stuff, it’s damned good. Oh, and I have a stack of David Weber CDRom discs here 🙂

Again, it all comes down to value. Baen also has a Free Library, where you can download a wide range of books, written by many popular authors. This is valuable to readers who want to check out an author to see if they’ll like the authors books. It is valuable to Baen because if you know that you like what an author has written, you will buy more of his or her books.

Baen also often publishes the first five or six chapters of books online, before they are published. Again, this is valuable to readers, because they can check out the book, and see if it is going to be something they want to buy. A good example is Pat (P.C.) Hodgell. Pat has had a small but loyal following for years. When Pat moved to Baen, they talked to her about putting the first five chapters of Bound In Blood online, and she agreed. The result was that Bound in Blood sold out in record time! By putting the first five chapters online, Baen gave her much needed exposure. Disclosure – Pat is on my Live Journral friends list, she’s a really nice person, and I really enjoy her writing. I also recommend it to everyone who will listen. She is in the process of finishing another novel, which I can’t wait to read.

In closing, TPM/DRM partially work when they don’t inconvenience the consumer. I say partially, because any weak TPM/DRM is easily broken, in which case it is useless. Strong TPM/DRM doesn’t work. It causes too many problems for the consumer, and the consumer’s reaction is to walk away, and not come back. Therefore TPM/DRM isn’t the solution to low sales, it’s the cause. This may seem counter-intuitive, as after all, why would you buy something you could get for free?

Simple. It all comes down to value. Why would I want to buy something I don’t like? Easy, I don’t. And I get damned mad if someone tricks me into wasting money. I remember when I’ve been ripped off, and I avoid dealing with that company, or artist any more. TPM/DRM is a method of trying to force the customer to buy, no matter how bad the product is.

Good products that have TPM/DRM sell in spite of it. A good example being DVDs, sales of which really took off AFTER THE TPM/DRM WAS BROKEN. Assured that they could use their purchases as they wished, consumers have bought billions and billions of DVDs, helping to drive video production industry sales to record highs.

At the same time, Compact Disc sales have slumped. While Compact Discs do not use TPM/DRM, the current offerings from the RIAA member companies are so tepid, that they are driving customers away. The demise of the neighborhood record store, which the big labels contributed to, has also made finding good music even harder. The large box retailers like Best Buy and Wal-Mart stock only a limited selection, and their staffs are not well enough trained in what they are selling to help the customer find new artists (if you don’t believe me, go and check them out – it’s pretty sad). And of course the ease and convenience of the ITunes store, with it’s enormous selection, and it’s well designed recommendation software make shopping online far more satisfying than shopping in a big box store.

In short, the biggest problem facing the content distributors and artists at the present time isn’t piracy, it’s TPM/DRM. The promise of TPM/DRM has given the industry a false sense of security. They don’t see that the real problem is their product. Especially in a recession, consumers want and need value for their money. They can’t afford to buy twenty compact discs to find one that they like, and they won’t, but they’ll happily spend money on product that they enjoy. This is why when the third in the Toy Story franchise was recently released, it has done well in theaters, while things like Waterworld and Heaven’s Gate lost millions.

The way to increase sales is to provide your customer something of value. When the Japanese car manufacturers first started selling cars in North America, the North American companies didn’t take them seriously. The Japanese car companies delivered value to the consumer that the North American car companies were not willing to provide at the time, and captured a significant portion of the market. The same thing happened in the motorcycle industry, where the Japanese companies wiped out most of the North American and European manufacturers by providing a superior product at a great price.

The Entertainment Industry often claims that pirates think that everything should be free, and they’ve convinced a portion of the artists of this, which is wrong. To quote Mike Masnick from Techdirt.com:

Look, we all want content creators to get paid, we just think they should do it with smart business models, rather than by restricting content, pissing off fans and running to the government for greater protectionism.

Today the smart content creators, like the Tecno-Brega artists, are using a wider range of models to increase sales. Artists like Tom Smith (disclosure, I’ve known Tom for close to twenty years) use multiple methods of making sales. And they are making sales, and are doing BETTER THAN THEY EVER HAVE BEFORE.

One of the comments that James Moore made to me several months ago was that if  ‘artists didn’t want TPM/DRM applied to their works, they should deal with a different distributor who doesn’t use it.’ James conveniently ignored the issue of systems, like the Blu-Ray TPM/DRM where opt-out provisions were promised, but still have not been delivered. So how does this deliver the artist choice, and how does it deliver value to the consumer?

Meanwhile, sites like VODO deliver good value. I love Vodo. It has introduced me to some very talented creators, who I would never have heard of otherwise. Tonight I plan to sit down and watch ‘The Yes Men Fix The World.’ Yes, it’s a free download, and it looks really funny.


Wayne Borean

Wednesday September 1, 2010

Bill C-32 – The New Canadian Copyright Act

A copy of the act has been posted on Scribd and I’ve been attempting to read it, however the pain has been so bad tonight, that my concentration is totally shot, and I’ll admit that it’s not making a lot of sense. So instead of trying to write an article that will sound like I’m totally stoned (I am – the pain would be even worse otherwise) I’m going to point out some of the more important articles that I’ve seen, and leave the commentary until I can make some sense.

First we have Copyright Modernization Act – Backgrounder from the Government of Canada website.

Barry Sookman tweeted about this one – The Professor Has No Clothes – another attack piece by Chris Castle targeting Michael Geist. I left a comment here pointing out to Chris that he’s an idiot to attack Michael, that Michael is a moderate, and that I’m far more radical. I think that we shouldn’t ratify the WIPO Copyright Treaties, Michael thinks that we should. I believe that Digital Locks should be banned, Michael seems OK with them. So we’ll see if Chris approves my comment, I have a suspicion that he won’t.

Barry Sookman appears to be missing in action – only two tweets, and no posts since May 27, 2010.

Michael Geist has posted The Canadian Copyright Bill: Flawed But Fixable – since I haven’t read the entire bill yet I don’t know if I can agree, but I’ve disagreed with him a lot in the past. Quite frankly Michael’s too damned moderate for my tastes.

Ars Technica has an article – “Canadian DMCA” defends DRM, legalizes DVRs – which points out that Digital Locks over ride consumer rights. What they don’t consider is that Digital Locks also over ride artist rights.

Mike Masnick over at TechDirt is also covering this – Canadian DMCA Introduced; Digital Lock Provision Trumps Any And All User Rights – Mike’s a bit weird at time, but I think his title hits the mark.

As you may have gathered from my comments I’m a cynical old bastard, and don’t usually agree with anyone. But that’s me. As I said earlier, this isn’t a popularity contest (unlike politics).

Music on the other hand is a popularity contest – here’s a couple of out takes from an album that I’m engineering, they are under the same Creative Commons License that I use for my blog.


Wayne Borean

Wednesday June 2, 2010

PS: Here’s all of the tweets I saw on Bill C-32. The are in rough chronological order.

techdirt – Canadian DMCA Introduced; Digital Lock Provision Trumps Any And All User Rights http://dlvr.it/1P28h

mpjamesmoore – Canadian Film and Television Production Association: “We applaud the Government’s announcement today to bring about copyright reform.” 7 minutes ago via TweetDeck

mpjamesmoore – What he said RT @TonyClement MP If your phone contract expires & if it’s your phone, you CAN break the digital lock if you switch carriers 28 minutes ago via UberTwitter Retweeted by you

mpjamesmoore – Canadian Photographers Association: “We welcome the Government’s copyright reform.” 29 minutes ago via UberTwitter

TonyClement_MP – Okay tweeps. If your phone contract expires & if it’s your phone, you CAN break the digital lock if you switch carriers. #copyright 30 minutes ago via Twitterrific

TonyClement_MP – No bec damages would always be proportional RT @bettiol So technically if I burnt a CD of iTunes music for my car I could get a $5,000 fine. 32 minutes ago via Twitterrific

TonyClement_MP – Alas Ive no superpowers RT @scottfeschuk Important question: Will your new copyright legislation make the latest MGMT CD suck any less? 33 minutes ago via Twitterrific

TonyClement_MP – So long as no TPM RT @xentac @TonyClement_MP with BillC32 can I buy DVDs and rip them for my iTunes, so long as I don’t share? 44 minutes ago via Twitterrific

TonyClement_MP – Doin’ my best! RT @macdk3 Kudos to @TonyClement_MP for responding to questions from the twitterverse re: Bill C-32 #roft #cdnpoli about 1 hour ago via Twitterrific

TonyClement_MP – Correct. But that’s not ind practice RT @stewssr But not if they are digitally locked downRT @Sashgrrl can I still buy CD’s and rip them about 1 hour ago via Twitterrific

mpjamesmoore – (RT @ricktheis) Not sure ppl have got their heads around how huge & positive the proposed ‘education’ fair dealing exemption in Bill C32 is about 1 hour ago via web

mpjamesmoore – Canadian Chamber of Commerce: “The Copyright Modernization Act takes a balanced approach.” about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck

DanPagan – The full text of Bill #C32 is up online, thanks to @andrewmcintyre http://scr.bi/cdzVlb #copyright #cdnpoli #fixc32 about 4 hours ago via web Retweeted by piratepartyca and 10 others

JesseBrown – What a fantasyland, where digital locks are unhackable and somehow get artists paid, where industry never sues casual users…#copyright about 3 hours ago via web Retweeted by piratepartyca and 9 others

arstechnica – “Canadian DMCA” defends DRM, legalizes DVRs – http://arst.ch/kyx about 1 hour ago via Ping.fm Retweeted by you and 8 others

TonyClement_MP – Fairness in feedback: RT @dblohm7 Why can’t breaking a digital lock be legal if it is being broken for non-infringing purposes? about 2 hours ago via Twitterrific

TonyClement_MP – Bill C32 will allow this RT @dstamler @TonyClement_MP carriers should be required to unlock out-of-contract phones. about 2 hours ago via Twitterrific

TonyClement_MP – RT @JimiSuperstar Great interview. I am a Liberal but think you’re the best of the lot. Appreciated you honestly answering Evan’s questions. about 2 hours ago via Twitterrific

TonyClement_MP – Princess Di version #1 in 1997. Bazinga! RT @rjkuyvenhoven .@TonyClement_MP uh, “Candle In The Wind” is so-1973 about 2 hours ago via Twitterrific

mpjamesmoore – RT @MusicTechPolicy Canadian indies support new copyright legislation http://www.poten.com/NewsDetails.aspx?id=10422017 19 minutes ago about 2 hours ago via web

mpjamesmoore – Business Software Alliance: “We commend the government for modernizing Canada’s copyright laws for the digital age.” about 2 hours ago via UberTwitter

TonyClement_MP – About to go live on CBC Power and Politics. #copyright about 2 hours ago via Twitterrific

TonyClement_MP – Tweeps: thanks for all the initial feedback, both +ve & -ve, on Bill C-32. Looking fwd to getting the best Bill possible! #copyright about 2 hours ago via Twitterrific

mpjamesmoore – Canadian Independent Music Assn: “We are pleased that the govt not only has recognized the need for copyright reform, but is taking action.” about 2 hours ago via UberTwitter

mpjamesmoore – Canadian Recording Industry Assn: “Canada’s independent record labels & the artists they represent thank the govt for this legislation.” about 2 hours ago via UberTwitter

TonyClement_MP – Tweeps I cannot avoid this: “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was so-1976. Should’ve said “Candle In The Wind”. Sorry! #copyright about 2 hours ago via Twitterrific
DanPagan – Here we goes – Reading: Profs slam new copyright restrictions: http://www.caut.ca/pages.asp?page=894 #cdnpoli #cdnpse (via @dalegkirby)

mpjamesmoore – Je suis en ondes au 98,5FM a Montreal avec Mario Dumont en ce moment parlant de droit d’auteur about 2 hours ago via UberTwitter

mpjamesmoore – Canadian Federation of Students: 1st read looks good for students. New fair dealing exemption for ‘education’ (@RickTheis) about 2 hours ago via UberTwitter

mpjamesmoore – Oui, c’est vrai! La Presse Canadienne: Les Canadiens pourront continuer d’enregistrer leurs oeuvres preferees about 3 hours ago via UberTwitter

mpjamesmoore – Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network: “New copyright legislation is long overdue. We strongly urge MPs to pass this legislation.” about 3 hours ago via UberTwitter

mpjamesmoore – Very important RT @WGCtweet Getting the ‘not DMCA’ speech now from @mpjamesmoore – definitely important distinctions about 3 hours ago via UberTwitter

mpjamesmoore – Entertainment Software Association of Canada: “The Government’s copyright legislation is good public policy & is essential to our economy.” about 3 hours ago via UberTwitter

mpjamesmoore – Entertainment Software Association of Canada: “This bill is critical to the success of Canada’s digital economy.” about 3 hours ago via UberTwitter

USPirateParty – Just so that everyone’s apprised on intnat’l matters, Canada is overhauling their #copyright law, labeled as #DMCA 2.0 – follow #fixc32 ^GK about 3 hours ago via HootSuite

mpjamesmoore – Canadian Film and Television Production Association: “We applaud the Government’s copyright reform.” about 3 hours ago via UberTwitter

michaelgeist – Get active on copyright: join Fair Copyright for Canada FB Group http://bit.ly/8X8j3e & Page http://bit.ly/9Er2p0 #fixc32 about 3 hours ago via HootSuite

michaelgeist – Speak out on Copyright relaunched for new bill – info on bill & getting active http://SpeakOutOnCopyright.ca #fixc32 about 4 hours ago via HootSuite

michaelgeist – Distance learning, education & library exceptions return – with digital lock restrictions. #fixc32 http://bit.ly/aTYESy about 4 hours ago via HootSuite

michaelgeist – Statutory damages reform: lower liability range for non-commercial infringement ($100-5K). #fixc32 http://bit.ly/aTYESy about 4 hours ago via HootSuite

michaelgeist – New “YouTube” exception: no liability for non-commercial user-gen vids #fixc32 http://bit.ly/aTYESy about 4 hours ago via HootSuite

michaelgeist – New print disability exception to facilitate export of special format books. #fixc32 http://bit.ly/aTYESy about 4 hours ago via HootSuite

michaelgeist – New liability for Torrent sites that know site designed for infringement. #fixc32 http://bit.ly/aTYESy about 4 hours ago via HootSuite

michaelgeist – Mandatory review of the Copyright Act every five years. #fixc32 http://bit.ly/aTYESy about 4 hours ago via HootSuite

michaelgeist – ISP liability – Gov’t smartly sticks with notice-and-notice approach. #fixc32 http://bit.ly/aTYESy about 4 hours ago via HootSuite

ccercanada – Right on cue @mpjamesmoore has begun tweeting out quotes from lobby groups praising #copyright Bill C-32. http://bit.ly/bF7UiC #fixc32

bsookman – Backgrounder to the new copyright Bill at http://ow.ly/1TfQT about 4 hours ago via HootSuite

mpjamesmoore – Here we go about 4 hours ago via UberTwitter

bsookman – The Professor Has No Clothes http://ow.ly/1TeJQ about 5 hours ago via HootSuite

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Enemy Or Why VP8 Is Important Even If It Came From Google

Microsoft. Google. Apple. And on and on. Large corporations dedicated to profit.

There’s nothing wrong with making a profit. The issue is how you make it. That’s why Microsoft underwent an anti-trust trial, which cost the company dearly. There are legal requirements that businesses act ethically. These requirements aren’t always enforced evenly by the regulatory agencies, but they do exist. And companies continue to breach the regulations. In some cases it’s more profitable to do so and pay the fines. In some cases they are able to hide the breaches, and no one outside of the company learns about them (which is why some jurisdictions have Whistleblower laws which protect employees who report corporate wrongdoing).

I know a fair bit about how companies can work near the edge of legality, and over it. While I’ve never worked for a company that did this sort of thing, I’ve seen a lot of companies playing games with the law. One thing that I can state categorically, is that any company which does not work ethically  is not acting in the best interests of their customers, or their owners. It is possible to increase short-term profits by unethical actions, but there will always be long-term damage from these actions to the corporation, which will drive down shareholder value, ruin the corporate brand, and kill customer loyalty.

The Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America are a good example of how not to treat your customers. In a recent joint letter addressed to Victoria Espinel, the United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, the MPAA and the RIAA argued that all computers be required to scan themselves for ‘infringing content’ and remove any found. They don’t mention what they would do if something went wrong, and the scanning system deleted all of your pictures and home movies. They don’t care.

They also don’t mention that this would make running any operating system other than those supplied by Microsoft and Apple illegal. They don’t mention that it would need a more powerful processor, or that it would use more electrical power. No. They just want to treat all of their customers as criminals. This is not ethical behavior.

Then we have Google. If you use Google, it tracks you. It is possible to limit Google’s tracking ability by taking certain actions by setting your browser to remove all cookies when it closes, but this has major disadvantages.

Google follows you. Everywhere. It doesn’t matter what you are looking for. Google will find it for you, and keep records. Google claims the records are anonymized, however since we don’t know how Google does this, we don’t know that they are doing it properly. There was a case several years ago where AOL posted some supposedly anonymized information, and it was proven that the information wasn’t anonymized enough, and that it was possible to back track from the information to find the person who made the search. Bing, Microsoft’s ‘Decision Engine’ does the same thing.

And this is why the ‘Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Enemy’.

We, the consumers, are in a war. A war we didn’t want. A war over us. All of the companies named make the proper noises about how the customer comes first. In some cases (Apple for instance) they’ve built a reputation for serving the customer, while at the same time knifing the customer in the back (read your ITunes agreement – carefully – you’ll freak).

There are times though when the war does the consumer some good. Consider Adobe’s Flash – yes it works – kind of. Quite frankly it’s a terrible piece of junk in many ways, but it does allow you to watch video online. And then there’s Microsoft’s Silverlight. It’s worse than Flash. The consumer has the choice between bad and worse. This isn’t what capitalism and competition are about. Which is why HTML5 and the Google VP8 codec are so important, even though the codec comes from Google. Since Google has open sourced the code behind the VP8 codec, this means that anyone can make improvements. While there have been complaints about Google’s code quality, it will improve rapidly, giving the world a vastly improved video experience online.

This does not make Google our friend. Google didn’t do this for the consumer. Google did this for Google. The largest user of Flash video is this small site called YouTube, which Google owns. That Google’s actions will do the consumers good is a byproduct of Google trying to make money. Google doesn’t really care about the consumer, it only cares about Google.

There’s been a lot of articles about VP8, from a variety of publishers. You can find them here, here, here, etc. Some of the most important ones Dr. Roy at Techrights wrote. Dr. Roy has my utmost thanks for all the research time he saved me.

But everyone is missing something. What if VP8 becomes the de facto standard? Remember that VP8 is an open standard. Totally open. This means that adding DRM to it will be difficult, if not impossible. So VP8 kills off Windows Media Video (WMV) and Quicktime as a video standards, just like MP3 killed off Windows Media Audio (WMA) and Quicktime as audio standards. Remember that one of the reasons that Microsoft and Apple fought MP3 was because MP3 weren’t compatible with DRM, and the Frauhoffer Institute controlled the specification. Now we have the same situation with VP8, and we already know that Steve Jobs is panicking. You have to ask yourself why…

Simple – VP8 will destroy the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, ACTA, the new Canadian Copyright Act, the WIPO copyright treaties, and every other law which attempts to protect DRM. The ripping noise you hear is Hollywood tearing its hair out in clumps.

And now you know why the patent trolls at MPEG.LA are trying to sidetrack VP8 adoption. Which still doesn’t make Google our friend. Remember that.


Wayne Borean

Friday May 28, 2010

Nina Paley Has A Wonderful Cartoon About DRM I'd Like To Share With You Thanks To Her Permission

The wonderful and talented cartoonist and filmmaker Nina Paley has a gorgeous new cartoon on DRM.

DRM Bugs
Nina Paley's DRM Bugs

Nina said about this cartoon ‘Actually, these bugs aren’t all DRM – they’re generally about privacy, “spying.” That’s why there’s a Facebook bug too.’

Nina isn’t a programmer though, and she didn’t realize that one of the issues with DRM is that it opens a computer system to added exploits. I am a programmer, so that’s what I saw. I totally missed the Facebook bug, until she pointed it out (my wife will tell you that this is because I am a man – I prefer to say that I notice what I’m interested in – and these days all too often its DRM).

An exploit may not be a bug, though it often is, and a bug may not enable an exploit – consider a bug which causes the operating system to crash. Such a bug may not allow for an exploit. Sometimes features allow for exploits, a good example being Microsoft’s ActiveX Controls. Microsoft designed the Active X system so that it was capable of accessing many internal operating system features, and so that they executed automatically. Active X controls could be used for legitimate reasons, but they could also be used to install malicious software without the user’s knowledge, and this is why later versions of Internet Explorer shipped with added security features which limited the actions that an Active X control could take.

Why does DRM open a system to added exploits? Because there are more lines of code, and more possibility of error. If you do a search on Google for the term ‘bugs per line of code‘ you’ll find 10,800,000 results! Programmers know that this is a serious issue. For every extra thousand lines of code, there will be more errors. Programmers aim for zero bugs, however it is impossible in a large, complex program like an operating system to achieve this, as there may be interrelationships that do not show up until after the product is shipped. The increasing complexity caused by Graphical User Interfaces, Networking, Web Browsers, Email Clients, etc. while useful from a user viewpoint, adds further points of attack. In cases where the various programs are tightly interrelated the problems will be worse, as an exploit in the email client may also allow the attack to work in the web browser (the Microsoft Outlook email client uses the Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser to render HTML, which means an attack on your web browser could be sent to you as an email message). Other operating systems do not have this problem, in Mac OSX the Mail application has its own internal HTML rendering engine. While it uses the same Webkit engine used in Safari, it does not call Safari. The same is true of the Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email client. Both use the Gecko rendering engine, but they do not call each other, which limits the effects of any exploit.

In my earlier article, Digital Right Management and/or Technical Protection Measures Cause Climate Change, from May 11/2010, I covered how added lines of code could use more CPU cycles, and especially how in Windows Vista and Windows 7 the DRM sub-system is running all the time. In addition to costing extra electrical power to run, the constantly operating DRM sub-system is constantly open to attack (for a good explanation from Microsoft on how parts of the DRM system work click here). A good example is the Macrovision bug that Microsoft built into the Windows XP kernel. A computer user might never play the games that the DRM system was designed for, but the driver ran from start-up with administrator privileges. Even worse, Microsoft somehow included this driver in Windows 2003 server – remember this is a video game DRM driver. Servers aren’t used to play games!

Academics have become very interested in DRM Systems and their exploits, the University of Kentucky has published articles, the Eindhoven University of Technology has published articles, the Helsinki University of Technology has published articles, as have many more.

Note that this is a Microsoft Windows problem. Apple’s Mac OSX has many of the same features that Windows Vista and Windows 7 have, but very few of the problems. Mac OS X uses a Unix based system architecture, and a different design criteria (Apple does not design for tight integration of operating system software components, which is one of the biggest weaknesses of Microsoft Windows). Linux, BSD, and Solaris kernel based operating systems such as Ubuntu, Moon OS, Mandriva, Fedora, et al are even more secure than Mac OSX.

The problem is that between 80 and 90% of the worlds computers run Microsoft operating systems, despite the well-known faults of Windows. Combine a weak DRM system with ubiquity and you have a computing disaster. I’m surprised that someone hasn’t filed a class action lawsuit against Microsoft in the United States to attempt to force the company to fix Windows.


Wayne Borean

Thursday May 20, 2010

PS: I highly recommend Nina’s movie ‘Sita Sings the Blues‘, if you haven’t seen it, download it and watch it. It’s a fantastic work of art, which Nina released using the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License.

Canadian Copyright Reform Anno Domini 2010

Dear Ministers,

In the summer of 2009 the Government of Canada held public consultations on copyright and Canadians engaged in those consultations at unprecedented levels.  Unfortunately, as I predicted in this article:


it appears that the government of Canada intends to ignore the feedback it received from the citizens of Canada.

You have, at this time, a choice. You can either back the artists who produce the works that the Copyright Act covers, or you can support the distributors of those works. Despite what the distributors claim, they do not represent the artists, in fact their interests are inimical to the interests of the artists. If you choose to support the distributors instead of the artists, you will cause untold damage to Canadian culture.

I argued in my submission that ownership of a copyrighted work should not be salable, with the only legal method of transfer of ownership to be inheritance. If the distributors, such as the record companies, really have the best interest of the artists in mind, they should not hesitate to agree with this. Since they do not have the best interests of the artists in mind, they will not agree.

Also it would be in the best interest of the Canadian people for Digital Rights Management/Technical Protection Measures to be made illegal, as per the arguments made in my blog posting here:


Those who argue for use the Digital Rights Management/Technical Protection Measures show no interest in the damage to our ecology that carbon emissions are causing.

In closing, there is no need for Canada to adopt the WIPO Copyright treaties. Back on December 23rd of 2009 I posted a response to an article written by Doctor Mihaly Ficsor which was posted on Barry Sookman’s website:


In it I asked Doctor Ficsor to explain what advantages adopting the WIPO Copyright Treaties would bring to the citizens of Canada. As of Tuesday May 18, 2010, I still have not received any answer. The obvious conclusion is that there is no reason for Canada to adopt the Treaties, as there are no advantages to the citizens of Canada.

While Doctor Ficsor claims that many countries have adopted the WIPO Copyright Treaties, a reading of the plain language of the Treaties indicates that implementations of the the English speaking countries have all been incorrect. The Treaty language states in Article 11:

Contracting Parties shall provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against the circumvention of effective technological measures that are used by AUTHORS in connection with the exercise of their rights under this Treaty or the Berne Convention and that restrict acts, in respect of their works, which are not authorized by the authors concerned or permitted by law.


Note the word ‘AUTHORS.’ In the United States the Digital Millennium Copyright Act does not retain this measure for Authors alone, as the plain language of the Treaty requires. The language used by the European Union has a similar defect.

All of the above needs to be carefully considered, before any legislation is introduced.

In closing, I am sending this from the website of the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights. I am doing this in response to the ridiculous article written by lawyer Richard Owens, which I responded to here:


to make the point that no matter what method a Canadian uses to make his or her opinion known, that the citizen’s opinion must be counted.


Wayne Borean

Tuesday May 18, 2010

If you wish to use the CCER website to send in your own letter it is here.