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John Gilmore: What's wrong with copy protection

Mar 12, 2001, 08:32 (24 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Gilmore)

"What is wrong is when people who would like products that simply record bits, or audio, or video, without any copy protection, can't find any, because they have been driven off the market. By restrictive laws like the Audio Home Recording Act, which killed the DAT market. By "anti-circumvention" laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which EFF is now litigating. By Federal agency actions, like the FCC deciding a month ago that it will be illegal to offer citizens the capability to record HDTV programs, even if the citizens have the legal right to. By private agreements among major companies, such as SDMI and CPRM (that later end up being "submitted" as fait accompli to accredited standards committees, requiring an effort by the affected public to derail them). By private agreements behind the laws and standards, such as the unwritten agreement that DAT and MiniDisc recorders will treat analog inputs as if they contained copyrighted materials which the user has no rights in. (My recording of my brother's wedding is uncopyable, because my MiniDisc decks act as if I and my brother don't own the copyright on it.)"

"Pioneer New Media Technologies, who builds the recently announced recordable DVD drive for Apple, says "The major consumer applications for recordable DVD will be home movie editing and storage and digital photo storage". They carefully don't say "time-shifting TV programs, or recording streaming Internet videos", because the manufacturers and the distribution companies are in cahoots to make sure that that capability never reaches the market. Even though it's 100% legal to do so, under the Supreme Court's Betamax decision. Streambox built software that let people record RealVideo streams on their hard disks; they were sued by Real under the DMCA, and took it off the market. According to Nomura Securities, DVD Recorder sales will exceed VCR sales in 2004 or 2005, and also exceed DVD Player-only sales by 2005. (http://www.kipinet.com/tdb/1000/10tdb04.htm) So by 2010 or so, few consumers will have access to a recorder that will let them save a copy of a TV program, or time-shift one, or let the kids watch it in the back of the car. Is anyone commenting on that social paradigm shift? Do we think it's good or bad? Do we get any say about it at all?"

"Instead, consumers will have to pay movie/TV companies over and over for the privilege of time-shifting or space-shifting. Even if they have purchased the movie, and it's stored at home on their own equipment, and they have high bandwidth access to it from wherever they are. This concept is called "pay per use". It can't compete with "You have the right to record a copy of what you have the right to see". These companies can't eliminate that right legally, because it would violate too many of the fundamentals of our society, so they are restricting the technology so you can't exercise that right. In the process they are violating the fundamentals on which a stable and just society is based. But as long as society survives until after they're dead, they don't seem to care about its long-term stability."

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