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An Interlude: Copy Protection

by jk Friday, Oct. 12, 2001 at 7:49 AM

An article that's not about the war! Relax and enjoy.

Dan Bricklin, the author of VisiCalc, argues against the imposition of "copy protection" for artworks in his great article "Copy Protection Robs the Future". Read it.

Copy protection is coming to your favorite media form, and as freedom-loving people, we have to learn to be aware of it.

The first is always the worst, and doomed to be obsolete soon, and the first technology to avoid is "Secure Digital", or "SD". The "industry" is positioning it as some sort of "protection", but the only thing it can protect is their profits. With SD, they can create media chips that can be played only in your SD player, not your friend's. That's not "security". That's greed.

The second thing, you have to fight. It's the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). It's a rule that pisses on freedom of speech, by making the discussion about how to "crack" DVDs and SDs illegal. So, if someone publishes an article about how, say, eBooks copy protection works, they can be arrested. In fact, somene *has* *been* *arrested* for exactly that reason: his name is Dimitry Skylarov. Do a web search.

While we're on the DMCA, let's toss some shit at it's supporters: the RIAA and MPAA. These aren't evil organizations, but they do go around deceiving artists by saying that laws like the DMCA "protect" artist interests. That's applicable only if artists interests happen to be identical to the interests of the record company or the movie studio... and that's often not the case. Artists want their work preserved, and as the linked article explains, copy protection jeopardizes people's ability to archive works of art.

Third, the creation of more restrictive Intellectual Property laws, like the DMCA, may eventually lead to the illegalization of emulation software. This could be catastrophic. For example, suppose you created a video game for the Gameboy (you're a programmer), and Nintendo discontinues the device (they have). Now, within ten years, there won't be Gameboys around. With flexible reverse engineering laws, it's likely that Gameboy emulators will exist that can run your works. If the law clamps down, there may be no emulators, and you won't be able to run your software.

Corporations are clamping down on free speech and free expression by turning ideas into "property" and then applying the legal standards of "property" to make new laws.

Ideas are IDEAS. Property is property. They are not the same thing, and any laws that equate the two are simply *inventions* of the legal system. Some make sense, and others, like the DMCA, are hazardous to free speech and free thought.

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