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Tag: dmca

You Only Think You Own It

Following up on my recent rant about the DMCA hearings held this past week by the Library of Congress’ Copyright Office, Public Knowledge has more information about the testimony.

From what PK’s reporter is observing, it’s pretty clear that all sorts of special groups have their representatives at the table, but no one seems to be speaking for the rest of us.

I attended the last two days of the D.C. hearings and came away not only with a renewed understanding of how the DMCA is killing consumer rights especially fair use but also how much content owners are afraid of fair use. The hearing also reaffirmed something we have said always: the DMCA is used more to lock out competition than to protect copyrighted works.

What is more, the copyright owners fear that allowing documentarians and vidders to make clips would lead to a slippery slope. One day, every one would be able to circumvent TPMs and make clips for fair uses and that was not Congresses intent in enacting the DMCA!

This line, repeated often throughout the proceedings brought home the point that major copyright holders are out to stop not only “piracy” but any uncontrolled use, including fair use.

If the big content companies had their way (they have plenty of money and lawyers to make it happen), they would distribute everything on a pay-per-view basis.

Since they can’t do that right now, they’ll have to settle for pay-per-reuse.

In other words, if you own a DVD and want to watch it on your iPod, that will be an additional charge.

If you want to make a backup of that DVD for the kids to watch in the car, the MPAA’s solution is for you buy another copy.

And if you’re a teacher who wants to exercise your fair use rights by extracting a 90 second excerpt from a 90 minute documentary for your students to watch as part of the lesson, tough luck.

However, the DMCA is just one part of the totally screwed up intellectual property system in this country.

And the producers of DVD content are only one of the groups working to drastically restrict the rights of copyright users, which was as much the point of the original concept as protecting copyright owners.

For an excellent overview of the issues involved, read Cory Doctorow’s Why I Copyfight.

A Crappy Copy Should Work Just Fine

Although most educators don’t understand the details, they are generally aware of copyright law and the fair use provisions, generally accepted by the courts, allowing them leeway in using copyrighted materials in their teaching.

However, far fewer of them know about the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), a law that makes it difficult to exercise those fair use rights, especially when it comes to DVDs.

Never fear… the MPAA has a solution: just play the program and record the video from the television set using a camcorder.

They’ve even made a helpful video to show you how to do it.  (Warning: It’s painfully funny to watch.)

This demonstration was part of the hearing now going on at the Library of Congress to determine if further exemptions to the DMCA should be permitted for all educators beyond the one granted in 2006 for college professors who teach film and media.

Keep in mind, this incredibly cumbersome, not to mention stupid, idea is brought to you by representatives of the big media companies who want to control where, when and how you view the product you thought you had already bought from them.

The DMCA shouldn’t exist at all but hopefully the panel will at least grant this provision.

For more on how the DMCA is screwing up more than fair use, read the EFF’s Unintended Consequences: Ten Years under the DMCA

Second Hand Media

Back in the pre-digital age, if I bought a record, video tape, or book, it came with the legal right to sell or give it to someone if I chose to.

This is known as the “first-sale” doctrine and was first recognized by the US Supreme Court one hundred years ago. In 1976 the concept was written into copyright law.

Fast forward to 2009 and consider the same situation with digital media.

Do you have the same “first-sale” rights for a music download, video file, or audio book? What about software, a medium which certainly had no equivalent to the formats considered by the Court or Congress?

The ease with which digital copies can be produced adds many new layers to the concept of media “ownership”. Do you still own that music download or are you only leasing it?

DRM, the effort by producers to lock the files, and the DMCA, which makes it illegal to break those locks, only makes things more complicated.

Ars Technica has a good overview of the issues involved in bringing copyright into the digital age but don’t read the article looking for answers to the many questions.

That’s going to require some major revisions to copyright law and the concept of “first-sale” in the very near future.

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