19.6.13

DRM hopefully to be fixed in Portugal

DRM bills being discussed, with a physical DRM'd book
sent by
ANSOL serving as an argument
2001's European Directive 2001/29/EC says that member states must legally protect DRM measures, making it illegal to circunvent them. But it also states that they must ensure that it doesn't prevent uses permitted thanks to copyright exceptions (for instance private copy).

The transposition of that directive to the Portuguese Law (CDADC) was made in 2004, but the way that CDADC ensures that copyright exceptions is protected doesn't work. CDADC states that you can't circunvent DRM, but since you must be able to exercise the copyright exceptions, it states that in those cases you have to request the means to achieve your objective to IGAC (a state administration service). The problem is that if you request those means to IGAC, they won't hand them over to you because they don't have it.

Well, that is now going to change. Two Portuguese parties submitted to the Parliament a couple of bills with the same basic objective: to change CDADC, changing the way the law ensures the right to copyright exceptions by simply stating that if the DRM in question prevents any of those exceptions from being exercised, then you can circunvent them in order to exercise them. Simple and effective, right?
These two bills were debated in the parliament, and then approved in generality. Now they follow it's natural path, to a comission that will merge both bills and do amendments (amendments that will not change the essence of the bills, I hope), and the final text will be again voted in the Parliament, who can turn it into Law, finally giving back users the rights that were taken from them nine years ago.

Timeline:



  • 2001 - 2011/29/EC EU directive is published
  • 2004 - EU directive is transposed to Portuguese Law
  • 2013-06-12 - general discussion about two bills aiming to fix the Law
  • 2013-06-14 - both bills approved in general
  • 2013-06-26 (10:00) - Comission meeting scheduled to discussion and vote of both bills in speciality
  • 21.3.13

    DRM in HTML5

    Stop the Hollyweb! No DRM in HTML5.

    Many people have doubts regarding how can possibly be an issue of having DRM on HTML, the foundation language of the entire web. One person in particular had the doubt of "how can it be possible that DRM (closed by its nature) is inserted into a standard?"

    I have replied to her about it (in Portuguese), but I think that, with some adaptations and a translation, this text might also have a wider use for those of you trying to understand HTML, standards and DRM. Oh, and don't forget, click on the image in the right to sign a petition against DRM on HTML.

    The "short answer"

    You should attend to the Document Freedom Day 2013 celebration event nearer to you: they're happening starting today until April all around the world. There, I'm sure, there will be people knowing and willing to explain to you any questions regarding open standards in general and the "DRM in HTML" issue in particular.

    The "long answer"

    A standard should be considered open if it complies with a number of requisites. Here's the list (taken from this page, that explains each point better):

    An Open Standard refers to a format or protocol that is:

    • Subject to full public assessment and use without constraints in a manner equally available to all parties;
    • Without any components or extensions that have dependencies on formats or protocols that do not meet the definition of an Open Standard themselves;
    • Free from legal or technical clauses that limit its utilisation by any party or in any business model;
    • Managed and further developed independently of any single supplier in a process open to the equal participation of competitors and third parties;
    • Available in multiple complete implementations by competing suppliers, or as a complete implementation equally available to all parties.
    Unfortunately not every format is an open standard, or, in other words, doesn't comply with the previous points. If the proposal to have DRM on HTML5 is accepted, HTML will stop being an open standard, since it will stop complying with the second requirement of the list.

    In more detail: the proposal on the table is called EME (Encrypted Media Extensions). An HTML document can include EMEs, and the specification of EME enables the website to require a certain "Content Decryption Module" (CDM). And here lies the problem: CDMs aren't standards (much less open standards!) and the EME specification doesn't include or refer to any specification of any CDM. In other words: the definition of open standard we just saw isn't complied, because to implement HTML5 we have to implement EME, which has to accept any CDM, which isn't a standard and so we cannot implement.

    In other words, with an example: I make a website, and put there a media object (video, for instance) using EME, and I specify in the HTML document that the EME object needs the CDM module (which is a form of DRM) called "OneTwoThree". Now, if you want to see that website, you need a web browser that knows how to undertand HTML5 and EME (both possible since there's the specification), and the browser then needs to get the CDM called "OneTwoThree" (imagine it as being a browser plugin, not unlike Flash) and use it to play the video. The problems are obvious now: what if the CDM only exists for one specific Operating System? What if the CDM isn't free? You know... the thypical problems of a non-open standard format.

    2.2.13

    Life in 140 characters

    At home with thousands of records, thousands of books, hundreds of DVDs, and still being accused of "stealing" on twitter, just because I have the same understanding than the Portuguese Republic's Attorney General of the Portuguese law. Next time you see me whining about how frustrating is to try having conversations 140 characters at a time, remember this blog post.

    My top 10 of books read in 2012

    Like I did for 2011, here is my blog post about the best ten books I've read in 2012. But first, the same disclaimer I did last year:
    Unlike with music, and unfortunately, my "books consumption" isn't that high in the last few years, and 2011 was terrible in that aspect: I only read 35 books in the whole year. So, instead of doing a "Top ten of 2011 books" like I did for music, I'm doing a "top 10 of books I've read in 2011".
    The difference here is: in 2012 I've behaved even worse, and have only read 19 books :-( Anyway, here's the list (in no particular order):

    The "Piracy Is Liberation" saga continues, and I continue as hooked at it as before. As I said last year,
    Piracy Is Liberation is a dystopia, sometime in the future, where people live in "the city" and capitalism is the mandatory religion. Instead of explaining it to you, I'll point you to the torrent for the first book (Deicide is number 9) - uploaded and spreaded by the author himself.
    So, this year I've read number 10, "Hypertext Consciousness", which is the best book of the saga so far. Book 11 is out now already and I've had the pleasure of buying it from the artist himself at the latest Feira Laica, but still didn't manage to read it...

    The other author that visited one year later was Neal Stephenson. Once again recalling what I've said in the past,
    If you know me, you know that, on my scale, Neal Stephenson is the best writer EVER. [...] Every Neal Stephenson's book was mind blowing to me - you read each of those books and they actually and visibly change you.
    So, this year we have two from him - yay! - "Some Remarks", a very nice-to-read but completely different book from him, since it is an anthology/collection of texts he've written on the most various subjects along the years, and then "Mongoliad - Book 1", which is the first of a series on the "Foreworld" universe that has been constructed by a number of authors, including Neal Stephenson. The Mongoliad books have participation from Neal Stephenson (I've read in an interview to him somewhere that more or less 20% of the text of the first book has his pen), but not every Foreworld media (books included) will have. Anyway, reading Mongoliad book 1 made me want to be a follower of the Foreworld universe, even if I was quite disconcerted about the way the publisher deals with its fans. Let me explain: against all "common rules" in book publishing, Mongoliad's books 1 and 2 had their hardcover edition published after the paperback edition (book 3 have the same release date for both hardcover and paperback). What's so wrong about this (besides the obvious penalization to those fans that are willing to pay more for the limited edition, that will have the chance to start reading the book only later than the others) is that there are three short stories that are only available (on paper, free of DRM) on this editions. Not only that, but worse: all this was only announced after the release date of the first book, meaning that me, amongst many others that bought the (paperback) book on pre-order or in the release date, found themselves in posession of the incomplete edition, being forced to buy the book again (another edition, of course) to be able to read the short story.

    But enough of venting about publishers that should know better, let's talk about the rest - and the rest is SciFi... or about it.

    You might have heard of "The Hunger Games", and, well, I was sucked into it. After seeing it on the theater (which was actually an accident, we went to see "something" and this was what turned out to be ;-)), we bought the trilogy and read it, three in a row. Not extremely clever or even original, this saga is quite welcome, specially since this kind of themes do not reach mainstream as often as I'd like to...

    The British Library has an exhibition about SciFi called "Out Of This World: Science Fiction but not as you know it", and I blame myself for not knowing about it before and travelling to UK just to see it. Anyway, they did an excellent job of summing it up in a book, which is undoubtedly the best book I've ever read about SciFi, and I encourage everyone to grab a copy and read it. Most importantly, if I had to choose "you can only either see the expo or read the book", I'm sure I would prefer the book, so I'm quite happy :-)

    The rest: