Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Porn's Fear Factor as a DRM Marketing Tool

The scare of the online availability of pornography to children was the driving force behind the first significant US internet legislation. From the Communications Decency Act ('96), Children's Online Protection Act ('98) to the Children's Internet Protection Act ('00), cybersmut has been a core "argument" to regulate the internet and restrict its information flow. While protecting children against porn is a legitimate (government) interest, it may trample on the constitutional rights of adults. The US Supreme Court has said so much in last century's quintessential internet case: Reno v. ACLU.

The backlash of the overbroad legislative regulation of online porn was a drive for a technological regulation in the private sector, especially through filtering. Marketed as the ultimate tool to protect your children, many have pointed out that filtering technology may have greater implications for freedom of speech than old-fashioned laws. Still, protection against (online) porn is a huge business drive, hardly encumbered by (public) constitutional constraints.

The latest use of porn's fear factor is the promotion of DRM as the first and last guard of our children. In February I wrote about iPeer, a content distribution system free riding on "public P2P" systems that uses both technology and manual monitoring to censor pornography and prevent copyright infringement. Interestingly, the company behind iPeer (INTENT) relesead a second press release in March, dubbing the system MyPeer and give it some extra promotion as a "family friendly" solution to downloading.

Today Media Right Technology announces "a powerful new technology that addresses and mitigates one of the most pressing issues of online piracy: underage viewing of adult content."
We are almost fifteen years down the road and now it are P2P networks and "widespread consumer DVD ripping" that threaten children with exposure to pornography. Playing on the conscience of parents and the adult film industry, Media Right Technology uses porn to market their average copy protection system as the saviour of our children: "MRT's SeCure Alliance DVD technology protects against the growing unrestricted access to illegal adult content online."

Every time its technological threat (WWW, P2P, DVD ripping), every time its technological solution (filtering, DRM), but as always porn is a great marketing tool and the beginning and the end of it all.

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