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Torvalds Describes DRM and GPLv3 as 'Hot Air' 420

Posted by Zonk
from the where-there-is-smoke dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In Sydney this week for the annual Linux conference, Linus Torvalds has described DRM and the GPL as 'hot air' and 'no big deal'. From the interview: 'I suspect — and I may not be right — but when it comes to things like DRM or licensing, people get really very excited about them. People have very strong opinions. I have very strong opinions and they happen to be for different reasons than many other people. It ends up in a situation where people really like to argue — and that very much includes me... I expect this to raise a lot of bad blood but at the same time, at the end of the day, I don't think it really matters that much.'"
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Torvalds Describes DRM and GPLv3 as 'Hot Air'

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  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:36AM (#17629136) Homepage Journal

    "At the same time, on a completely different tangent -- forget about technology -- I am a big believer in letting people do what they want to do. If somebody wants to do DRM it is their problem."
    Well, no Linus, it's not their problem. It's the user's problem. You're a big believer in letting people do what they want to do.. that's great stuff. Very liberal minded. I'm sure I've said something along those lines myself. Of course, I tend to clarify it with the caveat that what they want to do can't hurt or take away the freedom of others. Is that just an omission on the part of the reporter or do you really believe you have no moral responsibility to intervene when you see someone doing something wrong?

    • by CmdrGravy (645153) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:44AM (#17629258) Homepage
      All he is saying is that if people want to write DRM then thats up to them and no doubt he also thinks that if people wish to use it then thats up to them too.

      Having a "moral responsibility to intervene when you see someone doing something wrong" has got nothing whatsoever to do with it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515) *
        So, ya know, if people want to run sweatshops then that's up to them and no doubt, if people wish to work in sweatshops then that's up to them too.

        Having a "moral responsibility to intervene when you see someone doing something wrong" has got nothing whatsoever to do with it.

        Grow up.
        • by avalys (221114) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:57AM (#17629480)
          No - the difference is that not everyone sees DRM as such a critical moral issue.

          I'm amazed that you think there is a parallel between sweatshop labor, and mechanisms that prevent you from copying the latest Christina Aguilera track.

          I see no moral issue with DRM-encumbered products. If you don't like DRM, you don't have to buy them.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward
            yup, the two are worlds apart. See, whilst sweatshop labour is something bad that happens to other people in smelly countries, I want Christina, and I want her Now. Right Now. me me me. See the difference? :-)

          • by QuantumG (50515) *
            Yep, my right to participate fairly in the world culture and a worker's right to participate fairly in the world economy are completely unalike.
          • I see no moral issue with DRM-encumbered products. If you don't like DRM, you don't have to buy them.

            Sadly, the high-fever melodrama of Slashdot and Digg users has drowned out this sort of calm, objective opinion. I am so tired of see five DRM articles a day on the front pages of these sites. The only DRM I interact with is from the few albums I've bought from iTunes, and I always forget the DRM is even there because it's so liberal.
        • I'm no fan of DRM, but comparing the inability to play a song on every player made to the plight of working 12-14 hours per day, every day, in dangerous facilities, from the time you're 6 till you die, is offbase.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Hey, nice red herring [wikipedia.org].

            I'll play along:

            I'm no fan of Forced Labor, but comparing the inability to have leisure and spend the time as you see fit to the plight of being tortured to death, is offbase.

            As a matter of fact:

            I'm no fan of _______, but comparing the inability to _________________, is offbase.

            Isn't it fun? We can sidestep the whole argument at hand as long as we say "well at least it's not as bad as Hitler". I wonder if this could be something Godwin was hinting at.

            But seriously, if DRM infects Linux
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by syousef (465911)
            I'm no fan of DRM, but comparing the inability to play a song on every player made to the plight of working 12-14 hours per day, every day, in dangerous facilities, from the time you're 6 till you die, is offbase.

            How about imprisoning someone for breaking the DRM and playing the song anyway? Is that off base?

            In any case do you REALLY think DRM technology will only be useful and used by media content companies? It's a tool to restrict and will be used in other matters including those to do with life and deat
        • by jb.hl.com (782137)
          One can not care about DRM and yet feel greatly about sweatshops. There is a scale for these things.
        • Assuming they aren't physically holding them hostage, yes its their right to work in a sweatshop if they want to... :)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jcr (53032)
          if people want to run sweatshops

          Try a better grade of stuffing for your straw man, sunshine. DRM is something that you can buy or not, nobody's got a gun to your head. It's not a moral issue, period.

          -jcr

          • Try a better grade of stuffing for your straw man, sunshine. DRM is something that you can buy or not, nobody's got a gun to your head. It's not a moral issue, period.

            Yeah, and Microsoft doesn't have a literal monopoly, they have a virtual monopoly, whereas you're not literally forced to buy DRM, you're virtually forced to. Microsoft and Apple are both staunch DRM supporters and between them they hold nearly the entire market.

          • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:25PM (#17629992) Homepage Journal
            wtf? People *choose* to work in sweatshops too ya know. Why do they do that? Because their is little choice otherwise. Are you trying to suggest that in the brave new future of DRM'd media we're going to have ample opportunity to buy media that is not DRM'd? What world have you been living in?

        • by CmdrGravy (645153)
          Moron.
      • by MysticOne (142751) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:54AM (#17629436) Homepage
        I disagree. If you're at a store and notice that a customer keeps distracting the cashier, then proceeds to take a dollar or two from the cash drawer, you have a moral responsibility to either point it out to the cashier, contact the authorities, etc. Ignoring it makes you complicit in the act.

        In essence, this type of activity is what the recording industry and movie industry are doing to consumers. They distract them long enough to steal a few rights from us when nobody is looking. The average person, much like the cashier in my example, is probably very trusting and open, especially to somebody they feel is trustworthy. Staying silent, refusing to point out that the consumer is being robbed blind, and then going on about how people are allowed to do as they please, is really just a way of saying you're either 1) too lazy to be bothered with doing the right thing or 2) too apathetic to care.

        I really respect Linus for what he's done for Linux. I don't think it's appropriate for people to always look to him for guidance on such things, because he's consistently pointed out that he isn't an activist on any issues with which the FOSS community concerns itself. But, this isn't because he has some sort of superior view on the issues at hand. He simply doesn't care. So why don't we stop looking to Linus for answers here, and stop being disappointed by his views, and continue to fight the fight without him.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kscguru (551278)
          If you're at a store and notice that a customer keeps distracting the cashier,

          The idea that you have a moral authority to force others to accept their rights is completely - and utterly - wrong. In your store analogy, I don't know if your robber is armed - and if I'm with somebody important to me, I have a moral responsibility to NOT notice, because interfering puts my somebody at risk. To go back to DRM, I do not have any moral responsibility to educate my users about the "evils" of DRM, particularly i

      • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:04PM (#17629608) Homepage
        he also thinks that if people wish to use it then thats up to them too
        I agree and I'm sure even RMS agrees. If people want to use DRM, let them use it. The trouble is that many people don't want to use DRM but are forced to, because it's part of the software on their computer and they cannot change that software.

        Even if the software is GPL'd and so meant to be free, you might be unable to change it (whether to remove DRM or anything else) because of 'trusted' keys and signing. That's what GPLv3 aims to fix.
        • by jb.hl.com (782137)
          The trouble is that many people don't want to use DRM but are forced to, because it's part of the software on their computer and they cannot change that software. ...what? When has that ever happened? And don't give me the old BS about having the ability to play DRMed files being the same as being "forced to use DRM".
          • by init100 (915886) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @01:06PM (#17630786)

            what? When has that ever happened?

            What? You never heard about the TiVo, the device that brought the DRM clause to the GPLv3? The operating system of the TiVo is Linux, probably not only the kernel, but also other GNU utilities. It is supposed to be free to modify for the user. But TiVo signs the software with their private key, and the hardware verifies that the operating system image contains a signature created by their private key. If it doesn't, the system refuses to start.

            This is effectively a DRM system that removes the ability to modify the software on the TiVo, even though it is mostly free software, where allowing modification by the user is a crucial part of the license. It barely complies with the GPLv2 by supplying the source code, but requiring that the modified software is used on another hardware device (not a TiVo).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RingDev (879105)
      You're mearly trading one person's freedom for another's. I'm with Linus on this one (woh, there's something that doesn't happen often!) The whole GPLv3 VS DRM arguement is full of blowhards on either side of the road. GPL will not end DRM any more than the DRM limitations will end GPL.

      -Rick
    • by spiritraveller (641174) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:52AM (#17629400)
      Is that just an omission on the part of the reporter or do you really believe you have no moral responsibility to intervene when you see someone doing something wrong?

      I think he just means that if someone wants to write code that implements some sort of DRM scheme, he thinks they should be allowed to do that. What he should be saying is that he is OK if they do that with HIS code, because that is his position.

      If he is really OK with "letting people do what they want," then why force them to allow further modification of works derived from your code?

      Why not just let them take your code, create their own version and use a signed key to make any further modifications unusable on the device? Oh wait. That's what DRM does. He **is** OK with that.

      Linus sure is a confusing guy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by oyenstikker (536040)
        He isn't confusing. He wrote code. He wants people to be able to do whatever they want with that code, so long as they keep the source available. That is pretty simple, and the GPLv2 meets his wants.

        Some people write some code, and they want people to be able to do whatever they want with that code, so they put it in the public domain.

        Some people write some code, and they want people to be able to modify and run the code, so long as they keep the code available and don't restrict others from using modified
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by avalys (221114)
      And the user is free not to use products with DRM.

      If you think your freedom is being impinged by DRM-encumbered music and movies, you are free not to purchase them. No one is taking away your freedom - music and movies are not necessary for life, and there are plenty of independent musicians and cinematographers who are willing to sell you music without DRM.

      The media companies are free to sell products with DRM, and you are free not to purchase them.

      • by javilon (99157)
        If I discuss the DRM implementation with somebody just in order to break it and extract some material from a DRMd disk and use it for a review or critique, it is illegal. At least in the USA. Talk about taking away freedom.
        • by avalys (221114)
          You're talking about the DMCA, which is a law specific to the US. I agree with you about the problems with that - but I think it's a separate issue from DRM in general.

        • Yes, but that's due to a bad law (the anticircumvention part of the DMCA.) The GPLv3 will do nothing about that one way or the other. The GPLv3 is concerned with the technical measures of preventing copying, not the legal ones.
    • Well, no Linus, it's not their problem. It's the user's problem. You're a big believer in letting people do what they want to do.. that's great stuff. Very liberal minded. I'm sure I've said something along those lines myself. Of course, I tend to clarify it with the caveat that what they want to do can't hurt or take away the freedom of others. Is that just an omission on the part of the reporter or do you really believe you have no moral responsibility to intervene when you see someone doing something wro
      • by Billosaur (927319) *

        The problem in this whole argument is perspective -- what works on the micro-scale is not necessarily what works best on the macro-scale. While I enjoy my freedom more than anyone, I realize that my freedom and my beliefs do not necessarily match up with the majority of the population. I am a belief system of one. I am accountable only to myself and those I interact with. A corporation is a large entity, with thousands or tens of thousands of employees, hundreds of thousands of shareholders, and perhaps mil

    • by javilon (99157)
      The problem is that DRM on itself doesn't work as a pure technological measure. So far no DRM has been able to stop people from copying stuff they want. The problem is that DRM comes with goverment regulation and goverment enforcement. Basically, what happens is that police comes and takes away your freedom to copy arbitrary stuff and to even discuss DRM implementations with others.

      • by dkf (304284)
        But you're advocating a technical solution to a clearly non-technical problem, and that's always going to be difficult/impossible. After all, DRM itself is a technical solution to a non-technical problem, and look how ineffective and offensive it is...
    • by asuffield (111848)
      Is that just an omission on the part of the reporter or do you really believe you have no moral responsibility to intervene when you see someone doing something wrong?


      A "moral responsibility to intervene when you see someone doing something wrong" is the only reason which has ever been used to censor things. The concept that it is moral to intervene when somebody else breaches your concept of 'right' and 'wrong' is the very antithesis of liberalism.
  • *Not* pragmatic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:48AM (#17629332)

    People often contrast Torvalds and Stallman as being pragmatic and idealistic, respectively. I don't think this is the case. Stallman *is* pragmatic - the only thing is, he's pragmatic about the long-term consequences and Torvalds only looks at the short-term consequences.

    One example of this is the version control debate. Stallman rightly pointed out that Bitkeeper was a problem waiting to happen, and Torvalds didn't care until it was too late. Sure, you might say that the problem was avoided because Torvalds wrote git. But if he'd have done that in the first place, git would have been years ahead in development by now, and the Linux community could have avoided an embarrassing debacle.

    This isn't an isolated incident - there is a history of Stallman making a point about something, a lot of people laughing at him and saying that it won't be a problem, and then a few years down the line, it becomes a problem.

    Another example: the GNU project has required contributers to sign copyright waivers on the code their contribute, or have their employers do it if necessary. If Torvalds had done this from the start, half of the things SCO were complaining about to the press would have been more readily rebutted and easier to face in court. But Torvalds didn't bother with this until it was too late either.

    Now I'm not saying that everything Stallman does is perfect. But he has a history of being right, even in the face of people saying that he's wrong or that it doesn't matter. So instead of simply writing him off because golden boy Torvalds says so, perhaps it would be prudent to take a closer look.

    • by s20451 (410424)
      Pragmatic eh? Where's Stallman on security?

      Apparently, he thinks that everyone should have root. Even Uncle Bob and Aunt Mabel in Pahrump, who have neither the expertise nor the interest in using all the possible capabilities of their computer.

      It's not okay to say that people should write reliable code (because they don't), or that users should behave responsibly (I'm of the opinion that if something intuitive, like opening an attachment, has far-reaching negative implications, then it's the software's fa
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      the Linux community could have avoided an embarrassing debacle.

      Oh please. What embarrassing debacle? I'm an avid Linux user, read news sites constantly, and only heard that they were switching to git from BitKeeper. If it was a "debacle", I'm 100% sure it would have been more newsworthy than it was.

      Now I'm not saying that everything Stallman does is perfect. But he has a history of being right, even in the face of people saying that he's wrong or that it doesn't matter. So instead of simply writing him o
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770)
      Another example: the GNU project has required contributers to sign copyright waivers on the code their contribute, or have their employers do it if necessary. If Torvalds had done this from the start, half of the things SCO were complaining about to the press would have been more readily rebutted and easier to face in court. But Torvalds didn't bother with this until it was too late either.

      And how is that exactly? SCO is claiming IBM breached their contract, and if IBM signed a license or copyright waiver w
    • Socialist/Fascist/Controlling/Anal. This is a problem! Something must be done!
      Liberal. If there's a problem, someone will do something.

      The first is the planned economy of the socialists and the second is the free market economy of the liberals. Over the years, it's the liberal philosophy which has turned out to be the most profitable. The former controlling philosophy there's the belief that you can control events, the second is the understanding that most of the time you can't.

      I'm not saying that Stallman
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by T-Ranger (10520)

      Another example: the GNU project has required contributers to sign copyright waivers on the code their contribute, or have their employers do it if necessary. If Torvalds had done this from the start, half of the things SCO were complaining about to the press would have been more readily rebutted and easier to face in court. But Torvalds didn't bother with this until it was too late either.

      So far as I know, Linus still doesn't have such a requirement. But in any event, you can only call one way right and on

  • He May Be Right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WED Fan (911325)

    I'm going to skip DRM. It's an ad nauseum discussion.

    I've watched the arguments on the GPL 3 and it seems like what some of the louder voices are saying is, "GPL is all about freedom. Our version of freedom." It smacks of the voices from ages past that yell, "Heretic!"

    To draw upon the analogy of religion, and those watching the discussion know that the movement, FOSS, GPL, OS flavors and distributions, has become a religious discussion, and in some circles holy war cum Jihad:

    We are told that early settle

    • by giorgiofr (887762)

      create the Truly Open and Free License of All Choices (TOFLAC)
      It has existed for ages and it's called the BSD license.
    • This is what is happening in the world of GPL 3, when looking in from the sidelines. GPL 3 are the silky bonds that when all is said and done, could bind us tighter than any EULA developed by Microsoft

      Clearly you need to examine the issues much closer. One important example that needs to be examined carefully is Tivo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tivoization [wikipedia.org] This is a novel form of theft that made GPL V2 meaningless. Maybe you've heard about Novell and their "innovative" end-run around the GPL? GPL V3
      • by giorgiofr (887762)

        Tivo [...] is a novel form of theft that made GPL V2 meaningless.
        Wow, so stealing music is *not* theft while stealing Linux *is*. Talk about double standards...
    • by zotz (3951)
      ["GPL is all about freedom. Our version of freedom." It smacks of the voices from ages past that yell, "Heretic!"]

      The problem is, that is pretty much the situation with anyone choosing any Free Softwarre license instead of putting their code in the public domain.

      It is especially true re people using the GPL2 versus BSD. Isn't this the same accusation the BSD folks have been making against the GPL2 folks all along? (In a very loose way.)

      [A license that grants absolute freedom to the users, and follow on deve
  • by pr0nbot (313417) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:50AM (#17629370)
    Maybe Linus is one of those people for whom it will only matter very much when it bites him in the ass and it's too late to do anything about it.
    • Can you describe a situation in which it would ever bite him in the ass? We live in a free market. If DRM becomes too restrictive, consumers simply abandon that product for something else, and the DRM dies. I know some Slashdotters live in a melodramatic hyper-reality where DRM are equatable to slavery, sweatshops, and other human evils, but consumers are great at regulating things for themselves. DRM is not that big of a deal. People just need to stop forming their worldviews based on Slashdot headlin
  • Linus seems to assume that since he (and Linux(tm)) have never experienced a directed, concerted attack (other than the SCO lawsuit) that he (and Linux) will never experience such an attack. Whereas I think that the major media and communications organizations were caught off-guard, first by the Internet itself and then by Linux, and required some time to gather their forces and develop a strategy.

    With the _Democrats_ in the Senate now introducting /additional/ DRM legislation, I strongly suspect that the
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:56AM (#17629468)
    ...but I don't think he has the legal understanding and I don't think he understands why the content industry is pushing DRM (hint: it's not because of piracy).

    That is why I take Torvald's world on any programming issue related to the kernel and support RMS's position when it comes to freedom, content industry issues. While RMS may not be legally trained, he realises that and has a team that is competent in legal matters. Of course Linus is entitled to his opinion on these issues, but I believe that his take on it is harmful because it's the "famous people slightly connected to the issue seeming to be expert on the issue to the public" syndrome. He is no more competent in this case than the celebrities ridiculed by the bbc in a previous article.
  • by spiritraveller (641174) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:07PM (#17629666)
    I will give one thing to Linus. He is right that there is a lot of hot air involved. That's because people (including him) miss the point about DRM and the GPL.

    For DRM to work, it has to use technical means to prevent modification of the code. This is open source we're talking about. If they don't prevent modification of the code, a crack will be easily implemented.

    The GPL prevents a party from relicensing your code with a modification restriction... but DRM allows them to use technical means instead of legal means to accomplish the same result.

    DRM (or at least, that part of it that I've described) is a loophole that should be closed. We are not talking about "someone's right to create programs that use DRM". We are talking about someone's right to modify **your** code, while preventing further modification by others. That's one of the core rights that the GPL is meant to preserve.
  • by btarval (874919) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:09PM (#17629710)
    I'm sorry, but Linus is absolutely dead wrong when he says:

    "both DRM technology and GPLv3 will cause "lots of arguments" but in the bigger scheme of things, neither will stop good technology from prevailing."

    He doesn't seem to be aware of the current actions to limit his options here.

    The problem is that IBM appears to be trying to take control of Linux via software patents. Specifically, censoring it when a Linux solution gives them competition that they don't like.

    And they are doing this in the fashion of a Patent Troll, with some rather questionable software patents.

    I've mentioned this before; here's the link again. "IBM's decision to sue Platform Solutions is another indication that the company is becoming more aggressive about defending its intellectual property in an effort to extract more revenue from its extensive patent trove." [informationweek.com]

    What is especially disconcerting is that if IBM wins this lawsuit, it means they will have extreme influence (if not effective control) over most (if not all) Linux products out there, given IBM's vast Patent trove.

    Note very well that this is what people were worried about with Microsoft and Novell. The sad news here is that this may have already arrived, via IBM. Which is probably why IBM wants to keep this quiet.

    Hello - where's the Linux community on this one? People (myself included) were up in arms when Microsoft and Novell tried to skirt the GPL. IBM's approach strikes me as much worse. It's here. Now.

    While Linus would like to keep adding good technology to the kernel, if IBM's lawsuit is allowed to stand, Linus doesn't seem to recognize that his options may be taken away from him. He will no longer be able to publish software without IBM's blessing.

    What's next? Is he going to need Microsoft/Novell approval after that?

    The only option that I can see is the GPL v3 license approach. One wonders how long Linus can keep ignoring this issue. It would be much better if he were taking a proactive approach here, because simply ignoring the issue doesn't seem to be working.

    • by nickos (91443)
      But the Linux kernel can't move to the GPL v3 licence without the permission of everyone who has ever contributed to the project (or by stripping and rewriting code from people who won't or can't give permission).
  • Yeah, Linus is right: "...at the end of the day, I don't think it really matters that much."

    Why? Because all DRM will eventually be circumvented. Look at DVD, HD-DVD and (soon would be my guess) Blue-Ray. Even on Windows and Mac OSX, with Microsoft's / Apple's blessed and fully supported state-of-the-art DRM solutions, people will come up with ways to achieve what is rational: fair use. So yeah, develop away. Stuff as much DRM as you want in Linux as well. At the end of the day, I'll still want to be able

  • Maybe he is right...

    I see thousands of posts when someone mentions DRM, how much it is misunderstood by the mainstream users, and how evil it is always assumed to be.

    And then I see the SAME people post how they love their iPod and fill it with DRM Apple songs that are not only lock them into Apple, but lock them into iTunes and lock them into an iPod for the rest of their life since they can't put the music they have bought on any other device.

    What I don't understand, is how the same people can scream about
  • Meta-thought (Score:4, Insightful)

    by redelm (54142) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @01:14PM (#17630956) Homepage
    One of the most admirable things about Linus is his ability to elevate to meta-thought (thinking about thinking) along with a very healthy dose of self-skepticism. I like that because it's most likely to solve problems. If simple on-topic thinking could solve a given problem, it would have long ago. New -different- ideas and perspectives are needed. Meta-thought is one avenue.

    I tend to deplore DRM. But I also agree that GPLv3 won't stop it. The value of the GPL codebase above BSD and above the cost of proprietary code just isn't that great: neoTivo would just go BSD if not MS-proprietary.

    DRM will stand or fall one-by-one as users accept the deals offered. Or reject them. The iPOD is currently the biggest successful implementation of DRM. Consumers apparently accept the deal, irrespective of RMS' dire warnings.

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