John Gilmore: What’s wrong with copy protection

“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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