Portugal Pushes Law To Partially Ban DRM, Allow Circumvention

from the straight-to-the-Priority-Watch-list-naughty-step-for-you dept

You might think that copyright on its own has enough problems. And yet DRM, originally designed to protect digital copyright material from unauthorized copying, has managed to make things much worse. It not only punishes with extra inconvenience those who acquire legal copies — but not those who manage to find illegal versions without DRM — it also allows the DMCA to be used to disable competitors’ products, to create repair monopolies, and even to undermine the very concept of ownership. You can see why the copyright industry really loves DRM, and fights to preserve its sanctity. And you can also see why the following news from Portugal, where the parliament has just approved a bill allowing DRM circumvention and even bans in certain situations, is such a big deal. As TorrentFreak reports:

The bill, which received general approval last December, tackles the main issues head-on by granting copying permission in some circumstances and by flat-out banning the use of DRM when the public should have right of access to a copyrighted work.

In a boost to educators, citizens will be given the right to circumvent DRM for teaching and scientific research purposes. There will also be an exception for private copying.

The draft also outlaws the use of DRM on copyright works that have fallen into the public domain, works which support cultural heritage, and works that were created by public entities or funded with public money.

Those are all eminently sensible restrictions on DRM, but they are likely to be met with howls of anger by the copyright maximalists if Portugal’s president approves the law, as seems likely. That’s because it would set a crucial precedent for allowing DRM to be circumvented legally, and establish that DRM can be completely forbidden in some situations. As a result, we can probably expect Portugal to be punished in the traditional manner: by being placed on the ridiculous “Priority Watch” list of the USTR’s Special 301 report. If that does happen, let’s hope Portugal follows Canada’s lead, and treats the move with the contempt it deserves.

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Comments on “Portugal Pushes Law To Partially Ban DRM, Allow Circumvention”

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22 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's amazing what a little real democracy does, eh?

Wait… please describe how this is a little real democracy?

Did the citizens vote for this law themselves?

According to the article…
“In a boost to educators, citizens will be GIVEN the right to circumvent DRM for teaching and scientific research purposes. There will also be an exception for private copying.”

If they are being given the right, then they are certainly not TAKING it, therefore nothing democratic happened here, contrary to your desire to label all things good a democratic and all things bad as the product of whatever current popular other ism is on tap to hate that day.

Given your name and its Greek origins, perhaps you are prone to fantasy a bit more than others eh?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's amazing what a little real democracy does, eh?

You might want to take a look at the DMCA in the US nd similar laws enacted by US demand in Canada and elsewhere.

Sure, there “exceptions” for teaching and scientific research and private copying. But the tools to actually do so are outlawed. Those who do the scientific research get dragged into court regardless.

The exceptions are there on paper but not in the real world. They mean as much as a Wells Fargo Code of Conduct.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's amazing what a little real democracy does, eh?

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I definitely like this decision and I do wish America adopted it as well.

I am just on a soapbox over calling things “democracy” when they are not. ThaumaTechnician was “blaming” democracy for this change and I see no evidence of that. And my asking for that evidence makes me unloved according to “Your Mom” apparently.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's amazing what a little real democracy does, eh?

I disagree. The problem in the US is that democracy is broken. The government too often favors corporations over citizens, because it’s the corporations that have the money.

The DMCA is just one example of this. The citizens are told they have rights to copy for educational, research and personal use, but even the flimsiest DRM means that they can be bankrupted over any attempt to exercise those rights. Meanwhile the corporations’ rights are fully protected, with the government even extending their power – at the citizens’ expense – overseas.

This story shows that Portugal’s government is listening to its citizens. Democracy is working there, at least far better than in the US.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It's amazing what a little real democracy does, eh?

“democracy is broken”

Well yea, that is my point, the problem is that it cannot be fixed, because people cannot be fixed. What you get instead is a pseudo-democracy where people think they have one, but they don’t at all.

“The citizens are told they have rights”

The crux of the problem. A proper democracy “tells” the government what rights the citizens “reserve unto themselves”. There is nothing democratic about this, even IF the government decided to be “benevolent” and think of the citizens for a change.

A governments #1 job is to ensure the rights of the citizens. Instead Democracies are turned into “protect the citizens” at all costs, even those of liberty and dictate to the citizens how they will live life.

A Democracy can only succeed if the majority of the people are informed and understand that individual liberty must be in the driving seat. Otherwise, you commit suicide.

And finally,
“This story shows that Portugal’s government is listening to its citizens. Democracy is working there, at least far better than in the US.”

On the surface, I agree with you there, but the media rarely gets it right, there could be loopholes, exceptions, and even then businesses may still try to SLAPP law anyone creating DRM breaching technologies just because they have the money to do it.

Corporate Sovereignty is not dead, it is a zombie that must be continually slayed and while they may enjoy a brief respite now? It WILL end, because it is not a real Democracy of any kind.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: It's amazing what a little real democracy does, eh?

Wait… please describe how this is a little real democracy?

Did the citizens vote for this law themselves?

They voted to elect representatives who voted for their interests, which is what elected representatives are supposed to do.

"Real democracy" does not necessarily mean "direct democracy".

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not quite. The technical ability to crack DRM is one thing. The legal and financial ability is another.

Even with DMCA-style laws giving you exemptions for educational, scientific and private copying, you can still be bankrupted in court for exercising those rights. Take away those laws, and the chilling effects would be significantly reduced.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No worries. The MAFIAA has been claiming that working with copyright and determining what is copyrighted, what is not and whether something falls into a loophole is so easy anyone can do it for years.

So of course they’ll be able to easily program their systems to comply with Portuguese law. After all, they just need to tell their tech people to nerd harder.

Advocate (profile) says:

Democracy be damned, it’s literally impossible for everything not to become open-source in the future. As long as copyright continues to exist, more and more things will be locked up under it and there will be less and less capacity to do any real work. Copyright was originally created to incentivise production of creative works *for the good of society* and it has now become the opposite of that, and will necessarily be removed if we want to move beyond the point of everything being a legal battle, which is also inevitable if society is to survive at all.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re:

it’s literally impossible for everything not to become open-source in the future.

Could you clarify what you mean by this assertion? Walk me through it.

First of all, what is your definition of "literally"? Are you using it in its traditional definition, or its modern (opposite) sense?

Second, what is your definition of "open source"? Is it the official Open Source Definition, or are you using the phrase to mean something else?

Third, what do you mean by "everything"? Presumably you don’t mean literally everything. Are you referring to every work that’s currently covered by copyright? Something narrower? Broader? Are you only referring to software? Typically "open source" refers to software (see (2)), but some people use the term more broadly (eg to CC-like licenses on photos, or hardware).

And fourth…why do you believe it is "literally impossible for everything not to become open-source"? How does this follow from the definitions in (1), (2), and (3)?

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