Yet Another Example Of Why Lawmakers Need A Better Understanding Of Technology
from the working-on-the-impossible dept
Politicians and technology are generally a bad combination, often leading to ridiculous laws and even more ridiculous statements. Tim Lee is pointing out one example, while asking why our elected officials don’t have more tech savvy staff to prevent them from making statements saying that the impossible is possible. In discussing copy protection, Rep. Cliff Stearns is quoted as saying: “The first question I have is whether we have gotten any closer to technology that would allow a limited number of protective copies to be made of copyright-protected works…. I would like to know about the state of technology in this area. I can’t think that this is not a solvable challenge. Why don’t we make it the copyright equivalent of the race to the moon. We went to the moon almost 40 years ago?it seems to me technology should afford a means of limiting the number of copies we can make of a protected work.”
Tim does a good job of explaining that making an uncopyable file is simply impossible. The whole point of computing is based on copying. If it’s a digital file, it’s copyable. Even more to the point, even if it’s “protected” by some sort of technology, at some point, it needs to be unwrapped to be viewed or heard — and there’s always going to be a way to capture (and copy) that data. Tim is hopeful that politicians will start to realize that Hollywood’s line of reasoning about copy protection is bogus (which might be helped along by Hollywood’s own misguided attempt at building their own copy protection technology). It would be good if he was right, but I’m less optimistic. The final sentence from Stearns that Lee quotes is: “Absent promising news on the technology front, I assume we will have to allow the legislative process to work and see if that will yield a solution, although perhaps an inelegant one.” In other words, if the technology doesn’t work, rather than seeing what new business models the market creates, the lawmakers will just start making “inelegant” laws over this — which likely means stringent punishment for infringement in an effort to protect an increasingly obsolete business model. We’ve seen this before from politicians who just want to start passing laws, even as they admit those laws are probably the wrong solution.