Say That Again

by Mike Masnick

Walt Mossberg Asks Congress To Rewrite The DMCA

from the good-for-him dept

A year and a half ago, famed Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg wrote up an opinion piece about problems with copy protection technology. He's now written a very similar piece blasting the DMCA and asking Congress to rewrite copyright law. His main point is that recent changes to copyright law have all been written by the copyright industry (sometimes with some influence from other industries), but never with any voice from the consumer side of things. For those who prefer to watch and listen, rather than read, Mossberg, he's also got a video that covers similar ground:

It's great to see someone with the stature and visibility of a Walt Mossberg come out in favor of fixing a bad law like the DMCA, and great to see him pick up on the key point that it's the very people Congress is supposed to be representing that got totally left out of the discussion last time around. Like his last article on the topic, though, there are some points to nitpick. While many people do this (unfortunately), Mossberg falls into the trap of assuming that this is all a big tug of war -- and what benefits one side harms the other. It's this zero-sum thinking that has everyone at each other's throats, rather than looking for solutions that benefit everyone. It's not about "balance" between copyright holders and content consumers -- but about creating a system that works for everyone. So, yes, let's rewrite bad copyright laws, and let's keep the consumer in mind when we do, but it's time to recognize that serving the consumer doesn't mean hurting the producer. In just about every other industry, people recognize that better serving consumers tends to be good for business too. It's not clear why everyone assumes the same concept isn't valid when it comes to content as well.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    DMCA sucky sucky, Mar 22nd, 2007 @ 3:54am

    Some points

    What if is was illegal to show people how bad this lock is?
    Then customers wouldn't know and so would be fooled.
    Bad locks are bad locks and we should be able to show and discuss the details of how badly particular locks (read DRM) suck.

    Customer lock in:
    Buy iTunes tracks, your iPod breaks you go to the store and find that the only music player you can buy is another iPod. Why? Because it is the only thing that can play your iTunes tracks!
    Since when has customer locking been a good thing? Reverse engineer for interoperability is a GOOD thing, it's why we AMD competing with INTEL. If the reverse engineering breaks a lock, it's up to the lock supplier to make the lock better, not conceal the information (and deceive the buyer as a result).

    EULA & DRM
    The DRM requires software to decode. The software comes with an EULA, a contract. As you upgrade your hardware each new generation of software comes with a new EULA with new restrictions. Failure to accept and you lose access to your back catalog.
    People should have the right to access the media they have bought! Since when has changing contract terms after an agreement been acceptable?

    Things Not Copyright Infringment:
    1. Installing software is not making a copy, the software requires the installation of at least 1 copy to work. Hence no need to accept an EULA for that one copy.

    2. Parallel importing is GOOD! Buying from the cheapest supplier is what markets are all about. Write it into law, to prevent the mess in UK, where they have to pay double the price for Vista because some idiot thought it would be a good idea to ban parallel imports.

    3. Remove the 'presumption of copyright ownership'. A person makes a claim of infringment and they are presumed to own the copyright they claim without showing any evidence. This is insane. How can an ISP ever know if the person is the copyright owner of a piece of media?
    False claims bring down websites (I've seen one recently where a competitor had a website removed TWICE on a false DMCA claim).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    koz, Mar 22nd, 2007 @ 5:49am

    Mossberg says he bleieves intellectual property exists and also "..To be fair, Viacom, unlike the misguided record labels, isn't suing the actual consumers who posted these clips. It's suing Google because it claims Google is making money from them and refusing to pay for that privilege.

    Google isn't blameless here, either. It does make money, at least indirectly, from other companies' copyright material..."
    Clealy the advantage to the consumer is a disadvantage to the copyright owner - Mike's idea of a win/win scenario requries a large amout of background cause and effect and market parameters to be believed, and it's not generally believeable although probably is true sometimes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    oldnavy84, Mar 22nd, 2007 @ 6:40am

    Google isn't blameless here, either. It does make money, at least indirectly, from other companies' copyright material..."

    That's a pretty weak argument. When I pay the parking lot attendant downtown because I'm going to see a movie, he makes money, at least indirectly, from other companies' copyright material. Should he have to pay royalties? On the other hand, if I couldn't find a parking place, I couldn't go to the movie at all. Oh my gosh, it's a win/win situation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    jackdiddly, Mar 22nd, 2007 @ 7:51am

    koz I hope you don't buy that
    Libarys make money off late fines of copy writed material. When you review a book your making money off someones elses material this is like google threre service is simply pointing to were things are. How does that make them to blame for copy write infringement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Walt Mossberg, Mar 22nd, 2007 @ 7:59am


    Good point about the win-win aspect. Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Mar 22nd, 2007 @ 8:33am

    He appears to be levelheaded on the issue...

    Mossberg knows that there is no easy magic bullet fix for the mess that is the current DMCA. Most of the time a person that points out the faults of an exsisting system will be written off if they don't "offer a solution". (i.e. what Bush says to nearly everyone that disagrees with the "War on Terror")

    It's not about "balance" between copyright holders and content consumers -- but about creating a system that works for everyone.

    Actually I think that if or when a solution that works for everyone is achieved there will be just that, balance. It's safe to assume that while said solution will satisfy everyone there will be some compromising involved. That's right the industry will have to let go of its stranglehold on content and those consumers that want everything for free will have to cough up at least some dough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    no easy answer, Mar 22nd, 2007 @ 10:37am

    on DRM

    I have hundreds of educational videos which I now only real time stream on the web in an effort to hinder, not prevent, them from being copied.

    I would love to just sell my videos for say 99 cents without DRM but in a matter of weeks they would be all over youtube, limewire etc. for free. Once the media is out there for free, it is over for sales.

    As a person producing this media I need some protection, I would love to hear suggestions other than DRM.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Chris Maresca, Mar 22nd, 2007 @ 10:57am

    Re: on DRM

    It's an interesting point, and I'd like to put forward a suggestion.

    Look at Open Source. The fact that the software is freely available does not mean people will not pay for it. Of course, software is slightly different in that it needs to be updated occasionally, so there is the opportunity for tie-in. But the point remains valid, esp. if the commercial version provides better features (in your case, DVD quality or ability to use it commercially).

    I would argue that you should try a controlled experiment on a small percentage of your videos. Upload them to YouTube, with a clear link at the end to purchase or view more videos at your site. There is power in numbers and the frictionless, viral nature of non-DRM videos could very well propel your business to a new level.

    Sure, you might loose sales to some people, but a lot more people would know about your offerings and you would have more sales overall. Besides, it's highly likely that a fair percentage of YouTubers would have never been interested in paying for your videos anyway, so it's not like it's a lost sale.

    It's a tradeoff. Wider exposure and a larger audience for a smaller percent of payees. It's also possible that a slight adjustment of the business model helps, moving from pay-per-video to subscribe to a DVD per month or something of the sort.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    YouKnowNothing, Mar 22nd, 2007 @ 11:25am

    Re: on DRM

    I would love to just sell my videos for say 99 cents without DRM but in a matter of weeks they would be all over youtube, limewire etc. for free. Once the media is out there for free, it is over for sales.

    Guess what? If you're educational videos are that popular then any one person who overcomes your hinderance and records your stream will put it out there on Youtube, Limewire, etc. So it will be out there anyway, no matter what type of lock you try to put on it. This is exactly the same as digital music: everything on iTunes is already out there and available for free on P2P networks, yet iTunes still sells billions of songs for $.99 apiece. If you want to sell your videos, you're going to have to come up with a better business model my friend. Try offering them at a higher bitrate, choice of format, some kind of extras that people can't get from your videos on P2P. Kinda like bottled water.

    As a person producing this media I need some protection...

    Sez who? What makes you so fucking special that you seed some kind of protection for your product? Your product must really suck if it can't compete in a free market. I'd like to have some protection that no one else is allowed to create and sell widgets except me. Man, I'd be raking in the dough if that happened. I could make as many or as few as I wanted and sell them for any amount I choose and people would have to buy them because I'm the only one who has them. Why oh why can't the economy work like that for me?? It's so unfair!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    koz, Mar 22nd, 2007 @ 2:49pm


    jackdiddly not sure which part you hope I don't buy - I was trying to point out that Mossberg's view was clear and consistent and didn't necessarily benefit from Mike's criticism unless everyone buy's Mike's view of the world (I see Mossberg himself may differ !).

    Even though it's probably obvious that cutting 2 min from a 30 min TV show is likely fair use for the punter, and even though it's OK to make money off other peoples work, it doesn't necessarily follow that a web site whose primary purpose is to encourage people make clips in order to profit from the collection of clips is legitimate - It is theoretically possible that the accumulaed impact of the collected clips could irreparably harm the business of the copyright holder (depending on the spead it occurs and the popularity of the site and other factors), and a law should account for this possibility since the purpose of law is to be fair.
    It's not at all clear if that situation has actually occurred yet, but since there are so many law suits around we need to think about what is actually possible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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