Tuesday, April 26, 2005

French Ruling Implies "Restrictions", Not "Rights"

A French appeals court has ruled that DRM on DVDs must be removed. Apparently, a fellow wished to view his DVD in another format at his mother's house as she did not have a DVD player. He attempted to copy the movie "Mulholland Drive" from his DVD to a VHS tape (Mom is a little behind the times) but was thwarted by technology supposedly in place to protect a copyright license owner's "rights".

Even the objective and user-friendly online encyclopedia Wikipedia can't get people to agree on what the acronym DRM actually stands for. Hollywood claims that DRM technology is a reasonable way to protect the "rights" of a copyright owner - so they are very keen on calling this Digital Rights Management. On the other hand, consumer rights are actually being violated and this incident in France is only one of many fiascos involving DRM. Probably the most infamous of all DRM technologies to date is CSS (Content Scrambling System). Yes, this is the DRM that prevented me from watching my legally obtained DVD on my GNU/Linux computer system. And to rub salt in my wound, CSS also aids in the enforcement of "region coding". Through travel I have purchased or received as gifts many DVDs from all 6 Hollywood-carved "regions". But I'm continually being told that I am not allowed to view my legally obtained content because my DVD player does not support more than 1 region. So is this really Digital Rights Management? Or is it Digital Restrictions Management?

It seems as though both copyright owners and consumers have an argument. Or do they?

It might be wise to take a timeout and recall what the purpose of modern copyright law is...

Although Hollywood has seemingly convinced the uninformed public that the purpose of copyright is to provide compensation to authors and artists, this is not the case. The compensation for authors and artists is merely a means to an end. What is shamelessly obfuscated by the traditional "Intellectual Property" owners using the DMCA, is the end. According to the constitution, the end is -
"to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries"
It is because of this definition that authors and inventors are "limited" by time and supposedly put in check by "fair use". The artificial "rights" of authors and inventors should not supercede those of the public simply for the purpose of protecting the $bottom line$ of a private interest. As Siva Vaidhyanathan correctly points out,
"Contrary to popular belief (and European principles) copyright is not primarily meant to grant control and benefits to authors and artists" (see "The Anarchist in the Library" - pg.93).
Current DRM systems under the DMCA do not respect this. They clearly violate fair use, should be taken to task as they have in France, and be referred to as "Digital Restrictions Management" - no matter how much certain corporations wish to falsely propagate "Rights Management".


Blogger Siva said...

hey! thanks for citing me!



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