MPAA Tells US Government To Screw Over The Blind, Reject Fair Use

from the well-there-they-go-again dept

Just this morning we were pointing out the MPAA’s long history of attacking fair use. We noted that this often happened in international fora, where the MPAA and others would seek to block fair use in treaties and push rules that would limit or reject the possibility of fair use. And, just like clockwork, up pops an example. Apparently the “fair use defenders” at the MPAA are working overtime to get the White House to back down on promises concerning the decades-long negotiations for a treaty to help blind people not get screwed over by copyright law. The US has flip flopped on this issue over the past few years, but apparently had finally made some concessions that were allowing the process to move forward. The MPAA wants to kill all of that.

In Geneva this week the US government is taking a harder line in the WIPO negotiations for a treaty on copyright exceptions for the blind, and the reason is simple — lobbyists for the MPAA and publishers have been all over the White House, demanding a retreat from compromises made in February, and demanding that the Obama Administration push new global standards for technical protection measures, strip the treaty text of any reference to fair use and fair dealing, and impose new financial liabilities on libraries that serve blind people. So far the industry lobbying has worked, and the White House has sided with publishers against blind people. Dan Pescod from the World Blind Union says the conditions the USA are imposing are so severe the treaty “won’t work”, if they are included in the final text.

I guess they figure that blind people don’t watch too many movies, so screw ’em. Apparently, it’s so bad that even some US negotiators find the MPAA’s actions unseemly.

Some US negotiators are uncomfortable with the intensive lobbying by the MPAA and other publishers, but dismayed by the lack of backbone in the White House to resist such pressures.

Yup, those “fair use defenders” at the MPAA sure do have the public’s interest in mind, huh?

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Comments on “MPAA Tells US Government To Screw Over The Blind, Reject Fair Use”

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cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Re:

I don’t understand what the issue is. Why wouldn’t blind people use a movie like anyone else; other than their inability to see the video portion. What exemption is needed to serve this population and why?

Well, this dispute is mostly about ebooks, actually, although there is some small relation with movies.

Basically, blind people who are literate in braille can read written books, and blind people with good hearing can listen to audiobooks. There are projects that translate regular books into these forms to help blind readers, but resources are scarce and it’s somewhat labor intensive, so traditionally not that many books were able to be translated. (IIRC, I think it was a few thousand a year under the US program) And for films, while there it is possible for blind people who can hear to listen to them, there are similar services where a narrative audio track is added to the film, describing the visual action in order to help out. Just imagine how confusing a movie like, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey would be if you could only listen. Particularly since it famously has no dialogue for the entire first and fourth parts!

Ebooks hold the promise of really helping out blind people, since they’re already computer-readable text files. Braille displays exist for computers, as do text-to-speech programs, and it could make virtually all ebooks just as useful for blind readers as they are for sighted readers.

However, the DRM applied to ebook files as a matter of course interferes with this. So what the blind readers and the groups that aid them want is for it to be legal to circumvent DRM on ebooks in order to translate them for blind users (including by automatic means as described above). The ebooks would still be paid for, and access to these groups is restricted to people who really need them IIRC, but the DRM would be removed. And there is also a desire to allow the cracked files to be shared across national borders so that where human effort is used, it need not be duplicated; groups and individuals with a legitimate need could pay for a normal copy of a work but then freely be given an already translated version from their counterparts abroad. (This also meshes with importing books which are not published locally, and it’s especially useful for foreign language works)

And ideally, there would be similar exceptions for audio works for deaf people (like adding closed captions to video content that lacks them), for visual works for blind people (as mentioned before), and presumably other sorts of translations for people with other disabilities (re-colored copies of paintings to help the color blind?), circumventing DRM as needed, solely in the interests of such programs.

The MPAA and other major rights holders are against it because 1) it would mean that the long-established practice of only ever increasing the scope and duration of copyright had ended; now there would be at least one small step toward reducing the scope of copyright, and; 2) it would mean that there would be a legitimate use for a variety of DRM circumventing tools, legitimacy for at least some producers of such tools, etc.

Basically, if the very least iota of lost control means fucking the blind, they’ll fuck the blind. It’s absolutely appalling but not really surprising.

Some of the comments opposing the reform can be seen here:

FuzzyDuck says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wouldn’t a workaround be to force publishers to make available versions of their published works for the blind and deaf? Made available at the exact same time and at the exact same cost as the “normal” version.

If publishers don’t provide that under those precise conditions then others would be entitled to provide such versions without need to compensate the publisher.

In other words either make the works available to all and make some money or forfeit that right.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Wouldn’t a workaround be to force publishers to make available versions of their published works for the blind and deaf? Made available at the exact same time and at the exact same cost as the “normal” version.

Workarounds already exist, and have existed for some time, for most of the issues with piracy. The publishers have railed against them, mostly because it would require a new system which would cost more and result in less benefit to the masses they sell too. It is, as always, a case of them being too lazy to solve the problem themselves, but too much of a control freak to allow anyone else to solve the problem. They railed against Netflix, they railed against RedBox, and they have railed against the VCR, and quite frankly, they will rail against anything until they go poof out of existence and the world becomes a better place overnight.

Mega1987 (profile) says:


Discrimination for the disabled because they’re Blind and can only hear the show?



Odin: Of Course… NOT! They’re just Human shaped bottomless Wallets, Sucking everyone’s money till no can can pay them THEN sue them for not being able to pay and going for force labor to pay for the so called liabilities.

Me: We’re at the 21th century, Odin.

Odin: Oh really? But the Logic behind MPAA are medieval at least or worse, They’re just starting from the Bronze Age.

special-interesting (profile) says:

?Just this morning we were pointing out the MPAA’s long history of attacking fair use.?

It sure didn’t take long for more evidence of two faced-ness activity to appear. For anyone actually paying attention (not Washington thats for sure) its a ROFL hilariously funny thing. Its beyond funny that any supposedly serious legislator could (in real life) even consider a shred of credibility to any organization that behaved as such.

The MPAA seems so selfish and hellbent on perusing their own monopolistic goals that nothing apparently stands in their way. Not the constitution. Not the lives and wellbeing of the consumers that sometimes enjoy the products of their members. Not any sort of fair political process. And. Certainly not the law as criminalizing daily activities like sharing culture/news/music/books/gossip is even more insane than the war on drugs.

Have said this before but their business model seems more like a criminal organization complete with shady political contributions, suspicious court cases, misrepresentation of evidence, misrepresentation of facts, obscuring even their own historical deeds, etc, etc, etc. Its hard to find any integrity or backbone of decentness in any of their activities/sponsorship/law-suits/etc.

Name one thing from eternal copyright (and the criminal bastardization of such) that anyone could defend in terms of cultural growth and society’s benefit? (this is a trick question. If one wants to answer it they would have to read up on why we as a people read, watch TV and communicate with each other.)

-fuming- -toss another 2 page rant-

So now the MPAA wants to step on the Blind’s access to culture, knowledge, news, literature and even entertainment? If ever there was a more vulnerable social group it would be hard to find. Here is a group that has totally invested into just surviving in a world that is not built for them.

Laws are supposed to fit society. If this is not true then people get jailed or fined for just living and breathing. If this is not true it makes a mockery of the legal system and breeds little respect and mostly contempt.

Any legislator or potential elected candidate should be asked the question ?do you feel that laws should reflect society or that laws are to be used as a way to change society?? The average citizen might not care less if phrased so politely but putting it another way it means; You will be jailed and or fined heavily for behavior your local government deems bad for its (ill?)legally enforced vision of society.

The key words might be ?government vision for society? which should send shivers down anyone with a backbone. For anyone with democratic sense its always a bad sign when government has ANY opinion at all.

?it’s so bad that even some US negotiators find the MPAA’s actions unseemly. ? There is hope kindling under the plentiful logs of flammable nonsense left behind by eternal copyright special interest groups.

Since its obvious that the MPAA’s credibility is questionable; Is this just a smokescreen for other more vicarious actions? It might just be a judicial time waster to allow more freedom to do other more culturally damaging crimes on a developing society?

To a culturally diminished way of thinking it might make sense. Just challenging the basic Fair Use Rights for the Blind might just be like playing ball. Keep the ball in your control. Always challenge and damage the oppositions territory in a slash and burn way. Take all that you can and damn the consequence. This is basic adversarial technique used in war.

War is ugly beyond belief. A terror that US citizens have been spared and know nearly nothing about. Killing, without remorse… -pukes-

In a most basic monopolistic war mentality; Who cares about advancing technology and innovation developed through culture that thrives on sharing information in various formats (paper/MP3/mkv/avi/pdf/etc). While slashing and burning culture who cares about the advancement of our society itself? We kill off our own opportunities when monopolies take over.

Disclaimer: have cared for an ‘almost’ totally blind person and can verify just how vulnerable a group this is. For the MPAA to to attack mercilessly this unwilling social group of life’s cruel circumstance is beyond anyones imagination of justice?

Anonymous Coward says:

No wonder the copywrong groups have earned a most hated badge but the public.

With all the scheming and greed they have shown peeking through the actions, I think they should take their goods and go lock them up so no one can ever steal them again.

At present nothing would please me more than to see the whole batch of them locked in a barn and it burnt to the ground in hopes the phoenix that arose might be better than what we see and witness in today’s era. (figuratively speaking that is) Total bankruptcy might not come in a bad second place.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘Yup, those “fair use defenders” at the MPAA sure do have the public’s interest in mind, huh?’

while this is a total piss take of the MPAA, considering the absolutely disgraceful load of lies and bullshit put out about how they support fair use, the even bigger issue is the decidedly lack of balls of the White House. how can any government or administration have the gall to state that they are representative ‘of the people, by the people, for the people, yet dont have the guts to simply say ‘NO! this is not good enough, this isn’t going to happen!’ to allow any industry to treat disabled people in such a way is criminal! for the government to allow an industry to treat the disabled in such a way is worse than criminal! Obama and his ilk should be ashamed of themselves for taking so long to sort this mess out anyway. to allow the entertainment industries to brazenly go this far is a disgrace! why the hell isn’t there a massive push back, not just from the blind, not just from the disabled, but from all areas? unbelievable!!

Anonymous Coward says:

In the name of copyright we shall, screw the people with disabilities, free speech, censor others, enable extortion rackets to roam freely the land, criminalize everyone and call it a day.

How artists(not really) will make a living when they go to their graves and copyright is only reduced to life?

How will artists survive if they can’t control what they make after they sell it?

How will artists survive if they can’t censor others?

How will artists survive if their morality is not imposed upon others?

How will artists survive?

Personally those kind of artists should not have a place among us ever.

DW says:

Ahaha no it’s cool MPAA, as a blind person I totally have no desire to read books ever, no big deal. I mean, clearly my disability means I’m a non-person who doesn’t deserve to enjoy reading or anything. Not like a massive part of our social culture is structured around books, not like, as an English major, I might need these books for school, not like I might just enjoy reading and films because I am a human being. It is infuriating to me that I can’t just go pick up a book at the library or book store, that my choices in reading materials are so dramatically limited, that I’ve had to forgo writing papers on topics that interested me because the relevant books were only available in print, that I can’t read the companion books to my favourite TV programme. The restrictions on eBooks are just drasticly shrinking an already reduced selection, and it’s by turns exhausting and frustrating.

special-interesting (profile) says:

Its nice that text to speech technology is becoming quite developed and somewhat (still needs improvement) usable. This, good for the blind social group, recent innovation has been arrested by claims that it is a ‘public performance’. Yeah something so weird as copyright working as a stop-point of culture. No mention that it might be used in private. No mention that; even in public it’s still only a way for citizens to share culture between themselves.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

I guess they figure that blind people don’t watch too many movies, so screw ’em.

To the extent that that is true, the exemptions in question would have little impact on movie piracy anyway. So why, exactly, does the MPAA care?

Or do they see any weakening of copyright as the thin edge of a wedge that would eventually open the floodgates of BitTorrent?

If so, it seems like they want to avoid a weirdly twisted and perverse version of the lament of Niem?ller: “first, they came for the large print edition rights, and we didn’t speak out because our movies didn’t have large print editions …”

Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Something along those lines. They fear that anybody other than them having rights in the medium of books, where they don’t care, could lead to anybody other than them having rights in the medium of film, which is their entire business.

There’s no doubt also some politics in there as well. These “creator advocacy” groups must maintain the idea that – as is literally said on the Copyright Alliance blog – creators are besieged day and night on all sides by thieves and vandals, and the advocacy groups are the last line of defense: the only thing preventing creators from being plundered out of house and home. There must always be a battle, and these groups must always be fighting on the side of right, lest creators doubt the value of these groups and dues wane.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Or do they see any weakening of copyright as the thin edge of a wedge that would eventually open the floodgates of BitTorrent?”

Precisely that. I remember back in school, having debates on homosexual marriage rights, and always, my opposite would tell me that homosexuals mustn’t be allowed to marry, otherwise we automatically must mean that anyone can marry anything, like a car. Thusly, any “weakening” of marriage laws must not be allowed.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

Re: Re: Re:

Just out of curiosity, what negative consequences, from a public-good perspective, did they envision would result from the hypothetical car-marrying?

Or was their “argument”, such as it was, even well-developed enough to not simply omit a crucial step, like this:

1. If we allow X, we allow Y.

2. ???


I think any debates on public policy matters arguing for forbidding something should be required to answer two questions:

A) Who dies, is physically injured, loses some of his stuff/money, or is otherwise materially harmed if we permit X?

B) State a plausible mechanism by which X leads inevitably to the death, injury, loss of property, or etc. in A, above.

I can satisfy that basic requirement even for marijuana criminalization, whose support is notoriously deficient in rationality. I can’t immediately see a way to satisfy it w.r.t. a proposed ban on car-marrying. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

So basically the MPAA are sexist, unbelievably racist (some of the private corporate comments about African Americans have to be heard to be believed) and now they hate the blind???

Short of gassing people in copyright camps the only thing they could do that was worse was run a puppy-stamping competition to win some god-awful synthetic boyband’s latest autotuned outing.

rowena cherry (profile) says:

Fair Use and the blind

Piracy is not “Fair Use”. That is the issue. “Fair Use” is well defined, and while few would argue that it should be fair use for a blind person who has purchased a copy of a work to have it translated into whatever form they can enjoy, (or to be able to show proof of legal purchase, and then be supplied a translated copy), it is not fair use for one volunteer to acquire one copy of an e-book, and then to scan and translate it and to publish and distribute it to others.

“Bookshare” is a case in point. They call themselves a library, but they don’t make arrangements with copyright owners. “Get books quickly and easily with new tools from Bookshare!” and “Share with students, let them download on their own, including NIMAC textbooks!*”

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