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The 'right to repair' and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM)

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Misc
  • The Federal Trade Commission enters the fray over the 'right to repair'

    The report also found that tech companies failed to provide any evidence that the right to repair diminished a company's ability to innovate, threatened user security, or inhibited the companies' ability to make competitive products.

    The FTC concluded, "There is scant evidence to support manufacturers' justifications for repair restrictions." It then encouraged state and federal legislators to consider right-to-repair bills and hopefully pass relevant legislation soon.

  • They Hacked McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines—and Started a Cold War

    The secret menu reveals a business model that goes beyond a right-to-repair issue, O’Sullivan argues. It represents, as he describes it, nothing short of a milkshake shakedown: Sell franchisees a complicated and fragile machine. Prevent them from figuring out why it constantly breaks. Take a cut of the distributors’ profit from the repairs. “It’s a huge money maker to have a customer that’s purposefully, intentionally blind and unable to make very fundamental changes to their own equipment,” O’Sullivan says. And McDonald’s presides over all of it, he says, insisting on loyalty to its longtime supplier. (Resist the McDonald’s monarchy on decisions like equipment, and the corporation can end a restaurant’s lease on the literal ground beneath it, which McDonald's owns under its franchise agreement.)

    So two years ago, after their own strange and painful travails with Taylor’s devices, 34-year-old O’Sullivan and his partner, 33-year-old Melissa Nelson, began selling a gadget about the size of a small paperback book, which they call Kytch. Install it inside your Taylor ice cream machine and connect it to your Wi-Fi, and it essentially hacks your hostile dairy extrusion appliance and offers access to its forbidden secrets. Kytch acts as a surveillance bug inside the machine, intercepting and eavesdropping on communications between its components and sending them to a far friendlier user interface than the one Taylor intended. The device not only displays all of the machine’s hidden internal data but logs it over time and even suggests troubleshooting solutions, all via the web or an app.

    The result, once McDonald’s and Taylor became aware of Kytch’s early success, has been a two-year-long cold war—one that is only now turning hot. At one point, Kytch’s creators believe Taylor hired private detectives to obtain their devices. Taylor recently unveiled its own competing internet-connected monitoring product. And McDonald’s has gone so far as to send emails to McDonald’s franchisees, warning them that Kytch devices breach a Taylor machine’s “confidential information” and can even cause “serious human injury.”

    After watching the efforts of McDonald’s and Taylor to decimate their business over the five months since those emails, O’Sullivan and his cofounder are now on the counterattack. The Kytch couple tells WIRED they’re planning to file a lawsuit against some McDonald’s franchisees who they believe are colluding with Taylor by handing over their Kytch devices to the ice cream machine giant and allowing them to be reverse-engineered—a violation of the franchisees' agreement with Kytch. (Taylor denies obtaining Kytch devices but doesn’t deny trying to gain possession of one or that a Taylor distributor did ultimately access it.) The lawsuit will likely be only the first salvo from Kytch in a mounting, messy legal battle against both Taylor and McDonald’s.

  • Apple to bring Lossless Audio to entire Apple Music catalog, alongside Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos

    Apple notes: “Due to the large file sizes and bandwidth needed for Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless Audio, subscribers will need to opt in to the experience. Hi-Res Lossless also requires external equipment, such as a USB digital-to-analog converter (DAC).”

  • Introduction to Digital Rights Management (DRM)
  • What is DRM? Understanding the tool publishers use to control software and file downloading or sharing

    You're probably used to feeling like you own the software stored on your computer, phone, and other devices, but that's not always the case.

    First and foremost, you typically don't own the software you've purchased. You've simply bought the right to use the software in accordance with a licensing agreement. That's rarely important when using Microsoft Office programs, but many kinds of software are controlled by Digital Rights Management (DRM). That can limit your ability to use the software in important ways.

    In a nutshell, DRM is a way for publishers and distributors to control your access to software. If you think you might be dealing with a DRM situation, here's what you need to know before you get yourself in a bind.

  • [Old] Everything about how we access and listen to music has changed in the past 25 years

    DRM stands for digital rights management and anyone who's downloaded music before 2009 knows what a pain it can be. At its most basic level, DRM puts restrictions on how you can use a digital file that you own. In the heyday of Apple's iTunes Store, the company sold AAC audio files protected with its FairPlay DRM, which restricted playback to its iPod music players and iTunes. Along with limiting what you used to play them, the files couldn't easily be shared on P2P networks. In 2007, Apple started selling premium AAC music files without DRM, and by 2009 it had gone DRM-free. The only rub there was Apple tacked on a charge of 30 cents per song if you wanted to have the FairPlay DRM removed from tracks you'd already bought.

    Of course, Apple wasn't alone here, with Sony BMG's rootkit fiasco likely the most notorious DRM overreach of the era. If you played certain CDs from the music label on your computer, it would secretly install copy-protection software stopping you from copying the music. The software was also difficult to remove, and even the uninstaller created security issues for users.

    By 2008, Apple would be the largest music seller in the US, but streaming was still wide open. Streaming services and stations continued to multiply during this time, starting with the likes of Pandora (now owned by satellite radio and streaming service SiriusXM) and Last.fm, which is owned by CNET's parent company ViacomCBS and no longer streams music. 2008 also was the year Spotify launched in Europe and grew quickly, thanks to a free-music model for anyone willing to put up with some ads between songs. The service wouldn't be available in the US until 2011, but in no time it became the leader, while competitors like MOG and Rdio were gobbled up by other services. Spotify currently has more than 130 million subscribers.

  • FTC calls out Apple in report on ‘anti-competitive repair restrictions’

    The report on anti-competitive repair restrictions also criticizes Apple for tying components to the logic board, which can make repairs uneconomic.

    "Software locks, digital rights management (‘DRM”) tools or technological protection measures (TPMs”) are access control technologies implemented by OEMs. While manufacturers argue that these measures are necessary to protect proprietary hardware and copyrighted technologies, repair advocates argue such tactics lock ISOs and consumers out of basic repairs. Embedded software may force consumers to have the maintenance and repair of their products performed by the manufacturers’ authorized service networks. Furthermore, according to iFixit, “if you replace the screen on your iPhone even if it’s with a brand new OEM screen off of another identical iPhone certain features like TrueTone won’t work correctly."

    "McDonough explained that Apple synchronizes some iPhone parts to the device’s logic board, making the part repairable only by Apple."

  • Digital Rights Management (DRM)

    When you buy an e-book with DRM you don’t really own it but have purchased the permission to use it in a manner dictated to you by the seller. DRM limits what you can do with e-books you have “bought”. Often people who buy books with DRM are unaware of the extent of these restrictions. These restrictions prevent you from reformatting the e-book to your liking, including making stylistic changes like adjusting the font sizes, although there is software that empowers you to do such things for non DRM books. People are often surprised that an e-book they have bought in a particular format cannot be converted to another format if the e-book has DRM. So if you have an Amazon Kindle and buy a book sold by Barnes and Nobles, you should know that if that e-book has DRM you will not be able to read it on your Kindle. Notice that I am talking about a book you buy, not steal or pirate but BUY.

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