[LINK] What's Wrong with Copy Protection
Tue, 23 Jan 2001 17:03:15 +1000
Nobody expects a polemic to be nuanced. Its not in the mode.
I doubt if anti-copyright activists disagree about the n-dimensional issue.
What remains, is that the current round of change in international copyright
law seems (to some of us) to extend IP rights beyond that really required.
This area is about give and take. Apart from bing offered new (constrained)
access to services that its likely we would come up with (unconstrained)
anyway given time, what are we being given? I would suggest that the answer
is not much. There is very little evidence of any give, on the part of the
IP owners. There is quite a lot of evidence of take: take a better rule to
control IP, move to pay per view, renew and extend IP life, remove artistic
Where are the significant benefits to users in this? The digital form and
mechanisms are there. the technology improvements appear to be coming
independant of IP owners, because technology in this arena is generally
useful and applicable for more than IP rights management. Suprise! thats
what computers are for! So why do we only appear to be seeing law reform
to extend IP rights, and not to constrain it more?
If you're asking 'us' to acknowledge that in the argument, we're seeking to
push back beyond the current IP law norms, then yes, thats probably true, and
yes, that has repercussions. If there are clear consumer benefits in the
changes, they have been abysmally badly articulated. And by the same token
the threat to an apparent right to copy is being very well stated: I think
everyone who owns a CD burner understands what they 'can' do and what they
'should not' do, and where they personally stand on it. [comparisons to
other crimes not involving IP are usually not appropriate at this point, if
somebody can come up with a class of 'wrongdoing' which fits well against
IP crime I'd love to see it discussed.]
At the core, I do not believe consumers realize (a) how far things they regard
as normal (like home taping) are constrained already and (b) that there
really is no such thing as a free lunch, and that means both content/IP
owners are looking to boost revenue and that attacking their revenue
base probably comes at a cost. As you say, this can be extreme given the
economic impact on the workforce and the wider economy. But surely this
is just a transitional issue?
Millions of people used to earn a living doing many things which social
and economic reform now render superflouous. I don't think you really
mean to empower the chair-leg bodgers or charcoal burners of the world
to limit the advent of mass-produced furniture. What you seem to be saying
is that these rights, IP rights, economic rights of IP owners and producers
have to outweigh all other considerations.
I think the likelyhood is that consumer rights are being squeezed here, and
that consumers includes people who don't see why the 'cost' of the goods
has to reflect older models of value, and production. When it becomes
self-evident that the distribution and physical media cost of IP is
close to zero, its an interesting question who gets to define the value
in the exchange. If (as we all suspect) the per-copy IP payments to creators
is vanishingly small, why are we expected to recoup the wasted A&R overheads
of a bloated industry? Why is it better for the world to pay Microsoft $120+
per Windows licence than to pay a declining sum as the life of the product
goes on? Surely this money could be better spent in other parts of the
In the end, it does nobody much good for the law to be ignored. This seems
to be what we are heading towards. At the margins, you can do reductio ad
absurdiam on this stuff. If you stay closer to the mainstream, is it
really neccessary for copy protection methods to be promoted without
consideration of other changes, like shortening the life of digital IP?
So lets see more polemics, Like John Gilmore, and lets see more analysis
which maybe gets us further along.
George Michaelson | DSTC Pty Ltd
Email: email@example.com | University of Qld 4072
Phone: +61 7 3365 4310 | Australia
Fax: +61 7 3365 4311 | http://www.dstc.edu.au