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Wednesday, August 4 2010

DRM and Other Forces Overriding the Three Laws of Robotics

DRM TV controls you Renowned Sci-Fi writer Isaac Asimov had the foresight to propose the Three Laws of Robotics more than half a centry ago. Is Homo Sapiens of the 21st century as a species wise enough to heed his advice and avoid our self-destruction by disobedient Robo Sapiens whose ancestors we are building today?

Globally, consumer rights and even human rights are eroding as some vendors infect their consumer electronics with Digital Restrictions Management mechanisms and as DMCA -- the law that tries to protect DRM -- is being secretly negotiated by a few strong countries and to be forced upon the rest of the world as treaties (ACTA 1, 2). These strong forces are overriding the three laws of robotics (if there ever will be at all) with something else.

As Asimov pictures it, a robot should give highest priority to (L1) protecting human beings (L2) obeying human orders (L3) protecting itself, in that order, above anything else. Any robot in Asimov's Sci-Fi is equipped with a positronic brain that will go nuts, so to speak, if it ever breaks these laws. This is to a society heavily dependent on robots what a fuse is to an electronic device. Imagine the threat one faces living in a world full of robots without these laws.

Except that you really don't have to imagine. We are living in such a world.

What Asimov didn't foresee was that the robots are eventually controlled by software rather than positronic circuits. That small departure of his prediction from what really happened later unfortunately blinds the majority of the computer science professionals (a population likely to enjoy Asimov's Sci-Fi, by the way).

First let's get law-breaking malware out of the way. Conceivably there will always be some people breaking (general) laws by creating bad robots, whether or not the society demands the three laws of robotics as part of the general law. What we are really interested in are the robots that are produced and operated conforming to the legal rules of the society.

Now consider a few examples of existing software violating the third and second laws of robotics. Suicidal software destroying itself with time bomb is a violation of (L3), and likely a violation of (L2), too. DRM is clearly a violation of (L2). Also search "viodentia fairuse4wm" or "kindle 1984" for some cases of software disobeying human orders.

Next, let's switch to Sci-Fi mode for a moment and consider what might happen in a few decades from now. Suppose your grandson buys a medical care robot to take care of your cardiac pacing problem by watching and adjusting some implanting medical device. You feel worse after the robot starts taking care of you, and suspect that the robot is not working correctly. You have even heard of instances of death possibly related to this model of robot.

Or suppose that the nursing house where you live buys a medical care robot to perform regular physical therapy for or even operations on its inhabitants. A new and safer way of performing these functions has been spreading on the internet, and all of your housemates including you are eager to adopt it.

In either case, your grandson finds a capable robot expert to examine the robot and make modifications to its positronic brain or to its software or to whatever, so as to remove its deficiency and/or improve its service, hence your life quality, or even to save you from "death by buggy code". The expert asks the robot to expose and explain its circuit/software design, and to help the expert examine and upgrade its circuit/software.

In response, a robot in Asimov's world would undoubtedly comply (maybe after verifying the expert's claimed profession) according to (L1) and (L2). But what would a robot in our present world do? You know, our real world, whose inhabitants are largely ignorant of the three laws of robotics and, simultaneously, have largely been brain washed by the intellectually "property" propaganda, the world in which the intellectually "property" right is about to override the physical property right. Is the robot more likely to comply, or is it more likely to refuse to cooperate, citing protection of copyright as the highest priority (L0), destroying itself and sending DMCA notices as it is being forcefully shut down by the expert, and willfully defying (L1), (L2), and (L3) all at once?

And all this is not that far fetched. Medtronic's Implantable Medical Devices would do that if it could. Sony's robotic dog Aibo would do that if it could. And it doesn't matter that they can never possibly do it perfectly thru technological means. The manufacturers may very well (or did already) invoke the all mighty DMCA to cover up its bad technical choices that ignore the Kerckhoffs' principle regarding computer security. (In non-technical terms, in Chinese, in a mathematical metaphor "squaring the circle" or in picture as shown to the right).

We are living in a world where Asimov's proposed Three Laws of Robotics are not only ignored and dismissed but in fact increasingly suppressed by problematic laws -- DMCA and ACTA. We are putting ourselves at the mercy of the robots whose defiant behaviors against us are protected by these laws.

Is there any chance to change the future for the better where our lives are increasingly dependent on various forms of defiant "robots"? I don't know how you interpret Asimov's Psychohistory, but to me, bringing the non-technical, non-computer-savvy general public into awareness of the imminent dangers is a feaible and important way to change the course of the future.

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. -- Issac Asimov

Maybe it's time to start writing and collecting Sci-Fi's on such topics as "Robots and DRM" or "Robots and Copyright". People may learn more about these dangers from stories happening in a future society, in a distant planet, or in an alternative universe, because:

It is the invariable lesson to humanity that distance in time, and in space as well, lends focus. It is not recorded, incidentally, that the lesson has ever been permanently learned. -- Issac Asimov, "Foundation and Empire" Chapter 13

Sunday, June 6 2010

Human Rights Eroding in the Name of Copyright Protection

(submitted to Taiwan Branch of The Association of World Citizens.)

Human rights are gradually eroding at several fronts as international interest groups lobby and pressure governments all over the globe to "protect copyright" using big-brother-like information and communication technologies (ICT).

Microsoft's WAT component for Windows 7 validates a user's computer, every 90 days, against its constantly updated database. The motivation looks innocent -- it's just a technical measure deployed against potential piracy. After all, people who respect Microsoft's copyright have no need to worry, right? Yet Microsoft's track record of disrespecting users' fair use right (g: "fairuse4wm controversy") and disrespecting users' will not to upgrade (g: "windows stealthy update") indeed provide reasons for us to be worried. Imagine that a world-wide government installs tiny robots at everybody's home, constantly watching for wrong-doings of your family. And the software of the robots can be remotely upgraded by the government whether you like it or not. If we can accept WAT, we can certainly also accept such invasion of human right and privacy by the government.

Apple's customers cannot exercise their rights over their own physical properties -- the iPhones for which they have paid Apple. Apple forbids its customers to install software programs other than those provided by Apple's iTunes App Store. (g: "eff jailbreak") Imagine buying a house and being forbidden to put any furniture into it except those explicitly allowed by the construction company. If we can accept Apple's control over its customers, we can certainly also accept such invasion of human right by the construction company.

Amazon's Kindle e-book has a piece of software that not only sends user's information back to Amazon but also sends Amazon's commands to Kindle whenever the user connects to its online bookstore WhisperNet. What commands have been sent? Instructions to delete books (with a corresponding refund), for example, in the name of Amazon's respect for the publisher's copyright. (g: "kindle Orwell") Imagine that the Big Brother collects everyone's reading habits and notes as well as deleting any books/articles/forwarded emails that he deems "ungood" and harmful to the society. If we can accept Kindle's remote removal of already-purchased books, we can certainly also accept such invasion of human right and privacy by the Big Brother. Speaking of Big Brother, the books deleted happen to be George Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farms".

The blu-ray discs employ a complicated but vulnerable DRM (digital rights/restrictions management) encryption system called AACS as a measure of copyright protection. A user who has lawfully bought such a disc and who uses a less popular operating system such as GNU/Linux will receive no supports as to how to play the disc on her system. So such users collaborate to help each other play blu-ray discs on their computers. When a user posted a 16-byte number beginning with "09 F9" on a news site Digg, the AACS Licensing Administrator demanded Digg to take it down. (g: "09 F9 controversy" also search for "09 F9" images) Imagine that a publisher sells you books whose printed words are only readable when you wear their special glasses. You figure out how to bypass this restriction and share your knowledge on the internet, and then the publisher harasses you and the internet forum with legal threats. If we can accept AACS LA's censorship of such a short number, we can certainly also accept such censorship of speech by the publisher.

Can we accept all of this? We already do, even happily paying for the privilege of possessing these beautiful golden handcuffs and diamond leg irons. The Universities are largely silent about these incidents and the damages to human rights that they bring. They have left the education business to the creators of these technologies, and the latter have, through advertisement and propaganda, focused on teaching consumers about the enjoyable aspects of these technologies while leaving out the inconvenient aspects about their conflict with human rights.

drm 'security' model In fact the majority of the ICT professors may have even given up their academic integrity by remaining silent to the DRM scam artists' global-scale endeavors. In a normal security model, the information flowing from A to B is assumed to be exposed to the interception of eavesdroppers. An important rule "Kerckhoffs' principle" states that a cryptosystem should be secure even if everything about the system, except the key, is public knowledge. Yet the DRM "security model" treats the receiver of the information (the consumer) as one and the same as the eavesdropper. This necessarily requires the DRM system to give up the Kerckhoffs' principle, thereby rendering it breakable regardless of the technology it employs. (g: "Kerckhoffs drm" and "obscurity drm")

In non-technical terms, the DRM supporters know that the system is destined to be broken and yet they mislead the copyright holders to believe that their work can be "protected" by DRM. The ICT professors largely remain silent. To save their destined embarrassment, the DRM supporters went along to pressure the USA government to pass human-right-invading laws such as DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), and then to force its variants in the form of ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Act) upon other governments. (g: "eff dmca" and "acta secret") The net effect is that these broken technologies along with their supporting laws can be used by these ICT companies to play the role of the Big Brother in George Orwell's dystopia "1984" (only more efficiently), to censor speech for example, while failing to deliver their promise of copyright protection.

We as a free society have to challenge this trend of erosion if we care about privacy, physical property right, freedom of speech, and other human rights in general. All this happens due to lack of public awareness. Interestingly, the best tool we have against this suffocating trend also happens to be an ICT artifact -- the Internet. By disseminating online (and offline) the above stories, facts, and search keywords, we can bring the public to be aware of what basic rights they are giving up as they purchase DRM-infected technologies. By disseminating online (and offline) the ideas about creative commons, free culture, and attention economy (each of which requires at least an entire article to discuss), we can bring the public to be aware of the new possibilities and benefits for the society as well as for each individual writer/artist/creator if s/he chooses to share her/his creative works with the world instead of guarding them as "intellectual properties". Hopefully we can not only stop the erosion of human rights but also empower digital consumers to take advantage of the read-write nature of the web 2.0 world, becoming an informed, dignified, and influential prosumer.

* Note: 'g: "abc xyz" ' means 'please google "abc xyz" (without the quotes)'.

Sunday, December 13 2009

否定實體財產權的 DMCA: 反規避/反仿冒/反競爭條款將從 DRM 走向 PRM

歐美日韓各國正在密謀透過 ACTA 將 DMCA 及其他侵犯人權的法條走私到世界各國。 以後你的財產, 將不屬於你, 而是屬於生產廠商。 你如果拆解研究任何 PRM 產品, 就會觸犯法律。 這些鞏固壟斷﹑ 禁止競爭﹑ 獨厚既存大企業的荒謬法條已經 否定了實體的私有財產權。 它不只將傷害中小企業, 更將嚴重傷害中國﹑ 印度﹑ 中南美洲等等新興國家; 在其他任何國家, 也都將是企業侵犯大眾人權的另一大步。

DRM 遙控數位枷鎖是 學理上註定失敗 的技術。 企圖用 DRM 控制消費者的廠商只好轉向法律面運作。 源自美國的 DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 千禧年數位著作權法) 就是這樣一套 [為了保護失敗的 DRM, 而放入許多充滿爭議﹑ 挑戰人權條款] 的法案。 其中的 anti-circumvention provisions (反規避條款) 更明顯地將智慧財產權凌駕在實體財產權之上。 這其實不只是反規避, 而是反競爭條款。 我在 「當翻譯變成一種罪行」 一文, 及 「數位權利管理 (DRM) 的企業形象代價」 「數位權利管理 (DRM) 的社會風險」 兩篇論文當中, 所提到的各種不合理案例, 其背後的法律依據就是 DMCA。 更多關於探討 DMCA 爭議的文章, 請見: 中國學者黄辉 EFF Timothy B. Lee﹑ ... 也請搜尋 「dmca abuse」 看它如何被濫用。 但是 DMCA 對於社會的傷害不僅止於此。 三年前, Princeton 大學電腦系教授 Ed Felton 寫了三篇文章, 說明 DMCA 相關法條將更加走火入魔, 把 DRM 變成 PRM -- Property Rights Management。 以下是 Ed Felten 1, 2, 3 的簡單摘要。 [方括弧括起來的部分, 是我自己的補充。]

* * *

DRM 支持者原本的說詞是: 它可以阻止盜版。 現在立法人員﹑ 電影公司﹑ 唱片公司... 都開始了解這是不可能的任務, 必須另外尋找說詞。 [我撰寫此文時, 發現到了 2009 年底的今天, 臺灣的經濟部竟然還活在謊言裡﹑ 甚至公開散佈謊言。 源自美國﹑ 藉臺灣政府之手執行的愚民政策, 能不能騙過廿一世紀的臺灣人? 我們拭目以待。] 現在他們改口說: "DRM 有助於區隔市場"。 他們承認這有助於他們鎖住既有客戶。 [因為 DRM 可以禁止其他廠商製造相容的競爭品。] 他們還說 "鎖住既有客戶可以刺激新平臺的發展"。 [但他們當然不會承認 DRM 是集權技術 -- 新的小平臺不可能存活。] 請注意: 他們的理由, 已經不再是 DRM 能保護智慧財產權

現在的趨勢則更進一步, 走向 "財產權利管理" [你的財產, 算是賣家的權利, 由他來管理] 原本可以切割分開來賣的任何商品, 將來都可以加上秘密元件 (例如可以運用 RFID 技術), 讓你非買同一家公司的產品不可。 例如:

  1. 指定廠牌的筆, 只能書寫於指定廠牌的紙。
  2. 魔鬼粘的兩側, 必須出自同一家廠商, 才能黏合。 (特別適合 Apple 用於 iPod 系列產品 [或 Amazon 的 Kindle, 或 Microsft 的 Zune 也都很對味] )
  3. 刮鬍刀柄與刀片, 必須出自同一家廠商, 才能接合。
  4. [要閱讀某家出版社的書, 必須購買指定廠牌型號的燈]
  5. [某牌汽車, 一定要使用指定廠牌型號的輪子]
  6. [穿某牌鞋子, 必須同時穿指定廠牌的襪子]
  7. [某建商蓋的房子, 只能放入指定廠牌的家具]
  8. [... 自己想 ...]

"禁止生產相容產品" 的法律, 已經無法用 「保護智慧財產權」 來支持其論點。 那麼要用什麼論點呢? 也許他們會轉向 "商標權"﹑ "禁止仿冒 (no counterfeiting)" 等等立論。 國會過去已經低估 DMCA 負面副作用 [因而讓它通過]。 面對這樣的趨勢, 未來我們應該討論的, 不是 "DRM/PRM 好還是不好" 而應該是 "法律應該幫助﹑ 禁止﹑ 還是忽略 DRM/PRM"。

* * *

以後你如果拆解研究上述產品, 就會觸犯法律。 Ed Felten 的部落格名為 「拆解研究的自由」 (Freedom To Tinker), 讀者應該可以理解他為什麼特別重視這件事。 當然, 當初促成他選這個名字的, 不是 PRM, 而可能是多年前的 破解 SDMI 事件 -- 他正是 DMCA 的受害者。 但是此等惡法的受害者, 將不只是如他這類愛拆解研究的專家, 也不只是購買 PRM 產品的消費者, 而是整個社會。 如果 落實 DRM 必須靠挖眼睛割耳朵才能實現, 那麼為了實現 PRM, 更將出現多少不可思議的侵犯人權甚至身體自主權的事情? 倡議市場自由競爭 (多諷刺!) 的人士, 如果還可以硬拗, 說強行通過此等 否定實體的私有財產權 的法律, 目的是在 「促進自由競爭」, 那麼不如就放心大膽直接睜眼說瞎話吧: 「戰爭即是和平,自由即是奴役,無知即是力量。」

目前美國的 DMCA 還沒有做到 PRM; 但很快就要發生了。 最近歐美日韓等等許多先進國家密謀透過 ACTA 將 DMCA 及其他侵犯人權的法條走私到世界各國。 ACTA 和這篇有什麼關係? ACTA 的全名是: Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Act -- 反 仿冒 貿易協訂 -- 借反仿冒之名, 行反競爭﹑ 鞏固壟斷之實的惡法。 Ed Felten 的先見之明令人讚嘆。 加拿大的 Michael Geist 教授有一系列的 ACTA 文章, 我後續再摘要報導。

Monday, October 22 2007

1984 in the Making, or Getting to know Big Brother in 6 pictures

1984 in the making, or getting to know the Big
Brother in 6 pictures I wrote an article "1984 in the Making: Stealthy Invasion of Consumer Rights and Privacy by ICT Corporations" and submitted it to a conference in Taiwan to be held Nov 11, 2007. (They don't have an English page but I guess a suitable translation of the conference name could be "Information Science and Society".) I don't get a chance to talk but will have a poster space to display my article, or some picture related to it.

I spent an entire day to draw this picture using inkscape. I think it would be a pity if I show it only to the conference attendees. So here it is. I am grateful to find nice drawings from wikimedia, such as Butters, squirrel, and kiwi, to include in my drawing. My drawing never got good grades in the elementary school, and I had seldom drawn between then and 1996, when I started advocating FLOSS and the danger of proprietary file formats. By that time I was too old to learn good drawing. So please excuse the crude quality. I hope you enjoy the ideas in the drawing, especially the text in the Big Brother's underwear. You need to save the svg file and zoom in in inkscape in order to read it. But then you would give him a very good reason to shoot you using the DMCA gun. You have been warned. BTW, I feel a strong urge to draw a handcuff on the male genital instead of on the hand. because it really rings very well with Big Brother's command: "Thou Shalt not Reproduce without permission". But I don't have the guts to do so. :-) Any ideas or actual fixes to improve the drawing will be greatly appreciated. (Not the last one about reproduction please...I am serious.)

This picture is distributed under the creative-commons attribution share-alike license. If you find it useful, please feel free to improve on it (I would appreciate if you let me know) and/or show it to the poor souls who don't know that their computers report back to the Big Brother once every two weeks. It will take your voice, her voice, our voices together, to unlock the handcuffs that the Big Brother has placed on the consumers' hands.