Chapter 22. Copyright and DRM

The DeCSS case is almost certainly a harbinger of what I would consider to be the defining battle of censorship in cyberspace. In my opinion, this will not be fought over pornography, neo-Nazism, bomb design, blasphemy, or political dissent. Instead, the Armageddon of digital control, the real death match between the Party of the Past and Party of the Future, will be fought over copyright.

— John Perry Barlow

Be very glad that your PC is insecure — it means that after you buy it, you can break into it and install whatever software you want. What YOU want, not what Sony or Warner or AOL wants.

— John Gilmore


Copyright, and digital rights management (DRM), have been among the most contentious issues of the digital age. At the political level, there is the conflict alluded to by Barlow in the above quotation. The control of information has been near the centre of government concerns since before William Tyndale (one of the founders of the Cambridge University Press) was burned at the stake for printing the Bible in English. The sensitivity continued through the establishment of modern copyright law starting with the Statute of Anne in 1709, through the eighteenth century battles over press censorship, to the Enlightenment and the framing of the U.S. Constitution. The link between copyright and censorship is obscured by technology from time to time, but has a habit of reappearing. Copyright mechanisms exist to keep information out of the hands ...

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