Fred von Lohmann Freedom Fighter

For me, the highlight of HE2006 so far was sitting on the podium next to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's senior intellectual property attorney Fred Von Lohmann as he analyzed the threat restrictive digital rights management (DRM) poses to innovation of precisely the sort so beloved by us audiophiles.

Von Lohmann observed that CD quality has improved over the last two decades specifically because CD was designed as an open format. Inventors could get under the hood and tinker with the delivery of the data—and they have. DVD's quality—for both sound and image has not changed substantially since the format's introduction because everything DVD does happens behind a screen designed, at least putatively, to prevent piracy. What it wound up preventing was innovation. It certainly didn't prevent piracy, as anyone who has been offered a DVD of a current hit movie must realize.

Von Lohmann wryly observed that DRM isn't about preserving content, it's about preserving platforms—and the business models that cannot guarantee that technological shifts will benefit them rather than smarter, faster, more adaptable rivals.

Von Lohmann is the good-looking guy in the middle, flanked by grey-haired John Atkinson and no-haired me.

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John Atkinson's picture

Fred and Wendy Seltzer have written a comprehensive guide to the issues arising from the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in the June 2006 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine, which is well worth looking out for: www.spectrum.ieee.org.

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