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Say That Again

by Timothy Lee


Filed Under:
dmca, drm, media



Mainstream Media Way Behind on DRM and DMCA

from the behind-by-a-decade dept

The Guardian is a great newspaper and produces a lot of good content. So I was excited to see that it had done a story on Apple, digital rights management, and the future of the music industry. And the piece does a good job of summarizing the problems created by DRM and the business case against using it. However, one thing I found kind of amazing was the part where it notes an industry study suggesting that digital rights management has no effect on "piracy" rates. The Guardian says: "The assertion is remarkable. If DRM does not in fact discourage piracy, then it is merely a nuisance for the user." But of course the assertion isn't "remarkable" at all. It's a point people have been making for close to a decade. What's remarkable is that it's taken this long for the industry -- and mainstream reporters -- to figure out what a lot of us have been saying since the beginning.

But the even more annoying thing is that the article never mentions the DMCA (or its European equivalents). For example, it talks about the Microsoft PlaysForSure fiasco, and about the problems that users will have once Microsoft shuts off its "license servers." What it doesn't mention is that laws in the US, UK, and elsewhere make it illegal for third parties to offer software utilities to deal with the problems. That transforms the issue from an ordinary business blunder into a serious public policy issue. Microsoft has every right to shut down its license servers if it wants to. But consumers should have the freedom to download third-party software that would convert their PlaysForSure music libraries into an open format so they don't have to put up with Microsoft's arbitrary restrictions. So, for that matter, should customers of the iTunes store. But thanks to the DMCA, it's illegal to use such tools, and a felony to "traffic" in them.

Unfortunately, while there's been increasing coverage of the problems with DRM, there has continued to be little real discussion of the DMCA. Which is a real problem, because the millions of customers who made the mistake of purchasing DRMed music would really benefit from the freedom to use their legally-purchased music as they see fit. Indeed, a lot of them might be inclined to exert political pressure on Congress to change the law if they knew that the problem was largely Congress's fault in the first place. But because press accounts of the issue don't even mention the legal problems, most consumers assume it's just a garden-variety technical glitch and the law doesn't get changed.


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  1. identicon
    zcat, 19 May 2008 @ 7:08pm

    > Should be interesting to see what happens when Microsoft
    > decides to turn off the XP and/or Office Activation
    > Servers. I'm sure 15 years from now there will still be
    > someone that is legally entitled to run XP and/or Office
    > 200x, but won't be able to because Microsoft disabled
    > their servers.

    Nobody is "legally entitled" to run any Microsoft products, now or in the future, beyond the first 90 days. If it happens to still run after that time (and I've been told sometimes Windows can go more than three months without needing a reinstall) consider it a bonus. Haven't you read your EULA?

    "Microsoft warrants that the Software will perform
    substantially in accordance with the accompanying
    materials for a period of ninety (90) days from the date
    of receipt. If an implied warranty or condition is created
    by your state /jurisdiction and federal or
    state/provincial law prohibits disclaimer of it, you also
    have an implied warranty or condition, BUT ONLY AS TO
    DEFECTS DISCOVERED DURING THE PERIOD OF THIS LIMITED
    WARRANTY (NINETY DAYS). AS TO ANY DEFECTS DISCOVERED AFTER
    THE NINETY-DAY PERIOD, THERE IS NO WARRANTY OR CONDITION
    OF ANY KIND."

    They could well argue that you don't even get the 90 days, since 'product activation' is a feature described elsewhere in the EULA, and not a defect at all.

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