*countable infinities only

Adam Williamson awilliam at redhat.com
Mon Jun 18 19:07:05 UTC 2012

On Mon, 2012-06-18 at 14:42 -0400, Seth Johnson wrote:

> In this connection, the claim is that if we actually purchase
> something (and do not contract the transaction otherwise), then as our
> property we can do with it as we see fit.  The notion that there's
> another kind of transaction where nobody actually owns the devices is
> part of how the content cabal sometimes frames their conception.
> 1) This does not mean someone cannot sell a palladiated device to you.
> 2) This does not mean you cannot crack it, though the DMCA apparently
> says you cannot without risk of imprisonment -- yet at the recent DMCA

You're arguing the point I specifically stated was a side issue. I fully
acknowledged that the question of what can be done by third parties to
circumvent a manufacturer's attempt to restrict the capabilities of a
product is a rather thorny one. But we don't need to argue about it,
because it's really not relevant here. I think _everyone_ arguing in the
thread is happy to keep in mind the caveat that, in many cases (not all;
un-cracked devices exist), enthusiasts will be able to circumvent
protections. We don't really need to argue about how often this will be
the case or whether such cracking should be legally protected or not.
It's a huge side alley. It doesn't actually affect the key points we've
been debating. For all intents and purposes we can assume that any
device which requires more than a single keypress to 'crack' will not be
'cracked' by the vast majority of users.

> Exemptions hearings we seemed to register the dawning awareness in the
> Copyright Office that circumvention to put in a new operating system
> is not the same thing as a copyright infringement; and more
> astoundingly, the content cabal advocates specifically stated that the
> act of circumvention to put in another operating system on your own
> device has nothing to do with copyright; what will be made of this
> development by the Office is hard to say yet.  They seem to recognize
> the pertinence of the point (the point being, what about using my
> property with whatever operating system I please on it?).  They say
> they may ask for more input and are presently trying to figure out how
> they will proceed.

Irrelevant. (FWIW, I've already stated elsewhere in the thread that I'd
be very surprised if anyone could succeed in arguing in a court that any
future circumvention of Secure Boot which turns out to be possible
constitutes a breach of the DMCA).

> 3) The claim that Microsoft or anybody must be *forced* to provide
> devices without Secure Boot turned on is not Jay's position (or mine);
> that's Matthew Garrett's frustrated characterization of the options.
> (Though I believe Jay would hold for the particular case of Microsoft,
> inasmuch as they possess or come to possess a monopoly, they would
> appropriately be forced to do various things.)  Indeed, the Secure
> Boot technology is a useful facility.  We can create a market in
> devices over which owners can hold root control; that market may cost
> a little more, and it may cater to an elite, but inasmuch as that
> elite does not eventually endorse a "license to compute" the fact that
> they are using devices that give them full root rights and capacity to
> parse and process whatever information they receive can make the very
> existence of those devices a desirable feature for the public at
> large.  

If I can be allowed to nitpick, I don't think Fedora can 'create' such a
market. We aren't hardware manufacturers and don't intend to be.

(Somewhat) happily such a market is inevitable and you could perfectly
reasonably argue that it already exists. What are Raspberry Pis and
Beagleboards and even Nexus cellphones but these 'elite'
enthusiast/developer devices? On the other hand, the Nexus example is a
salutary one. The cellphone market has been around for decades; the
smartphone market, arguably, ten years or so; a major player has
provided a very credible series of devices with 'openness' as an
explicit selling point; and those devices certainly haven't wiped the
floor with all the others. They've sold in respectable numbers to
enthusiasts. All indications are that the vast majority of cellphone
purchasers don't even consider it a minor factor in their purchase.

Nothing I said was based on an assumption that such devices won't exist.
On the contrary, it's inevitable that they will (and do). Really, what
I'm foreseeing is exactly this Balkanization of the 'computer market'.
The key point is that it has been entirely an accident of history that
for a couple of decades, the _same devices_ have, broadly speaking,
served the needs of simple consumers and of enthusiasts. The vast
majority of end users buy, and will continue to buy, 'computers' (or
however they eventually come to conceive of such devices; it's an area
undergoing an intriguing shift at present) on the same basis as they buy
cars, washing machines, game consoles, cellphones and e-book readers
(all things that can be considered 'computing devices' and which are
never 'open'). There will certainly be a relatively small number of
enthusiast-hackers and a corresponding market in hardware for them. The
question, in my mind, is whether we decide to consider this area of
enthusiasts and hackers as our 'target market'.

"the fact that they are using devices that give them full root rights
and capacity to parse and process whatever information they receive can
make the very existence of those devices a desirable feature for the
public at large."

Well, you might be right, and the only way to be sure is what happens in
the long term. I certainly try to avoid the vanity of long-term
predictions. But what I _suspect_ will be the case is that, in practice,
those attributes will not be considered important by most purchasers of
most kinds of devices. History seems in general to support this

> Inasmuch as such a market exists, the folks who want the world
> to confuse "prior restraint" versions of copyright with security
> features, will be unable to rationalize the norms they want to
> establish, and people will demand, both for their kids and for their
> personal professional advancement, the right to do the same with the
> same kind of devices with UEFIs that cater to freedom.

I certainly think that 'open' computing devices will continue to exist
and be publicly available more or less indefinitely. I find it very hard
to believe that they will ever again be as prevalent as they were in the
preceding couple of decades, because (I state again) that prevalence was
essentially a coincidence, a historic accident. It was not _necessary_.
Adam Williamson
Fedora QA Community Monkey
IRC: adamw | Twitter: AdamW_Fedora | identi.ca: adamwfedora

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