For Americans, yesterday was an important holiday. It’s the commemoration of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. There are many countries around the world that declared independence from European colonial powers, but the United States was the first, and the language of that declaration was perhaps the more strident and high-minded because of it. It’s a beautiful revolutionary document, both in its language and its ideals. It’s not the first declaration of freedom, nor will it be the last. Neither was the war that followed the first or last time that people have had to fight for freedom from oppressing powers.
Today, there are a number of fronts on which we have battles to win for human freedom. Software may not even be the most important. But in our increasingly digital world, digital oppression may be the most pervasive, if not necessarily the most violent form of tyranny.
One of the most evil forms of that repression is the whole concept of “Digital Rights Management". The whole concept is broken. Perhaps that’s the inspiration behind the Defective by Design campaign started by the Free Software Foundation. This is a direct-action group aimed right at the heart of the problem: the entertainment industry players who are trying to push DRM and make it illegal even to know how to crack it. I think this is one of the best things going right now in the battle for digital freedoms: this organization really tells it like it is, and they are hitting the places where it matters the most.
So far, DbD has gone after the RIAA and the Apple iTunes product: both serious proponents of digital restrictions and the laws that back them up.
Defective by Design protest poster mocking the Apple iPod advertisements by showing the real effects of DRM. (Credit: Defective by Design, Gregory Heller. Free Art License). More art and resources are available from the campaign website.