When Legal StrikesChaos Theory Meets DRM
Opinion: Sony's spyware approach to protecting intellectual property demonstrates the real danger of letting lawyers define policy in areas in which their zeal outstrips their expertise.A recent brouhaha over a bit of spyware Sony BMG included in some CDs to keep buyers from misappropriating the music raises important issues that will likely bleed out into your own development efforts. The backlash would have been avoidable of Sony had gotten its design goals and objectives straight and kept the legal department from meddling with of its Digital Rights Management (DRM) schema. It appears Sony failed to keep Legal from overstepping reasonable precautions, but its not alone in that; most large organizations maim themselves with repeatedly doing the same thing. Legal departments, especially within publicly-traded companies, tend to wield power disproportionate to their dutiesduties that are basically janitorial in that they are an overhead service intended to maintain tidiness and hygiene. Sadly, as management gets more cautious about legal repercussions, lawyers get a voice in decisions in which they not only have no expertise (such as IT), but in customer-facing initiatives, as well. Sonys aggressive spyware approach to DRM smells to high hell of the kind of good-intentions-turned-cognitive-dirty-bomb so many Legal-inspired projects descend into.
Sonys objectives started out reasonably enough, propelled by an idea I support unrelentingly: They wanted to protect intellectual property they partially own. Cool. Protect it. But remember that protecting intellectual property doesnt mean ignoring fair use.