Calling themselves freedom fighters, members of the Free Software Foundation are engaging in a campaign against Digital Rights Management, which they emphatically refer to as Digital Restrictions Management.
Members donned yellow hazardous materials suits to kick off the initiative, called DefectiveByDesign.org, in Seattle earlier this week to protest Bill Gates' keynote speech on the future of Microsoft. The direct action campaign, targeting "big media and corporations peddling Digital Restrictions Management," plans more flash protests.
Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF, is encouraging technologists to get involved.
"We see this as the tip of the iceberg and it is our duty to do something about this," he said in a prepared statement. "We know about the collusion of Big Media, device manufacturers and proprietary companies to lock us down. Their aim is to put Digital Restrictions Management into all our computers and homes."
The group contends that computers, high-definition screens, phones, music players and video players do not respect users' rights to make private copies of their digital media. That means art, literature, music and film cannot fall into the public domain and that user viewing and listening habits can be monitored, DefectiveByDesign argues.
"In any other industry, such limitations or invasions would be considered major flaws," Brown said. "A media player that restricts what you can play is like a car that won't let you steer."
Henri Poole, chairman of Civic Actions, said that calling users "pirates" equates sharing with murder and kidnapping.
"Media bosses have long been the 'gatekeepers to the market' for artists," Poole said. "Now they are threatened by new distribution methods that give artists new freedoms and direct access to an audience. DRM is the media bosses' attempt to re-impose their rule."
Supporters, including the Motion Picture Association of America, claim DRM is needed to control distribution and copying of material, while protecting artists and copyright holders.