Apple and trusted computing (or not)

by Jeremiah Foster

Apple apparently does not use the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) in its Intel chips. This is by and large good news since it means greater freedom for users. Apple could use this module to lock out music for example that was not bought on iTunes, or is not in a specific format, rendering a lot of illegally downloaded music unusable. While there are many in the music industry that might applaud the use of Trusted Computing, and while it is not illegal for Apple to do so, Apple has wisely chosen not to lock out its users.

An interesting post by Amit Singh here further describes how the TPM module is being used by Apple as well as an Open Source (Free Software) driver which allows users to take advantage of the encryption capabilities within the TPM.

Below are some salient points from the Executive Summary of the article:


2006-11-02 10:10:32
Wasn't the TPM involved in the bootstrap sequence of Intel OS X, preventing it from being booted on a regular x86 machine?

Right for the rest, as far as I know.

2006-11-02 10:11:34
Why is using the TPM a bad thing?
I never understood how people could object mechanisms to protect copyright or other DRM unless they are (or are planning) using something illegally.
Or am I completely off base?
Josh Peters
2006-11-02 11:05:16
Gus, one of the big reasons TPM is seen as a bad thing is that it allows vendors to enforce their own terms of use with regard to media. It's a huge sociological problem as 99.99999% of the population have no idea exactly what they're really licensing when they license DRM (and/or TPM) protected data.

Especially in this day and age where nearly every license agreement has in its text a clause allowing the company to amend the terms at its pleasure it is important to be able to hold on to some degree of control over what consumers purchase.

You're not off base to suggest that protecting copyright is wrong, but the manner in which it is protected is ridiculous to more and more people. Consumers have rights as well, and DRM trounces upon their rights.

It gets even worse when you start talking about a physical piece of hardware. Why is it allowable that I can lose the rights to the machine I've purchased just because Windows Vista decides that (either correctly or incorrectly by their own standards) that I've violated the license agreement? Computers are a serious investment for some people, and if Microsoft accidentally flips a bit suddenly my investment becomes worthless. Add in the notion that security holes exist and suddenly I can be shut out of my hardware by someone's malicious intent.

TPM and DRM may look good on paper, but they cause more problems than they purport to solve.

2006-11-02 13:17:30
Gus: my computer, my rules. Content gets used (legally, or more accurately, within fair use) the way I want it to. DRM is the companies calling me a thief in my own house. Sorry, I don't put up with that.

2006-11-02 13:35:25
> "I never understood how people could object mechanisms to protect copyright or other DRM unless they are (or are planning) using something illegally."

And I never understood why people object to government CCTV cameras and government-controlled auto-locking doors being placed in their house unless they are (or are planning)
doing something iilegal.

I guess people are just funny like that.

2006-11-02 13:41:07
Just reiterating what Josh said really, but yes, there are two big problems with DRM. The first is the unforseen problems it can easily cause (malicious hacking, software error etc). A good example I heard of recently on Boing Boing, is an older piece of software that is no longer usable. The software phoned home to see if it was stolen, and the company has since gone belly up. With no where to phone home to, the software assumed it was stolen, and became inoperable. Any DRM scheme must be desiged very well and with these scenarios in mind, although many companies could care less about you and your right not to have softwae die on you.

The second big problem is abuse fromt the companies themselves, trampling of rights you should have as a consumer. FairPlay is a great example. For the most part it is very reasonable, unlimited iPods, unlimited CD burns, and five computers. However, it also forces you to use an iPod. Apple is taking advantage of the DRM to get something unreasonable out of you, non-negotiable loyalty. But what Apple is doing is kids stuff compared to some of the DRM schemes out there. It is getting to the point where the government might have to step in. The first politician runs on a platform of copyright reform gets my vote.