what’s wrong with copy protection

So far the best copyright analysis article I have read is from John Gilmore of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. You’ll find this article here: What’s Wrong With Copy Protection.

This article was written in 2001 and has some very nice arguments. The essay starts with:

First, I call it copy protection rather than content protection, because “content” is such a meaningless word. What the technology actually does is to deter copying. Such technologies have a long history in computing, starting with the first microcomputers, minicomputers, and workstations. Except in very small niches, all such systems ultimately failed. Many failed because of active opposition from their buyers, who purchased alternative products that did not restrict copying.

There is nothing wrong with allowing people to optionally choose to buy copy-protection products that they like. What is wrong is when:

An then the author develops the following arguments on “what is wrong”:

* Competing products are driven off the market
* Companies don’t disclose copy-protection restrictions
* Scientific research is unpublishable
* Competition is prevented
* Abuse of “copyright protection” rewards monopolies
* Social policy is created without public input
* Copyright’s balance of benefits is lost
* Beneficiaries are a tiny fraction of society

Note that the article is not against copyrights, but more on how media companies try to restrict the technologies so we can’t exerce our rights. There is nothing wrong from ripping a CD (you own) so you can enjoy it on you music player: you have the right to copy what is yours for yourself:

Even if they have purchased the movie, and it’s stored at home on their own equipment, and they have high bandwidth access to it from wherever they are. This concept is called “pay per use”. It can’t compete with “You have the right to record a copy of what you have the right to see”. These companies can’t eliminate that right legally, because it would violate too many of the fundamentals of our society, so they are restricting the technology so you can’t exercise that right. In the process they are violating the fundamentals on which a stable and just society is based. But as long as society survives until after they’re dead, they don’t seem to care about its long-term stability.

What I really like about this essay, is the argumentation: clear and straight forward.

This essay is a must read.


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