Corey Doctorow on rumors of Apple will use Intel’s Trusted Computing features


What is it with these misnomered copy protection schemes?

First it was Digital Rights Management, now Microsoft has Plays For Sure.

In between came Trusted Computing, an effort to engineer copy protection into hardware.

Cory Doctorow says in a post yesterday that the early versions of the Mac OS X on Intel hardware makes use of Intel’s version of Trusted Computing, and if that turns out to be true when it goes into production, he will no longer buy Macs, which he’s used since 1979.

The point of Trusted Computing is to make it hard — impossible, if you believe the snake-oil salesmen from the Trusted Computing world — to open a document in a player other than the one that wrote it in the first place, unless the application vendor authorizes it. It’s like a blender that will only chop the food that Cuisinart says you’re allowed to chop. It’s like a car that will only take the brand of gas that Ford will let you fill it with. It’s like a web-site that you can only load in the browser that the author intended it to be seen in.

What this means is that “open formats” is no longer meaningful. An application can write documents in “open formats” but use Trusted Computing to prevent competing applications from reading them. Apple may never implement this in their own apps (though I’ll be shocked silly if it isn’t used in iTunes and the DVD player), but Trusted Computing in the kernel is like a rifle on the mantelpiece: if it’s present in act one, it’ll go off by act three.

It means that the price of being a Mac user will be eternal vigilance: you’ll need to know that your apps not only write to exportable formats, but that they also allow those exported files to be read by competing apps. That they eschew those measures that would lock you in and prevent you from giving your business to someone else. I’m pretty sure that apps like BBEdit and NetNewsWire won’t lock me out, as their authors are personally known to me to be wonderful, generous, honorable people. But personally familiarizing yourself with the authors of all the software you use doesn’t scale.

So that means that if Apple carries on down this path, I’m going to exercise my market power and switch away, and, for the first time since 1979, I won’t use an Apple product as my main computer. I may even have my tattoo removed.

My data is my life, and I won’t keep it in a strongbox that someone else has the keys for.


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