Thursday, June 24, 2004

Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004

There's been a lot of noise today about some pending legislation that wants to sting the digital pirates of the world by making it a crime to simply "induce" piracy. Even worse, this legislation may just slide past Congress without any significant exploration of the consequences. It moved me enough to write to a Senator:

Dear Senator Hatch:

I urge you to withdraw your support of the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004. By making it a crime to "induce" any infringement of copyright law this legislation will stifle future innovation and further erode our fair use rights.

This act would criminalize many existing devices that have legitimate, non-infringing uses. Plus, it will have the added consequence of limiting technological innovation since developers will have to work with copyright holders to ensure future devices do not have unacceptable infringing uses.

Not every temptation is a crime. Not every citizen is a criminal.


[The Mollusk]

Read on: Lessig | Gillmor | Miller

EDIT: Boing Boing points us all to the EFF and their thoughts on what the future may hold if this legislation goes through. Creepy.


At 4:53 PM, Blogger MJR said...

Pssssst - I think you forgot to close an >em< or >i< tag.

Did you read about the Velvet Revolver CD that thwarts attempts to rip it to MP3 or make a copy, but IS bundled with WMAs on it? How is that legal? Doesn't Fair Use already allow you to make backup copies for personal use?

At 5:40 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

As I understand it, fair use is more of a priviledge bestowed upon us by the copyrightholders than it is an explicit legal right. Part of that may have originated in the fact that the degree of control that media companies are now trying to implement was previously impossible or too expensive to implement.

Old systems (analog recordings for example) had controls that were a natural part of the technology. A copy of a copy was a degraded version because that is the nature of the technology. When DAT recording came a long, manufacturers replicated that "control" in their equipment by forcing that degradation in digital recordings.

We are seeing similar controls being built into our media now. But the question is are those controls really necessary? Do they come at tremendous cost to innovation, culture and creativity? And as consumers, should we simply accept them or should we object with our money and our votes?

[DISCLAIMER: this is all based on humble opinion, a flawed memory and gross generalizations. Swallow at own risk.]

At 6:38 PM, Blogger MJR said...

"Although fair use was not mentioned in the previous copyright law, the doctrine has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law."

This includes Section 107 and everything else:

I tell you what - I went through the whole damn thing and I can't find anything either, except exceptions for libraries and such who must make backup copies.


At 7:19 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

"We will treat code-based environmental disasters—like Y2K, like the loss of privacy, like the censorship of filters, like the disappearance of an intellectual commons—as if they were produced by Gods, not by man. We will watch as important aspects of privacy and free speech are erased by the emerging architecture of the panopticon, and we will speak, like modern Jeffersons, about nature making it so—forgetting that here, we are nature. We will in many domains of our social life come to see the Net as the product of something alien—something we cannot direct because we cannot direct anything. Something instead that we must accept, as it invades and transforms our lives."-Lessig: Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace

At 7:57 PM, Blogger MJR said...

You've been holding onto that one for some time, I can tell.

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

This one's new:

"The problem is that 'fair use' isn't on the statute books. It arose from case law, and specifically the Sony vs. Betamax case in 1984 in which the entertainment industry failed to prevent the video recorder being sold."

At 11:52 AM, Blogger MJR said...

Right. I think there are two different concepts floating around the ether here and, as you correctly stated earlier, one, the one that we care about, hasn't been legislated or statutized in any way. The other one, the one that pertains to libraries and so forth, has.

Other disappointing examples abound. Are you familiar with Hymn? I DL'd this tiny little app before running it from the Command Prompt and instantly converting a batch of M4Ps (iTunes Music Store-purchased, protected AACs) into M4As. I shared these with my friend who opened them in iTunes, viewed the info, and saw my Apple ID (or the email address I use to log into the Music Store). Now THAT sucks (all they did was strip the DRM out and leave the rest of the M4_ intact) BUT the util still would've been useful for me to create M4As that I could play on some sort of home audio streaming device (i.e., create backup copies for my own personal home use, not playing them simultaneously with my purchased copies), none of which I've seen will support the M4P flavor of AACs.

Of course iTunes 4.6 smote Hymn down upon the rocky hillside of DRM.

Not that I blame them. If they don't play nice with The Industry they don't get to offer us tunes from the comfort of home. Similar to my response to my friend who wondered how bundling WMAs on the Velvet Revolver CD wasn't the same as letting people rip MP3s. Well, WMAs can embed DRM too AND (last I checked) you have to BUY the plugin to Windows Media Player to be able to rip to the MP3 format; it's not there by default.

So it all goes back to the The Industry.


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