Facing an onslaught of bad press, Sony today announced that it is suspending its use of the DRM technology that was quickly used by virus writers to infect personal computers. The Sony announcement is being described as an "apology" but the company isn't particularly apologetic. In fact, it prefaces its announcement by noting that
"we stand by content protection technology as an important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists."
We should be clear – the use of DRM in this case has nothing to do with protecting IP or artists' interests since the technology does not stop anyone from copying the music contained on the CD. Rather, the use of DRM technology is being used to co-opt consumers into a fight with Apple Computer over interoperability. In this case, Sony wants Apple to open up iTunes and the iPod and figures that making its products incompatible is the way to do it. Sony deserves more than just bad press – it deserves the lawsuits and criminal investigations it is facing.
Further, government must own up to its role in this debacle. Yesterday, a senior U.S. security official noted that "It's very important to remember that it's your intellectual property, it's not your computer… and in the pursuit of protection of intellectual property, it's important not to defeat or undermine the security measures that people need to adopt in these days." Government should be following its advice by stopping its rush to support the use of DRM technologies (including within Bill C-60 in Canada) that undermine consumer interests, personal privacy, and computer security.