German Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda has published an open-letter signed by UK MEP Lucy Anderson, raising alarm at the fact that the W3C is on the brink of finalising a DRM standard for web video, which — thanks to crazy laws protecting DRM — will leave users at risk of unreported security vulnerabilities, and also prevent third parties from adapting browsers for the needs of disabled people, archivists, and the wider public.
The new iPhones doesn’t have a traditional 3.5 mm audio jack. Some say this is just a natural step in development, like when the computer floppy disks were dropped. But there might be more into it than that.
Nilay Patel in the Verge:
Restricting audio output to a purely digital connection means that music publishers and streaming companies can start to insist on digital copyright enforcement mechanisms. We moved our video systems to HDMI and got HDCP, remember?
Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing:
Once all the audio coming out of an Iphone is digital — once there’s no analog output — Apple gets a lot more options about how it can relate to its competitors, and they’re all good for Apple and bad for Apple’s customers. Just by wrapping that audio in DRM, Apple gets a veto over which of your devices can connect to your phone. They can arbitrarily withhold permission to headphone manufacturers, insist that mixers be designed with no analog outputs, or even demand that any company that makes an Apple-compatible device must not make that device compatible with Apple’s competitors, so home theater components that receive Apple signals could be pressured to lock out Samsung’s signals, or Amazon’s.
Perhaps worst of all is the impact on security research: because the DMCA has been used to attack researchers who disclosed defects in DRM-restricted technologies, they are often unable or unwilling to come forward when they discover serious vulnerabilities in technologies that we rely on. The Iphone audio interface is two-way: it supports both input and output. A bug in that interface turns the phone to carry with you at all times, to all places, into a covert listening device. A DRM system on that interface makes that bug all-but-unreportable, guaranteeing that it will last longer and hurt more people before it finally becomes public.
When you plug an audio cable into a smartphone, it just works. It doesn’t matter whether the headphones were made by the same manufacturer as the phone. It doesn’t even matter what you’re trying to do with the audio signal—it works whether the cable is going into a speaker, a mixing board, or a recording device. (…)
In other words, if it’s impossible to connect a speaker or other audio device to an iPhone without Apple software governing it, then it’s simple for Apple to place restrictions on what devices or functions are allowed. Because US law protects DRM technologies, it may be illegal to circumvent that restriction, even if you’re doing it for completely lawful purposes. Having created the possibility of restricting audio output to select devices, Apple will be under pressure to use it. TV and film producers insist on having the power to decide which devices can receive video. Can we really believe they will leave audio alone if outputs become entirely digital?
• EFF: The End of Headphone Jacks, the Rise of DRM »
• TechDirt: Why Apple Removing The Audio Jack From The iPhone Would Be A Very, Very, Very, Bad Move »
• The Verge: Taking the headphone jack off phones is user-hostile and stupid »
• BoingBoing: How a digital-only smartphone opens the door to DRM (and how to close the door) »