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Eric S. Raymond: Is the SDMI boycott backfiring?

Oct 04, 2000, 06:25 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Eric S. Raymond)

Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 02:30:04 -0400
From: Eric S. Raymond esr@snark.thyrsus.com
To: janelle@salon.com
Cc: editors@linuxtoday.com
Subject: Is the SDMI boycott backfiring?

I'm writing in response to your story "Is the SDMI boycott backfiring?" at


As one of the hacker-community spokespeople who came out in support of Don Marti's proposal for a hack-SDMI boycott, I have to say that I think your article missed one of the most important tactical points of the action.

As defenders of consumers' rights to fair-use copying and technologists' rights to reverse-engineer, we in the hacker community want to teach the record companies a lesson about the futility of attempting to "secure" data that is to be interpreted by a consumer's general-purpose computer -- a lesson also relevant to the DVDCCA lawsuit.

We've noticed that huge, stupid collective organisms like the record and media industries seem to learn best from pain. Therefore, to make the lesson as effective as possible, it is in our interest (and in the interest of music consumers) that it be as painful to the media industry as possible.

Accordingly, we actually *want* the inevitable failure of SDMI to ruin careers, bankrupt companies, and leave as large and livid a scar in the collective memory of the media industry as possible. That will make it a much more effective object lesson -- with any luck, one we will never have to repeat again against son-of-SDMI or son-of-CSS.

So sure, we'll crack SDMI. *After* the record companies and any consumer-electronics companies gullible enough to do their bidding have sunk billions of dollars into hardware and business plans based on it. Hasta la vista, idiots!

We sympathize with the weary technologists at the hardware companies. They're right; the whole concept behind SDMI is so bogus it can be seen through by an average sophomore CS student. But there's an easy way for those technologists and those companies to avoid being burnt; simply refuse to play. Leave your stupider competitors holding the bag.

Think of it as evolution in action...

                Eric S. Raymond
Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation,
that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defence?  Where is the
difference between having our arms in our own possession and under our
own direction, and having them under the management of Congress?  If
our defence be the *real* object of having those arms, in whose hands
can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in
our own hands?
        -- Patrick Henry, speech of June 9 1788  

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