30 Days of DRM – Day 16: System Repair (Circumvention Rights)

With news this week of a Canadian settlement of the Sony rootkit case, it is worth revisiting the admonishment that case elicited from Stewart Baker, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s assistant secretary of policy.  As noted earlier this series, Baker reminded the recording industry 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."

Baker's focus was on keeping personal computers secure.  There is another related concern associated with DRM and personal computers – taking steps to avoid system damage or malfunction as well as repairing products that have suffered damage from DRM.  These unintended consequences are an inevitable result of widespread DRM use.  There are dozens of DRM products and there will be instances of harm to some computer systems (computer systems broadly defined to include personal computers, handheld devices, DVD players, and other similar products).  Canadians must surely have the right to protect and repair their personal computers, whose value far outweighs the cost of the product that can be the source of harm or damage.  Consistent with a recommendation by the Australian Parliamentary review committee, Canadian anti-circumvention legislation should include a right to circumvent to avoid damage or malfunction, as well as to repair, computer systems.


  1. The other side of the coin would be how a DRM system is affected by repairs.

    I understand that Apple iTunes, for instance, reacts rather badly to it – if a computer breaks down, there is apparently no way to remove it from an iTunes account. However, I don’t use iTunes myself, so this may be outdated/mistaken.

    If a manufacturer replaces a device under warranty, the new unit should certainly not count as an “additional player” under any DRM scheme.

  2. PS: the story I was thinking of was Cory Doctorow’s “Microsoft Research DRM talk”.

    [ link ]

    “Because I buy a new Powerbook every ten months, and because I always order the new models the day they’re announced, I get a lot of lemons from Apple. That means that I hit Apple’s three-iTunes-authorized-computers limit pretty early on and found myself unable to play the hundreds of dollars’ worth of iTunes songs I’d bought because one of my authorized machines was a lemon that Apple had broken up for parts, one was in the shop getting fixed by Apple, and one was my mom’s computer, 3,000 miles away in Toronto.”

  3. help!
    i had napster then on the side i was using limewire, and now the music on my mp3 player doent work. Is my mp3 player ruined?
    please write back!