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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  • icon
    ThaumaTechnician (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 3:50am

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

    Instead of the 'necessary' illusions we usually get in the efforts to manufacture consent.

    Remember when people used to yammer on about "of the people, by the people, and, especially, for the people"? Good times...

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

    • icon
      MargeBouvier (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 5:19am

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

      I think that went out of style around the time when people stopped being citizens and started being consumers.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 6:37am

      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?

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

      • identicon
        Your Mom, 12 Apr 2017 @ 6:53am

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

        Did your father and I not show you enough love as a child?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 7:16am

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

          Sorry Mom, apparently I am just the child of the dumbest parents in the world that likes to call shit things they are not.

          I will "try" to avoid correcting you idiots in the future...

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

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 7:26am

        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.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 8:13am

          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.

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

          • icon
            Roger Strong (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 9:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 10:03am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

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

      • identicon
        Thad, 12 Apr 2017 @ 11:38am

        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".

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 4:16am

    Of course the MAFIAA will whine about it. It basically makes DRM useless. If you can circumvent it then it's not doing its job.

    While such move is pretty good, sanity says DRM should be banned entirely.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 6:01am

      Re:

      "It basically makes DRM useless. If you can circumvent it then it's not doing its job."

      So, the same as it is right now, then?

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

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 7:32am

        Re: Re:

        Precisely. But at the very least it will protect those circumventing it for legit purposes.

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

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 7:35am

        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.

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 10:22am

      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.

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

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 6:01am

    "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."

    This, I like a lot. Now, if they can just work on getting things into the public domain in a reasonable amount of time, we'll be all set.

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

  • icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 7:29am

    Tools

    Only one problem. Apparently this does not make the tools of circumvention legal. So while you may have the right to do something - get rid of DRM - the means to do so will still be illegal.

    https://boingboing.net/2017/04/10/o-melhor.html

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 9:46am

    Soon the MAFIAA will have the entire Portugul country blocked from the internet. Say goodbye to the *.pt domains.

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

  • icon
    Advocate (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 10:41am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 12 Apr 2017 @ 11:53am

      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)?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2017 @ 11:54am

    "There will also be an exception for private copying."

    Yeah right. I won't be able to copy stuff from the set-top box, which encrypts HDD 'content'.

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


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