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Aboriginal Archive Uses New DRM 182

ianare writes "An application that gives fresh new meaning to 'digital rights management' has been pioneered by Aboriginal Australians. It relies on a user's profile to control access to a multimedia archive. The need to create profiles based on a user's name, age, sex and standing within their community comes from traditions over what can and cannot be viewed. For example, men cannot view women's rituals, and people from one community cannot view material from another without first seeking permission. Images of the deceased cannot be viewed by their families. These requirements threw up issues surrounding how the material could be archived, as it was not only about preserving the information into a database in a traditional sense, but also about how people would access it depending on their gender, their relationship to other people, and where they were situated."
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Aboriginal Archive Uses New DRM

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  • Err, DRM? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 )
    Why wouldn't they simply build user and group permissions into the servers that host the archives and call it good?

    If TFA (which went 'splat' on me when I tried to reach it) is implying that the files need DRM to solve what is essentially an administration problem (user & group permissions), then something's fscked. Otherwise, methinks the summary is more than just a little misleading, no?


  • How is this DRM? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:13PM (#22228474)
    This doesn't sound like DRM. It sounds like access control.
    • Re:How is this DRM? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:18PM (#22228554) Journal

      This doesn't sound like DRM. It sounds like access control.

      Depends on how they assembled it. If it's some sort of self-contained website-on-a-box, then yeah, it's probably a local DB (MySQL?) and local PHP with perms based on the profile info.

      OTOH, if they rigged it as one big fat binary, then the access controls locked into the binary is similar in concept (though nowhere near as complete as true DRM which looks for a key, IMHO).


    • That was my reaction, but they call it a "website that's not online". However, from the sounds of it, the users probably don't own the computers, so I would still call it access control.

      If it is DRM, itt appears to have a major advantage of most systems: the users want it to enforce its rules.

      she noticed that people turned away when certain images came up on screen. . . .

      "The way people were looking at the photos was embedded in the social system that already existed in the community," she said.


      • Even if the user does own the computer, it's still a question of access controls. You're going to have to assume in this case that people aren't trying to forge their profile, so they can see things they shouldn't. If someone wants to see something, it's as easy as getting someone else who isn't restricted to use their profile, so that you can see pictures of dead family members, or women's rituals. So, the best you could probably do, is based on the profile, allow them to see only what they are allowed t
    • It isn't DRM and and it is barely worthy of notice.
      • Quite right.

        What the article describes is the reaction of an individual to tabu, and has almost nothing to do with DRM as we know it (i.e., as a way to prevent individuals from distributing material in breach of legally established copyright).

        Tabu is when a person, for reasons of cultural norms, if forbidden from doing something, such as viewing a picturee of a deceased relative, or watching a ritual, and the penalty for breaking tabu is either self-loathing or is a punishment imposed by peers.

        In othe

    • Or maybe DRM is access control, only wildly farcical in it's intent and design.

      Access control - Sensible way to keep data secure and allow straightforward heirarchies of access (read only, write/modify/delete, execute).
      DRM - Batshit insane coked up record company exec spin on access control containing nutbag crazy ideas (read it sometimes, don't copy it even though you can read it, self destruct in five minutes, install rootkit to spy on you, etc etc). Defective by design.
    • I thought that access control fitted in neatly with Digital Rights Management... what am I missing here?
    • Nonsense. You're just not thinking out of the box and leveraging your synergies for maximum buzzword usage.

      This system clearly bricks the content not intended for the current user, so it's DRM.
  • by oever ( 233119 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:16PM (#22228532) Homepage
    Strictly speaking, I'd say this is DRM. But it's not DRM as we know it.

    The archive, housed at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre, contains photos, digital video clips, audio files, and digital reproductions of cultural artifacts and documents.

    So this is simply a website with user management. Not everybody is allowed to see everything. This is different from DRM as Microsoft advocates it, where people would not be able to save these pages and images unencrypted onto their machines. Because, you know, they might mail them to somebody of the opposite sex!

    It's highly unlikely that this website really relies on complicated DRM schemes (which would require Vista).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MrKaos ( 858439 )
      I know some Koori's, that's how first Australian's (the politically correct term in Australia for Aboriginals) refer to themselves. If you want to see what some of there cultural stories look like check this site out [].

      So this is simply a website with user management. Not everybody is allowed to see everything.

      Exactly. I think that if there is an off-line aspect to it then either a custom application that only allows those verified to access/download images OR gpg and a ring of trust as a solution more an

      • by downundarob ( 184525 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @09:59PM (#22230040)

        I know some Koori's, that's how first Australian's (the politically correct term in Australia for Aboriginals) refer to themselves.

        Actually the Aboriginal people of the area known as New South Wales call themselves Koori, the people of Queensland call themselves Murri, the South Australian's are Nunga, WA far west (around Perth) are Nunya, whilst in the Top End (Darwin Region) there are Larrakia, Tiwi, Mirar and Yolgnu, People of Central Australia call themselves Arrente, Marla etc. Whereas I am a Balanda (in the local language).

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

          Actually the Aboriginal people of the area known as New South Wales call themselves Koori,
          My bad, thanks for picking that up, I guess you can tell where I live.

        • Moreover, the word 'Koori' in the languages around South Australia apparently sounds very similar to the word for 'vagina.'

          It also turns out that calling someone a 'black cunt' is considered offensive in most languages around here. So only use 'Koori' if you know you can.
    • If it is simply a website with user management, and no actual DRM, then, well...

      Think about every non-DRM'd song you've ever bought...

      Yep. Case in point. People who have bought that song have access to it. People who haven't, don't. Access control -- but it's un-DRM'd.

      However, complicated DRM schemes do not require Vista.
  • It seems obvious that people could just register fake accounts with different details just to access info their real profile won't give them access to.
    • by Takichi ( 1053302 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:23PM (#22228618)
      Great, just what the internet needs. More dudes pretending to be chicks.
      • From the BBC News article []: It asks every person who logs in for their name, age, sex and standing within their community.. Sounds like it's voluntary from that description, like those "Enter your date of birth" dropdowns that 'prove' your age.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by KublaiKhan ( 522918 )
      Just a case of necessitating identification information upon registering the account. Could do it with a trusted-registrar scheme, where the village elders vouch for the details of those under their jurisdiction.
    • Re:Easily hacked? (Score:5, Informative)

      by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:25PM (#22228646) Journal
      Of course they could. But to draw a parallel, in Aztec society there were no doors. A horizontal bar across the entry way, however, acted as the most secure lock imaginable, because of cultural norms. Basically the same thing here about making a fake account.
    • Re:Easily hacked? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:34PM (#22228768)

      It seems obvious that people could just register fake accounts with different details just to access info their real profile won't give them access to.
      You're missing the point. As other people have already pointed out, unlike with normal DRM, in this system, the users actually want the rules to be enforced on them. It's more to protect them against accidentally viewing stuff that they're not supposed to while searching for other documents.

      Consider it like the line in your /etc/hosts file.

  • by qaramazov ( 265399 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:25PM (#22228636)
    Before complaining about DRM, RTFA and spend a bit of time thinking why this was done. The culture in question has a complicated set of rules about who can and cannot see certain images, rituals, etc. The anthropologist wanted to show them to the larger world without violating the rules of the culture that produced them. But wasn't the only reason: the restrictions also allows you the visitor to better understand the culture. Why? You might think that the best way to experience that culture to be shown all of it at once, but you should consider that men who live in this culture never get to see certain things. Think of it as a simulation of a culture. Use it to reflect on the assumptions you make about who is entitled to what information.
    • by pla ( 258480 )
      The culture in question has a complicated set of rules about who can and cannot see certain images, rituals, etc.


      So how long do you suppose it would take them to make separate profiles as each gender, as a member of every major "community"?

      the restrictions also allows you the visitor to better understand the culture

      Concealing information never leads to better information. It leads to tunnel-vision.

      The sooner we get over our societally-imposed hangups, whether that mean sex or drugs or na
      • I am very happy that there are artificially imposed restrictions on your access to my personal information. I would be extremely upset to find out that you had full access to my bank statements, health records, and school transcripts.

        Suffice it to say that all cultures have information access restrictions. Some are different from yours.
      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        So how long do you suppose it would take them to make separate profiles as each gender, as a member of every major "community"?

        As I understand it, the aboriginals WANT this feature for themselves. I guess it's more about giving them a tool to help them block images they don't want to see rather than forbidding them to see those images. I wouldn't be surprised if you could just specify in the profile that you'd just like to see everything, but those aboriginals would probably choose to enable the filtering.

  • Now instead of getting random users to see goatse, users will be trying to get specific people to view a pic of their now-dead grandma hosted on flickr.

    Most of the traditions we have in a non-network-connected world were created and exist because of barriers that now have much less meaning. While I commend them for holding their traditions, it seems a bit misplaced.

    First off, people online are going to make friends and connections based on personalities and interests, not physical proximity to their tribal
  • by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:28PM (#22228686)
    A file that can be viewed by your friend can be emailed to you. Simple userland permissions is trying to replicate.

    DRM will only let the person whose profile is signed in view the image, whether it's emailed or whatever. It's a very different thing.
    • However, obviously, there is no way to prevent the recording of anything that can be seen and heard. So the "DRM" of which you speak is an imaginary object, and is not to be confused with a real technology.
  • by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:43PM (#22228848)
    Archivists typically have to respect the rules of the communities they serve regarding access to materials. Sometimes that means, say, putting a bunch of somebody's steamy love letters under lock and key until all of the named parties have died off. Other times it means managing intellectual property rights. And sometimes you run into cases like this one, where the cultural rules regarding the material are more involved.

    I still think my favorite example was a living history project - the researchers involved had been recording traditional stories. One of them was an explanatory myth about why it snows. The problem was that there was a strong tradition requiring that the story be told only when there is snow on the ground. There's a doozy of an access control problem, unless you take the cheap way out and declare that there is always snow on the ground somewhere.
  • This was mentioned weeks ago on Wendy's Legal Blog ( i have it on RSS feed ), she actually had a talk to the creator of the site. []
    • She makes an awesome point on this. The system is designed to allow people to print the images or burn them to a CD , on the assumption that people can be trusted not to deliberately break the customs. She then says that copyright laws are busted because they are not in line with community values, and copyright laws should change to bring them in line with community values, particularly in that people SHOULD be trusted.
  • anything but primitive. Often westerners (including me) upon seeing these people just see someone who lives a primitive and alien lifestyle. Over the years my whole view of the environment and our relationship with the land and each other has been completely been revised thanks to the knowledge gained gained from these true Australians. When western settlers first visited Australia all they saw were trees and bushes and no agriculture. The reality is far different in fact the Aborigines have for thousands o
    • Ok, warm and fuzzies from the hunter-gather-one-with-nature lifestyle. However, if you think that Australia could sustain it's current population (and the internet access which you appear to enjoy) if we all reverted to a hunter gatherer lifestyle then you have rocks in your head. Personally, give me modern medicine, communication, education, science, travel etc. I grew up in a country which lacked a lot of it. I will leave the plastic food and sitcoms to others though.
    • >Many of you who eat your plastic food and live your broken sitcom social lives will sit back and laugh at such a people but the reality is they are laughing at us but are to honorable to tell us.

      Yes, a life of marginalization, backwards social mores, lack of medicine and wealth, and no religious tolerance sounds like a grand time.

      I find the whole idealization and worship of tribal peoples to be a western fetish. Idealizing them in some fantasy might be a nice psychological crutch but in reality its not
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )
      Put those aboriginals in some other harsh environment, and all their ways of remaining alive in the Australian environment become useless. They learned to live in their environment, we learned to live in ours. Doesn't make any of us more or less primitive, more or less honorable, better or worse.
    • One of my family emigrated to Australia in 1948, and spent years in the bush (mainly building houses for farmers.)

      When he came back for a visit, many years later, he revealed that he had never taken out Australian citizenship. When we asked why he explained something on the lines of "Australians are wonderful people, but the country is run by a load of white complete bastards who treat them like shit, and I refuse to vote for them."

      The other replies to the parent have many misconceptions. First, it wasn't t

  • I'm surprised that no one mentioned the site and contents are licensed under the CC Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 [] license.

    Regarding the term DRM, it does not really apply to this in the sense of embedding permissions within a file, and only allowing 'approved' devices for opening (i.e. music DRM like aacs/wma). It is an access permissions system using PHP/MySQL, similar to many others in use on the web or internally. However I felt the application was novel and interesting enough to warrant discussion, an
  • Would this be compairable to putting DRM on porn to keep youngsters out of places they shouldn't be? I mean, both acts of restriction would be based off of social beliefs and ethics. The only difference is what they are doing is a lot more elaborite.
  • already done (Score:2, Informative)

    by A3gis ( 708791 )
    The company I work for developed a web based knowledge repository like this back in 2001 for Galiwinku in the Northern Territory. Unfortunately the project derailed, I'm not sure why (being only a lowly developer and all), but was probably due to funding reconsiderations or somesuch. We had a working system which covered the different groups, sexes, groups within the sexes, age, location, and a few other things I can't recall now and can't check back up on because the development site is all written in the
  • I think it was Feynmann who recounted a story of how two orthodox Jewish students were fascinated by the physics of switches. He was pleased to see their interest, until he found out that they were most interested in the presence or absence of sparks within light switches as they operated. This would determine if lights could be turned on and off during the Sabbath.

    In that case, of course, no one ever claimed that Jews in New York were a poor sub-stratum. Given the problems confronted by the [insert PC

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor