Monday, Jonathan Schwarts, CEO of Sun Microsystems, wrote an interesting article comparing software developers and media publishers. He makes some good comparisons of the patent threatening tactics employed by Microsoft and the way other media companies have responded to the recent push for user generated content. He draws some good analogies between the two industries, but perhaps most interestingly he said:
Could we have sued them [opensource vendors]? Sure. Sun has what I’d argue to be the single most valuable and focused patent portfolio on the web (and yes, we’d use it to defend Red Hat and Ubuntu, both). But suing the open source community would’ve been tantamount to a newspaper suing the authors of their letters to the editor.
If you have talked to me about intellectual property, you will know that though I certainly believe artists, engineers, and other intellectual property creators should get paid for their labor, I am no fan of our current copyright and patent laws. Particularly, I disagree with the ill conceived DMCA. In recent news, it has been at the center of law suits and “cease and desist” letters filed by the AACS-LA (Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator) regarding a leaked 128 bit key used in DRM schemes for the new HD-DVD format.
The ensuing battle has resulted numerous Internet posts being taken down as well as the temporary take-down of many digg.com posts. This debacle only adds fuel to my belief that DRM will never be ironclad enough to stem truly intentional piracy. Instead, at best it may prevent some accidental copyright infringements, and at worst it will prevent consumers from exercising their fair use rights with the protected content.