[Fsf-press] Press Release: India should opposse DRM: Richard Stallman

Anivar Aravind anivar@[EMAIL-PROTECTED]
Wed Aug 23 20:36:26 IST 2006

India should opposse DRM: Richard Stallman

India should not enact a Digital Rights Management (DRM) law, Dr.
Richard M. Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Movement and the
GNU Project said. He was speaking at the Fourth International
Conference on GPL v3 held at the Indian Institute of Management,
Bangalore, on August 23rd, 2006. He commented that the people who
implement DRM, which he called the "Digital Restrictions Management",
should be in prison if the government is really of the people, by the
people and for the people. This law actually restricts the freedom of
the people. A company that uses the restrictions in producing its DVD
will give the format it uses to create the DVD only to a company that
promises to protect that restriction. The law has been enacted in the
US and the European Union has given a direction in favour of DRM. Now
the government of India is contemplating modifying its laws to
incorporate DRM. The time given for the public to register their
comments on the law was short and was insufficient for anyone to give
a comprehensive response. That time itself is now over. It is
important that the public take this issue and try to convince the
government that what they are planning to do goes against the
interests of the people and protects only the interest of the large
companies. He went on to say that the Free Software licences like the
GNU General Public Licence can do only a little to protect users from
these laws.

The conference was organised by the Free Software Foundation of India,
and the Free Software Users Group, Bangalore, in association with the
Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, to discuss the draft of the
new version of the General Public Licence (GPL), GPL v3. Dr. Stallman
explained why a new version became necessary. He said that revisions
become necessary when problems with the existing licence became clear,
and when new circumstances threatened the freedom that Free Software
promised its users.

As an example of the new circumstances, he mentioned the DRM law and
the example of a program called Tivo. Tivo is a device that records
television programmes for the user to watch at another convenient
time. This is a combination of software and hardware. The software is
based on the GNU/Linux operating system, which is Free Software. All
Free Software gives its users the freedom to modify the software to
suit their purpose, and thus this software also gives the freedom to
its users. But the hardware is designed to reject any software that is
not one of the versions that is designed to run on it. Thus, though
the user has the freedom to modify the software, it becomes
meaningless because then it cannot be used. In other words, though the
software is Free, the freedom becomes meaningless. The present GPL is
not violated, though the freedom is, in practice, useless. The new
version became necessary because of such circumstances.

Prof. Eben Moglen, Professor at the Stanford Law School, Legal Advisor
to the Free Software Foundation, and one of the important contributors
to the new draft, said that protecting the licence from violations is
not an easy job, and involves considerable work from a trained
advocate. He said that a legal expert will be engaged in India if many
violations of the GPL are found here. Referring to the problem related
to some circuits used in wireless networking, he said that there has
been serious problems from Japan, which has declared that any
programmer who releases software for wireless circuits under any
licence that makes its source code available, will be arrested next
time the person lands in Japan.

The conference will continue on 24th August, when two panels will
discuss the relevance of Free Software for software businesses and in
Education. The draft of GPLv3 can be read at http://gplv3.fsf.org/ and
the detailed programme of the conference can be seen at
http://gplv3.gnu.org.in/Conference/Schedule. Some photographs of the
event are available at -- http://gnu.org.in/gplv3-conf-pics/index.html

Anivar Aravind
Free Software Foundation of India
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