Can Someone Explain Why Circumvention For Non-Infringing Purposes Is Illegal?

from the please-explain dept

A few months back, Public Knowledge released its five ideas for copyright reform, and we asked people to defend why any of them didn't make sense. Oddly -- despite the vast number of copyright system defenders who populate the comments around here -- not a single person suggested any reason why the five suggested reforms didn't make sense. Some people suggested other ideas for reform, but the regular defenders of the system miraculously disappeared when asked to defend the current system. I'd say it was funny... but, really, it's just sad.

PK is now drilling down deeper into each of the five topics, and the latest one is the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA, which makes circumventing any kind of "technical protection measures" illegal -- even if you are doing it for perfectly legal reasons. It also makes it illegal to make or distribute tools that can be used to circumvent DRM. In PK's rewrite, those specific problems are fixed:
To remedy the situation, PK proposed two simple changes to the DMCA. First, Section 1201(a)(1), which now bans circumventing a technological protection measure which that "controls access" to a copyrighted work would should be changed "to allow circumvention for the purpose of making a non-infringing use of the protected work."

Second, Section 1201(a)(2) and Section (b)(1), which ban the making and distribution of circumvention tools, should be amended to permit the making and distribution of tools capable of enabling substantial non-infringing use of a work, in order to give those making lawful uses the practical ability to circumvent.
So, once again, I will ask the copyright defenders among the community here: what's wrong with this proposal? I'd like to understand a defense of an anti-circumvention law that makes the tool, rather than the uses, illegal -- and which makes a perfectly legal action illegal just because of the method used. Because, frankly, I've never understood how either provision in today's law makes sense, and I'm sure there must be someone out there who thinks they do make sense.

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  1. icon
    Technopolitical (profile), 17 May 2010 @ 3:46am

    Re: copyright is a natural right

    "Technopolitical, your assertion that copyright is a natural right I find somewhat confusing, even with the link you provided. The concept of Natural Right is something that came out of the Enlightenment period of history, involving a particular philosophical bent. Rather than explain how it is a Natural Right, you point to a source of a famous but relatively minor religion that is not even treating it as a Natural Right."

    Basically: Fundunmental to any civilizied society are laws and courts to enforce laws. So people are not radomly murdered for a nickel , w/o punishing the murderer.

    Laws can be wrong through.

    Slavery used to be legal.

    Did slave owners have "natural rights" to be slave owners.

    While a few may argue that , most would say that a human being has a natural right to be free, in all places and all circumstances. It just took the laws of various legal systems time to catch up to the natural law.

    (Yes I know slavery is in the "five books of Moses". 3000 years ago , the Five Book of Moses, vastly expanded the rights of slaves relative to other legal systems of the time. The Five Books of Moses, humanized the slave, at the time a radical concept.)

    In a civilized society "copyright protection" is a legal right that needs to developed out of the natural right. and Thomas Jefferson , James Madison and company understood that. Better than I do.

    Was that helpful?

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