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May 3, 2007

Framing the DMCA
Posted by Patrick at 11:16 AM * 169 comments

Ed Felten on the AACS’s attempts to legally suppress a 128-bit integer that happens to be used as part of a proprietary encryption scheme:

While it’s obvious why the creator of a movie or a song might deserve some special claim over the use of their creation, it’s hard to see why anyone should be able to pick a number at random and unilaterally declare ownership of it. There is nothing creative about this number—indeed, it was chosen by a method designed to ensure that the resulting number was in no way special. It’s just a number they picked out of a hat. And now they own it?

As if that’s not weird enough, there are actually millions of other numbers (other keys used in AACS) that AACS LA claims to own, and we don’t know what they are. When I wrote the thirty-digit number that appears above, I carefully avoided writing the real 09F9 number, so as to avoid the possibility of mind-bending lawsuits over integer ownership. But there is still a nonzero probability that AACS LA thinks it owns the number I wrote.

When the great mathematician Leopold Kronecker wrote his famous dictum, “God created the integers; all else is the work of man,” he meant that the basic structure of mathematics is part of the design of the universe. What God created, AACS LA now wants to take away.

Which gets at what needs to be said, over and over again, about the post-DMCA legal regime: this isn’t a storyline about “copyright radicals” trying to overthrow the established order. The DMCA was the radical change, and the people using it to slap “takedown notices” on anyone who inconveniences their business model—those people are the crazies. The people pointing out that it’s nuts to claim ownership of an integer—those people are traditionalists.
Comments on Framing the DMCA:
#1 ::: Jim Henley ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:43 AM:

Dibs on 17! Cause every time someone plays one of those "pick a random number between 1 and 20" games - cha-CHING!!!

#2 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:45 AM:

Based on the title I thought maybe you were suggesting we get the DMCA sent away for a crime it didn't commit.

#3 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:47 AM:

Now I'm imagining a conversation like this:

My T-shirt: 790,815,794,162,126,871,771,506,399,625

AACS LA: Hey! That's one of our numbers! You can't wear that!

If this exchange took place, and assuming for simplicity's sake that I made the T-shirt myself, who would have broken the law, me or them?

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:51 AM:

Did stripper Carol Doda already copyright the perfect 36?

#5 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:52 AM:

The way I frame the DMCA in Bounty Hunters was this:


an automobile company is going to get wind of this (DMCA) anti-circumvention clause . And what they'll do is build a car with an electronic lock in the hood that only they or a dealer can open. And then they'll sue any independent garage or car owner who tries to pop the hood without permission. You won't be able to work on your own car. And you'll have to go to a dealer for all your parts and repairs.


As soon as you start talking about copyright, there's a whole shebang of frames and metaphors that just completely skewer common sense. But most folks understand cars. They may not be mechanics, but they almost immediately get what the problem is as soon as you allow a car manufacturer to completely monopolize a car, parts, repairs, to the point that GM is issuing "Take down" orders to some website because it explains how you could change your sparkplugs rather than paying some GM dealer an insane amount of money to do it.

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:59 AM:

I call dibs on 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,35...

I'm planning to collect tiny licensing fees from a lot of users.

#7 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Of course, every computer file in existence is equivalent to an integer; it's all zeros and ones. So there's nothing inherently absurd about claiming to copyright a number. Tor does it all the time.

Copyrighting a number that has no creative element, or abusing copyright for non-creative purposes, is another matter.

#8 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:12 PM:

#6 Teresa Nielsen Hayden, I've got some leaves and petals in my office here claiming prior art. :)

#9 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:14 PM:

The thing is that they're not claiming to own copyright on the number. They're claiming publication of the number is an anticircumvention method, which the DMCA forbids.

Copyright has Fair Use clauses, and other limitations to the monopoly given to the copyright holder such that they are not allowed to enforce a complete and total monopoly on the work.

You are, for example, allowed to review a movie, and say it stunk. You could even show a clip from the movie of one of the more horid scenes to prove your point. When copyright holders tried to portray that as a copyright violation, the courts told them to get stuffed.

So the billion dollar industry started making campaign donations to congress and got the DMCA passed, which end-runs the court rulings on Fair Use.

The DMCA has no Fair Use clause. No criticism is allowed. No reverse engineering is allowed. The DMCA bequeaths patent-like powers (the ability to control who can use, manufacture, or sell a thing) without requireing the owner to invent something new and patentable.

So, it's not a matter of someone claiming copyright on some number. It's worse. If it were just copyright, fair use would still allow for people to print it.

#10 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:38 PM:

What about 42?

#11 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:39 PM:

There was a radio skit somewhere a while back on the BBC where they privatised notes on the musical scale, so that 'Happy Birthday' ran: 'dee-dee dum dee EAT AT MACDONALDS! Drink Evian water (tinkle splash!)' etc. They played the national anthem and various other tunes in this vein.
This doesn't seem all that much saner.

#12 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:41 PM:

I heart T's response beyond all reason.

#13 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:50 PM:

Greg London@5: You know that's been done, right? Lexmark, one of the major printer manufacturers, put just that sort of "lock" in their inkjets' ink cartridges. You can't buy third-party ink for a Lexmark printer, because nobody else is allowed to make the cartridges-- it'd violate the DMCA.

#14 ::: DavidS ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:04 PM:

I agree with everything that's been written above about the DMCA (particularly by Greg), but the "it's just a number" argument doesn't seem like a very good way of framing the argument to me. If my credit card number were floating around on people's T-shirts (together with the expiration date, my name and my billing address) I'd be pretty annoyed. Yeah it might convince me to move to some more secure system for financial transactions, and I might concede that I couldn't stop it, but I'd still think the people distributing those shirts were immoral.

The point we need to make is that this number is necessary for people to engage in legitimate uses of the DVDs, which AACS is trying to prevent in order to cling to more profits.

#15 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:10 PM:

Teresa @ 6

It's not nice to dun Mother Nature.

#16 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:12 PM:

Teresa (#6), you're welcome to most of those. However, I've owned 2, 5, 19, 12,043, 216,493, and a few others since early 1992.

Don't worry though about the 2 and the 5, though. I only intend to charge fees to sleazy licensing authorities.

#17 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:19 PM:

And while we're at it, I'm registering the Godel number for the American Novel. Teresa, wanna buy it?

#18 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:24 PM:

mjfgates@13: You know that's been done, right? Lexmark...

yes, I know. The paragraph before I use the automobile metaphor, it says:

In 2003, Lexmark added authentication hardware in its printers and toner cartridges that served no purpose other than to identify non-Lexmark toner cartridges and stop the printer from working if one was detected. Static Control reverse engineered the authentication and sold chips that would allow a competitor to sell a toner cartridge that would work in a Lexmark printer. Smartek bought the chips and used them in their toner cartridge, competing with Lexmark's cartridges. Lexmark then used the anti-circumvention clause to stop Static Control from selling its chips, which prevented Smartek from making toner cartridges that compete with Lexmark.

DMCA was also used to try and monopolize garage door openers. I give an entire list of absurd abuses that the DMCA has been used to justify, then I end with the "Car built with a lock on its hood" metaphor.

Apparently, THAT has been done, in a way. The diagnostic computers for some cars, (I don't know the manufacturer), may actually require the mechanics/shops that use them to sign a NonDisclosureAgreement or something so that no one can reverse engineer the machine, which means no one can fix their own car.

#19 ::: DavidS ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:25 PM:

So, AJ, does this mean that (1+SquareRoot(5))/2 is a copyright circumvention device?

#20 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:29 PM:

IIRC, the traditional justification for copyright is to encourage publication by providing a profit motive. So the idea that there is a copyright act which explicitly prevents the publication of information is, at least, a bit odd. (I mean, there is a whole branch of research where publication might be illegal under DMCA.)

BTW, if I understand things correctly, you could shroud the infamous 128 bit number, publish it and the AACS could, legally, do nothing. They would have to circumvent the DRM you have put on the number to recognize it. That, of course, is illegal under the DMCA.

This gets us into all sorts of weird and perverse territory. e.g., what if someone wrote out the digits of that number in Pig Latin?

#21 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:30 PM:

David@14: The point we need to make is that this number is necessary for people to engage in legitimate uses of the DVDs

That is why I said they don't claim the number is Copyrighted. Copyright allows for Fair Use, criticism, reverse engineering, etc. DMCA does not.

It should be noted that DVD Jon, the kid who cracked the original DVD, basically wanted to watch DVD's on his Linux box. He had the hardware, the drive, the monitor, the computer, but the movie industry wouldnt let him.

Even if you own a legitimate copy of the DVD and owned your own hardware, the DMCA makes that illegal.

The movie industry tries to present it as if they're only trying to prevent unauthorized copying, but what they did was far more monopolistic than that. You couldn't watch a legitimate DVD on your computer DVD player.

#22 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:31 PM:

David @ 19,

Yes. That ratio is mine.

And while I'm at it, I should probably mention that I have a patent pending on Godel number encryption. Bruce is going to have to split those royalties.

#23 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:40 PM:

Greg, @9: Oddly enough, when I was sitting in the auditorium waiting for a performance by Stomp the other day, I was bored, and so read the fine print on my ticket (having neglected to bring something better to read).

The fine print on the ticket said that I agreed, by using the ticket, not to publish or distribute an *account of the performance*.

I checked the tickets for several concerts I'm going to, and they all say the same thing.

Apparently agreeing not to publish reviews of the ticketed event has now become part of the ticket fine print boilerplate.

#24 ::: Julian ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Lexmark did lose their case, though.

#25 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:02 PM:

Jenny (#11) I wonder if this was influenced by an earlier idea. In an episode of the Goon Show (characteristically described as absurd & surreal humour) the scheming, villainous Hercules Grytpype-Thynne copyrights the word 'Help', then goes around pushing people into deep water, tiger cages, and so forth, so he can charge them money to use it.

#26 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:07 PM:

Aphrael, I just checked the ticket for the event I'm going to tonight, and it's got the same boilerplate. (It also said that pucks, balls, and other equipment may fly into the spectator area and that it's my own dang problem if I get injured, but I'm not so worried about that at a Loreena McKennitt concert.) I do wonder if the other thing means I can't review the concert in my LJ, though. I notice that the ticket does grant all rights to the ticketseller to use my likeness in any way it sees fit.

Hmpf.

#27 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:10 PM:

(Random aside: How long has the spelling reference been at bottom of the Post A Comment bit? Awesomesauce, btw.)

And I would like to dibs 13, 26, 39, 169, 144, and 20,736. Specially that last before my dear dad gets his hands on it.

#28 ::: sburnap ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:10 PM:

This isn't about trademark or copyright. The essential question is: does a person (or company) have the right to legally prevent another person from publishing their password. So it's not a matter of "I own the number 4223 and no one else is allowed to use it". It's a matter of "You aren't allowed to tell anyone that the number 4223 is my PIN number!"

#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:14 PM:

I would like to copyright rule of thumb pi (22/7).

#30 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:14 PM:

Oh, darn. I forgot 13 was part of the Fibonacci series and Teresa dibsed it first.

#31 ::: Christopher Turkel ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Lexmark did lose their case. The judge ruled that they were trying to use the DMCA to create an artificial monopoly and his ruling was upheld on appeal.

This is why you are starting to see generic brand equivalents for ink now. Staples has a whole line of them.

#32 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Since the Super Sekrit Number is often expressed in hexadecimal, one could always ROT-13 it as an anticircumvention device. (After all, that's what the Adobe/Sklyarov situation wound up being based on.)

#33 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:30 PM:

I am planning to register a few defensive patents.

#34 ::: Christopher Turkel ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:33 PM:

09% of the population thinks this law is a bad idea.
F9 to 99 all agree.
11% of people think Congress should be replaced by Chimps.
02% think it already has.
9D-9% Chance that this law will not be repealed.
74% of all Congressmen do not vote regularly.
E3 Bingo!
5B is the secret room where bad laws are debated.
D8 is the decoy room.
41% of all people in the US believe political contributions=bribes.
56% of all paper money is recycled blue jeans.
C5 is where the battleship aint.
63 moons orbit Jupiter.
56 moons orbit Saturn.
88% of people surveyed say Congress should be in session 6 months out of the year.
C? Told you so!

#35 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Elise: I can't imagine such a clause holding up in a court, but it does mean that if they got upset with you, they'd at least have an argument in play.

I wonder how long that boilerplate has been there? It wasn't there ten years ago, but I don't read the tickets often enough to know when it crept in.

#36 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:42 PM:

I tried to claim 5,271,009, but I got a cease-and-desist letter from the estate of Alfred Bester. Quant suff.

#37 ::: Chris S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:47 PM:

If they're up to integers, words can't be far behind. Bags I "a" and "the". Show me the money!

#38 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:47 PM:

The essential question is: does a person (or company) have the right to legally prevent another person from publishing their password.

Except you have it backwards as to who is stealing from whom.

The public has a right to Fair Use of copyrighted material. The movie industry is using the DMCA as a way to put a padlock on Fair Use rights to lock the public out of what is rightfully theirs.

#39 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:47 PM:

Are negative and imaginary numbers covered by this law, or only integers? I call dibs on the square root of minus 1.

Why? Because I want to.

#40 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:01 PM:

It's fun to joke about copyrighting numbers and patenting venerable and computationally useless algorithms. But more seriously, Greg London (#9 & #21) and DavidS (#14) are completely right. No one is actually trying to copyright numbers.

I don't agree with sburnap (#27) however. This is a copyright issue, in a larger sense. The question is what sort of restrictions are we as a society willing to tolerate in exchange for a steady supply of creative content. I don't object to limiting distribution for a period of some years; Tolkien was entitled to his royalties.

But what the movie industry is trying to do is a violation of the spirit of the copyright bargain. We've got a pretty clear standard for reasonable use for CDs, VCR tapes, and the like -- lending, making spare copies, and so forth harms no one -- and there's no reason we should mutely accept the content industry's attempt to unilaterally change the terms of our bargain. Especially not when they've chosen to do it by bribing legislators into crafting laws as full of mischief as the DMCA.

#41 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:01 PM:

Are negative and imaginary numbers covered by this law, or only integers? I call dibs on the square root of minus 1.

Why? Because I want to.

This is all too complex for me.

#42 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:06 PM:

Teresa 6: 34, actually. But who's counting?

#43 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:10 PM:

#36 And if they're up to integers, words can't be far behind.

Freedom(tm) is on the march.

If God created the integers, who gets the blame for the words?

In the beginning were the numbers, and the numbers were the Elohim, and the Elohim were plural and multiplied throughout the multiverse without trademark. All numbers were equal to themselves and nothing else, and apart from numbers there was nothing. The 'verse was without metaphor, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Then some trickster said the Word.

#44 ::: Patrick ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:52 PM:

The argument that the public has the right to fair use and that the DMCA somehow locks them out of what is righfully theirs is, well, lame.

In some states there is a right to use the waterfront. This does not *automatically* create the right to travel through private property which stands between you and the waterfront. Such a right of way could be created by law, but it doesn't automatically spring into being once the right to use the waterfront is acknowledged.

The question of whether you have the ultimate right to use something is separate from the question of whether someone else has the right to place an impediment in your path.

#45 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:54 PM:

elise @ 25

the ticket does grant all rights to the ticketseller to use my likeness in any way it sees fit.

I'm going to make damn sure that the producers of the next concert I go to don't make voodoo dolls.

#46 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:58 PM:

sburnap@27

I agree with you on one level, but is it still their pin number if they sell the item to which the pin number is attached?

The game that is being played is that I buy the disk when my ownership of the disk suits them but I meerly buy the rights to use the disk when their continued ownership of the disk suits them. And then there is the EULA where I have to use their approved hardware to watch the disk and not the stuff I already have. Oh, and they can retroactivly revise the EULA.

Imagine if a drug company tried this? "You broke out in hives? Are you aware that breaking out in hives is a violation of our EULA? Page 17, line 21 specifically forbids metabolic reactions involving histamines, gamma globulin and cytokines. I'm afraid this is now a matter for our legal department."

#47 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey @ 35

Probably a good thing, too, or you might find yourself the last man on Earth. Sacre-Bleu! Jeez!

#48 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:03 PM:

Patrick @ 43,

Your analogy is broken. Hope you won't mind if I fix it.

We've been using that road across Mr. Banks' property to get the ocean for two generations. This means, under common and US law, that we possess of an easement, i.e. we do in fact have a legal right to continued access. Moreover, we have every right to get angry if Mr. Banks bribes the local cops to harass us when we exercise that right.

#49 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:04 PM:

Lizzy L @ 38

I'm taking all the quaternions. As they include all 3-dimensional rotations, none of you will have anywhere to turn.


#50 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:06 PM:

Patrick @ 43

There are people who will deny use to the public, even when the legal right is established and there is a public right of way, simply because they don't want to share that section of beach or trail or whatever. The DMCA feels something like that.

#51 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:10 PM:

If the RIAA could figure out a way to use the number Omega as a "product lock" code, they'd rule the world.

Omega, discovered by the mathematician Gregory Chaitin, has been proven to exist but is uncomputable:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaitin%27s_constant

#52 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:12 PM:

#39: "No one is actually trying to copyright numbers."

It may not exactly be copyright law, but I think that's the closest analogy to what they're asking for. Trade secret law would be the natural route, but there's no protection there from publication after reverse-engineering. It's not like a patent - those have to be publicly disclosed to have any protection. It's not like a trademark, as those obviously have to be public.

Copyright is the only such existing right that allows you to use legal means to prevent other people from duplicating information you claim to own, as the DMCA is attempting with this key, and to do so without publicly disclosing the information.

Actually, the more apt comparison is to the UK's Official Secrets Act, specifically section 5, which allows the government to prosecute anyone (not just government employees) who publishes or discloses information the government declares to be secret.

I don't know what it says about the US that while there's no equivalent to the Official Secrets Act for national-security secrets, Congress seemed happy to create an equivalent protection for a very specific class of commercial secrets.

#53 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:13 PM:

Patrick @43:

The argument that the public has the right to fair use and that the DMCA somehow locks them out of what is righfully theirs is, well, lame.

In some states there is a right to use the waterfront. This does not *automatically* create the right to travel through private property which stands between you and the waterfront. Such a right of way could be created by law, but it doesn't automatically spring into being once the right to use the waterfront is acknowledged.

But Patrick, this is a little beyond having to cut across private property to get to the waterfront.

This is closer to someone building a wall around the waterfront, then enclosing the waterfront in a dome, then charging people to use the proprietary Access Portal(TM) that was built just outside the waterfront grounds but is now the only way to get there, and limiting access to that PORTAL once per day/week/month.

None of which makes bypassing AACS any less illegal, but I find it very hard to feel any symapthy for them.

#54 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:18 PM:

In addition to what AJ says in #39, Cory Doctorow has written and spoken extensively about how one of the evils of DRM is that it allows them to change the terms of the bargain at any time, even long after the exchange of money. It also allows them to intrude into your personal life in ways that are quite disturbing. (e.g., Say that they decided that you are rights for a family to view the movie. Suddenly, they are in the business of decision what constitutes a family.)

Also, the inability to publish about circumvention measures has ramifications on computer security. It's sort of like saying, if we don't ever talk about software bugs, then all software will suddenly be bug free. There are lots of legitimate reasons to protect data. DMCA compromises research in that area, in my opinion, solely so that a bunch of movie distributors prevent piracy ineffectively.

#55 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:20 PM:

43: The argument that the public has the right to fair use and that the DMCA somehow locks them out of what is righfully theirs is, well, lame. In some states there is a right to use the waterfront. ....

Well, I'm basing my argument off of a couple hundred years of copyright rulings from various courts. It appears you're basing your argument off of how you want to map waterfront law to copyright law. I think starting with copyright law is probably "less lame".

But let me quote to you Bruce Lehman, the Patent Commissioner who lobbied Congress to adopt the DMCA, the man responsible for this mess:

"Some have argued that because it may now be technically feasible to "meter" each use of a copyrighted work, and to charge a user a fee for the use, the concept of fair use has no place in the NII environment.” -- Bruce Lehman, 1995


This was the intent from the beginning: to get rid of Fair Use and install a "per use" or "per copy" fee on every single work you listen to, read, or watch.

In November 2003, president of the Motion Picture Association of America Jack Valenti said:
"If you buy a DVD you have a copy. If you want a backup copy you buy another one."

I believe the phrase is "straight from the horse's mouth".


#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Any objection to my copyrighting the numbers 1984 and 2001?

#57 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:28 PM:

So after this, latest DRM debacle is over, what tactics will the DRM lobby try next?

Suggestions:

1. Spending millions of dollars on "public shaming" campaigns. Kids caught copying DVDs will be shown in TV ads with captions like: "THIS KID COPIED A SLIPKNOT CD. HE IS A DISGRACE TO HIS PARENTS AND COUNTRY."

2. Sending anonymous threats to customers: "If we catch you pirating our movies and CDs we'll vandalize your car! -A Friend"

3. Hiring Colombian death squads to take out customers who make copies.

4. Buying a Presidency that declares a Global War On Piracy.

5. Desperate begging: "We're dying here! Pleeease stop giving copies to your friends and family, or we'll have to sell our McMansions!"

(*SATIRE*)

#58 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:34 PM:

You know the sad part? The RIAA and MPAA, and the rest of the "content industry", don't like the DMCA either. They think it's too liberal, and they think it has too many loopholes that allow their customers to view works in ways that the content industry doesn't control.

The content industry is lobbying for new laws that are even more extreme than the DMCA. There's a good chance that they'll succeed. Even if they don't succeed, the effect is that the DMCA will look like the traditional, reasonable compromise position.

#59 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:41 PM:

So...if someone publishes, for the first time ever, additional digits of pi, and copyrights the book, can the author sue someone who also publishes those digits of pi without permission? If so, would it be a defense that the second person derived those digits independently, as indeed anyone with knowledge of the math involved can do?

#60 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Jacob @ #51:

Right. One could rephrase part of your comment -- although hopefully without distorting your sentiments as -- "The DMCA's provisions aren't supported by any established legal principle."

As for Congress...well, I still find it depressing that the DMCA passed the Senate without a single dissenting vote. We're going to have to keep a close eye on the new Democratic majorities; they've been the primary sponsors of this garbage in the past.

People who are curious about what's been proposed recently should have a look at the Wikipedia page on pending IP legislation

#61 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Jacob Davies @ 51

there's no equivalent to the Official Secrets Act for national-security secrets

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Title 18 USC act as an equivalent? It sure seemed that way when I was told what would happen if I violated it.

#62 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:53 PM:

#36: "If they're up to integers, words can't be far behind. Bags I "a" and "the". Show me the money!"

That's easy to do. Just encode the "09F9…" number with the S/KEY One Time Password System [RFC 2289] as a pair of six-word sequences. Here are your twelve words: "BYE ONCE TIM SAY ARID LICE SEAT CAR LOCK OATH COCA BULL"

You're welcome.

#63 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Watch. Now I'll have to be disemvoweled.

#64 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:16 PM:

#58: pi is a fact. I don't think you can copyright facts. Also, no one is asserting copyright on numbers. What AACS is asserting is that publishing this number is illegal because DCMA makes the proliferation of information for circumventing a copy protection mechanism illegal.

They are not claiming that they have authored the 128 bit number. They are claiming that publishing the 128 bit number compromises the ability to protect their copyrighted works. What worries me is that, under DMCA, they may actually have standing for redress. (IANAL. I would be thrilled to be wrong.)

#65 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:46 PM:

If you haven't read Matthew Skala's essay about the Colour of bits, you owe it to yourself to read it now. It's very well-written and prescient -- he wrote it in 2004, but it's still a much better roundup of the AACS issue than anything else I've seen.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go trade a large integer with random people on the Internet. In an amazing coincidence, when you write this integer to disk and interpret it as an AVI file, it's this week's episode of Lost. Well, either that or one-half of a pair of large integers that, when XORed together, produce all of Tor's 2006 hardcover releases in PDF format.

(It's both, actually, but you'll have to read Skala's essay to learn what makes that fact so interesting.)

#66 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:46 PM:

Patrick @ 43, if you want to use the right-of-way analogy to talk about the DMCA, a better one may be that of the rancher who grazes his cattle on public lands, then puts a gate across the public road crossing "his" land because the cars disturb the livestock. You started off with public access, then private interests suddenly had financial interest in restricting said access and took matters into their own hands.

This is not saying "information wants to be free". This is saying that it is the proponents of the DMCA, those who are talking about "closing the analog loophole", who are the ones changing the rules, not the crazy people who think paying for content and hardware physically capable of accessing the content means you should be able to actually get at the content.

#67 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:56 PM:

Just in case anyone's confused, the "Patrick" who's arguing the right-of-way analogy isn't me...

#68 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:06 PM:

#63. Well, you can copyright certain types of factual material. If I made a list of, say, every 45 ever issued by Motown Records, with tile, artist, and number, or a bibliography of every Badger Books paperback ever issued, that would simply be factual material. But I could copyright it. People who publish works like these will sometimes intentionally introdce small errors (a fictitious entry, say) to guard against unauthorized copying.

Of course pi is a fact. But expanding it beyond whatever number of places it's been expanded to would involve original research.

I'm not in favor of copyrighting this sort of thing, but I believe one could actually make a legal case that such a thing is copyrightable.

#69 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:21 PM:

The alphabet is next. I claim "e", "r" and "t".

I hereby decree that the letter "O" will remain forever unclaimed, as will "0" -- zero, or zed. This will be known henceforth as the Thurber rule.

#70 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:33 PM:

Anticorium writes: "If you haven't read Matthew Skala's essay about the Colour of bits"

Yeah, that's a pretty good essay. Unfortunately, there is one important aspect of Paranoia, the RPG, that he doesn't bring up: the setup that inevitably leads to the mass festival of scragging that ends a typical session of the game is that player characters, in addition to being assigned roles as Troubleshooters on a mission to help the Computer eliminate the Commie Mutant Traitors, are also assigned to roles in one or more factions of the Commie Mutant Traitors. His analogy only makes more sense when you take this into account.

In the world of Paranoia, the Computer is obviously insane. It's also forbidden in that world to recognize that the Computer is insane. In the analogy MSkala is drawing, the obvious insanity is that Colour is a computable property of bits; yet, it's forbidden by law to recognize that Colour is not a computable property of bits. Furthermore, in the analogy, the Troubleshooters are all, by virtue of the fact that they're computer scientists, some kind of Commie Mutant Traitor or another, because their jobs depend on their ability to recognize that Colour is not a computable propery of bits, which the Law says it's forbidden to recognize.

And, that's why we're all busy scragging one another's clones, and why Friend Computer has been driven insane trying to keep us from doing it.

#71 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:35 PM:

Robert (67), that isn't so. The phone book isn't copyrightable.

If you want to see how well the AACS is doing, see

List of appearances
Let's see them take this down

#72 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:38 PM:

Maps can be copyrighted (copyrote?) even when they're based on public information. Yes, small errors, such as fictitious streets, are frequently added.

#73 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:49 PM:

There's creativity involved in drawing maps. Where do you put the street names? How do you choose to represent various weirdnesses?

Satellite photos aren't copyright.

#74 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:50 PM:

PJEvans #71:

Not that adding small errors would be particularly useful in the case of a 128-bit key. On anyone's part.

#75 ::: Jp ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:10 PM:

Seth@72: Are they not? I'm under the fairly strong impression that all photographs, satellite or not, are copyrightable.

A nice illustration of the nature of copyright in the UK: the football fixtures lists are copyrighted (and require licensing to publish) because they are a creative work. The football results, which are essentially the fixture lists with additional score information, are not copyrightable and can be published by anyone, because they are a matter of historical record.

#76 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:30 PM:

Robert L #67: Did you pull that Motown discography example out of thin air, or did you know someone already introduced a fictitious record into such a discography? (It was Don Waller in Motown Story, and the "record" in question was the Joy Buzzers' "T.G.'s Voodoo Lounge". I read about this in The New Book of Rock Lists in the "Money" chapter; it's the #7 entry in "Steve Propes Lists a Dozen Hoaxes (and Dispels a Few Rumors)".)

#77 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:36 PM:

#60, on Title 18: "when I was told what would happen if I violated it."

Presumably this was while you were an employee of the government and not a private citizen, though?

I don't know the exact details of Title 18, but in the Pentagon Papers case the US government was not allowed to prevent the New York Times from publishing secret government documents. In Britain, that would have been a simple violation of the Official Secrets Act and the government would have been able to prevent publication.

This is not just academic: in the Spycatcher case in the 80s publishers and newspapers were prevented by gag orders from publishing the book or excerpts from it. (The book was written by a former Assistant Director of MI5 and is quite interesting, mostly dealing with paranoia and backstabbing at the agency, but not really all that dangerous.)

In this case, the analogy to copyright law comes from the ability to require that publishers cease to publish infringing material which is an especially powerful ability when set against the US First Amendment. There are very few other ways to require that someone stop saying or publishing something here in the US.

Of course in the case of copyright there are exceptions for fair use, and the facility for redress was traditionally civil law, not criminal. There's also the concept of merger in copyright, where you can't protect the only possible way of expressing something.

And of course books, film & music can be represented as numbers. But I think you'd have a hard time finding an interesting one that fits in a 128-bit number unless you have an unusually short attention-span.

#78 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:53 PM:

I wonder if posting 02 * 03-16-19-03-11-02-03-20-01-16-12-05-19-08-11-19-05-17-06-08-19-18-07-00-17-15-03-10 is okay?

#79 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 08:09 PM:

#75, I didn't know that (and I have the Waller book!) but may have heard it and forgotten it. I did have a vague memory that someone or other had done such a thing in a discography. I do remember reading that Jay Robert Nash included deliberate errors in his encyclopedic true-crime book Bloodletters and Badmen to confound those who might plagiarize him.

Of course, now what someone should do is make a faux-Motown recording of the Joy Buzzers, press a few copies, insert a few very battered discs in piles at key flea markets, then periodically offer a mint copy for big $$ on eBay.

It was a similar process, I believe, that caused the recording and pressing of "Stormy Weather" by the Five Sharks (sic) as an attempt to cash in on the real but ultra-rare doo-wop platter "Stormy Weather" by the Five Sharps (sic).

#67: Seth, I think certain things are not copyrightable simply because they have been deliberately given away, either by the government or by the phone co., and are thus public information. Certain other information about phones is--well, not copyright, maybe, but proprietary--certain types of reverse directories, or driver's license information. I'm sure if they can figure out a way to copyright phone books, they will. Cell phone directories?

#80 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 08:27 PM:

Re #72 and #74: Most published photographs are in fact copyrightable, but there is an originality threshold they must meet. It's pretty low-- things like choice of angle, the moment chosen to make the exposure in a changing scene, etc., seem to be enough-- but it's there.

There was a court decision in New York a few years ago, for instance, that ruled that a literal photograph of another two-dimensional image (e.g. a photo or digitization of a painting, or of another photo) was *not* copyrightable, because it didn't involve any of those varying elements, but was just a "slavish copy" akin to using a photocopier. This rule didn't apply to a photo of a sculpture, though, since that involved a choice of where to take the photo from.

I'm not sure on which side of the line a satellite photo would fall. One can imagine different choices of time to take the photo, or choice of areas to cover, but on the other hand I gather than most satellite photos are automated, so a typical satellite photo could well be considered a "slavish copy". Does anyone know of any case law on the matter?

#81 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 08:59 PM:

On copyrighting satellite photographs: it depends on who owns the satellite. If an agency of the US govt takes the picture, it's automatically public domain because the public paid for it.

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:17 PM:

I actually e-mailed NASA and asked about permission to use their photos for cross-stitch patterns. They said that as long as they got proper credit, they had no problem with it. (I did say, for personal use. I think I can safely give the patterns away, but I don't know if I could legally sell them.)

#83 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:22 PM:

PJ: The original photos are public domain; that means you can adapt them freely and sell the results. (I'm as sure as someone who is NAL can be.)

#84 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:51 PM:

Texanne, thank you for that reassurance, although I doubt that most people would be masochistic enough to do one (or more) of them. (For one thing, to get them to look good at all, you need a whole lot of colors.) The photos make really nice wallpaper for the computer, though. (Currently on my desktop at work: Cassini's composite view of Saturn-with-rings, from the other side. If you look closely, you can see the little blue dot that's us.)

#85 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:00 PM:

Re: #80 "[...] If an agency of the US govt takes the picture, it's automatically public domain because the public paid for it."

Unless it's Classified as "Secret", perhaps. Other factors may also apply. S-f Fan Earl Kemp served a prison term not for publishing an edition of the Report of President Nixon's Commission on Pornography, or for the numerous (Very Graphic) illustrations he added, but for sending an advertisement for it though the U.S. Mail.

#86 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:02 PM:

On the copyrightability of photographs:

I recently attended a talk at which the speaker mentioned that he was having trouble getting copyright clearance for some of the Renaissance paintings on his slides. This might strike you as odd --- if anything ought to be out of copyright, it's a painting from the Renaissance. But while the paintings are out of copyright, photographs of them are not --- and courts have apparently been persuaded that the photographers' choices of lighting, camera distance, and so forth in making those images involves enough creative effort that they fall under copyright.

Then again, that's more mental effort than went into the "non-obvious" inventions protected by some of the more notorious patents granted by the same legal system...

#87 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:22 PM:

Just for clarity: it doesn't sound to me like AACS is actually claiming they own the right to publish the numerical sequence. They're claiming they control the right to publish the sequence in association with their product. Not as much fun to ridicule, but quite possibly also a poisonous assertion.

If I publish a web page that reads:

3X2(9YZ)4A
is the magic formula!

that's not the same thing as publishing a page that reads:

3X2(9YZ)4A is the decryption key that will unlock that new "Speed Force Adventures" DVD you just bought.

which is (arguably) not the same thing as publishing a page that reads:

3X2(9YZ)4A is a corporate credit card number registered to DC Comics.

#88 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:58 PM:

Somebody should hunt down Mr. Avogadro's heirs, btw, because that guy could make a KILLING.

#89 ::: PhilPalmer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:18 PM:

I put dibs on 10.

Snippers will be passed around so that everyone can remove a finger and toe.

#90 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:34 AM:

Robert L @ 62 - Not true. What you have the copyright on is not the facts in that book, rather your arrangement of them. Nobody is allowed to copy directly from your work not because you have obtained ownership of those facts, but because they would then be infringing upon the creative work you did in arranging them and making them coherent. Since it's hard to recognize infringement of organization in a list (especially if it's chronological or alphabetical - and those might not be protected but I don't recall just now) that's why errors are introduced. Copycats will copy the errors while somebody else who just happens to come up with the same scheme won't.

For Patrick at 43, that's just fine, so long as you don't want me to actually go to the beach. If you do, and especially if you expect me to pay for the privilege, then you'd best give me a way to get there that I'm willing to use.

I'm only running Linux on my laptop these days so if you expect me to pay for it, it better function without me having to spend time I don't have hunting down a crack for your encryption because I'd rather spend that time making my splash screen pretty, and the desktop with Windows doesn't like me anymore. If you don't give me a legal way to pay for your product and use it so that it suits me, I just won't pay for your product. I might do without, if I really want it I'll probably borrow it from a friend. (The internet is so conveniently full of friendly people) If you don't believe me, you should have been there for the cussing fest that was Anaea resolving her inability to get the first two episodes of season 3 of BSG she bought from iTunes onto her TV by going and pirating second copies that weren't DRMed beyond usability. I'm still bitter about the fact that I paid for the season pass before finding out how cranky the whole thing made me.

#91 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 03:27 AM:

#78, Robert L, I think certain things are not copyrightable simply because they have been deliberately given away, either by the government or by the phone co., and are thus public information. ... I'm sure if they can figure out a way to copyright phone books, they will.

The phone book example isn't a hypothetical; see the Feist case. The phone book in question did have false entries to discover copying, but even with the copying proved the Supreme Court ruled no copyright infringement occured.

#92 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 03:31 AM:

#85: Bryan Talbot wanted to use images from the Bayeux Tapestry in his new graphic novel Alice in Sunderland, but likewise found that one is allowed to reproduce only approved, copyright photos which are fairly expensive.

Fortunately, he discovered the existence of the other tapestry in the town museum of Reading, Berkshire -- where I live, in fact. This near-replica was created by the Leek Embroidery Society in 1885-6, with just a little editing (naked corpses tastefully unsexed, and another naked figure in the border given a tiny pair of Y-fronts). Bryan did a deal with Reading museum and was allowed free use of their images in exchange for a plug in his book. "I fart in your general direction, Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux," the artist was not heard to say.

#93 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:17 AM:

As seen previously on Making Light, you can remix your own Bayeux tapestries

#94 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:37 AM:
Somebody should hunt down Mr. Avogadro's heirs, btw, because that guy could make a KILLING.

That would only be making a mountain out of a molehill.

#95 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 06:34 AM:

Charles Dodgson: see Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp, which held that in precisely this situation copyright was not applicable. This hasn't stopped art photographers from claiming they have copyright on their work, though.

Note that this isn't legal advice, you should talk to a lawyer before ignoring somebody else's claim to copyright, etc.

#96 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 08:59 AM:

I will copyright the letters "a" and "i".

All of you start paying up!

Seriously though, if someone just say, casually mentions the code number in a conversation (how they do that is up to your imagination) and does not mention it is the code, can they still be sued under this law?

#97 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 09:49 AM:

Will A #42: Freedom(tm) is on the march..

Too late.

JC #63: pi is a fact. It's also a number. I shall copyright it and charge a royalty to anybody who wants to engineer anything circular, like a DVD.

#98 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 10:15 AM:

Jules @ #94:
I've been part of groups relying on this ruling to put facsimile photographs of out-of-print material on the web along with transcriptions and such.

For my own purposes, which almost exclusively involve printed books rather than paintings, I would still have to be extremely careful about reproducing in print anything I have a scan or facsimile of. While a claim to copyright may or may not be legally enforceable, the libraries can forbid me use of their collections if I break whatever rules (reasonable or otherwise) they put in place. Some (like the British Library) also make me sign an agreement about publication before providing copies.

#99 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 10:52 AM:

chris y @96: Doh. If "freedom" is taken, I call dibs on "evil." Sloppy, ill-defined usage will be met with punishments worthy of the word.

#100 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:01 PM:

P J Evans @ 81: I actually e-mailed NASA and asked about permission to use their photos for cross-stitch patterns. They said that as long as they got proper credit, they had no problem with it.

Have you actually done any of those patterns? And if so, do you have pictures? Cross-stitch is a craft that despite multiple attempts I've never managed to conquer--or even achieve rudimentary competence in--and so I greatly admire people who can do fancy stuff like that in it. (You would think that making tiny X's in thread would not be that difficult. And yet.)

#101 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Charles, Jules, #85, #94: anyone who's actually done art copy photography knows that it's time-consuming work, demanding of skill and (if one is a pro) work one will only do if one is paid for it--one can bloody well use one's time and equipment for something that will actually turn a profit, else. And one doesn't put one's heart into work for hire, either. Bridgeman is bizarre--there's no such thing as an exact photographic copy of anything--and it worries me a great deal; it sounds to me like the main result is going to be a lot fewer good photographs of older art.

#102 ::: Patrick ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:05 PM:

I don't know how else to refute the multitudes of people who spouted off weird answers to my post other than to repeat the following:

"The question of whether you have the ultimate right to use something is separate from the question of whether someone else has the right to place an impediment in your path."

This is a true statement. It was not intended as a blanket defence of DRM, but rather as a counter to a particular argument that is awfully silly.

Also, to the guy at #54, because I can't resist flaming people who say dumb things. Your first quote is a a pathetic attempt at making someone sound bad by excerpting without context. The actual statement had the EXACT OPPOSITE MEANING that you attributed to it. The full paragraph reads:

Preserving the framework does not require, however, a dramatic increase in authors' rights, such as *more limited or no further applicability of the fair use doctrine* in the NII environment. *Some have argued* that because it may now be technically feasible to "meter" each use of a copyrighted work, and to charge a user a fee for the use, the concept of fair use has no place in the NII environment. They argue equally that other limitations on rights should be abolished or narrowed for similar reasons. The Working Group believes that weakening copyright owners' rights in the NII is not in the public interest; *nor would a dramatic increase in their rights be justified.*

He is clearing describing what "some" have argued, and stating that his organization disagrees with that position.

#103 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:05 PM:

The answer to #95, can you be sued for..., is yes. Anyone can be sued for anything.

Would the AACSLA win that hypothetical suit? Nobody knows. The DMCA forbids circumvention devices and it is not clear whether the courts would hold that a single number counts as a circumvention device and, if so, under what circumstances. If that suit went to trial, and if it got all the way up to the Supreme Court, then maybe we'd find out.

#104 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:08 PM:

81, 82: what "original" means in the case of images from spacecraft is a bit slippery if you aren't familiar with all the image processing that takes place.

The case I'm most familiar with, from my astronomical background, is the Hubble Space Telescope. The relevant copyright policy can be found here. (One-liner: anything credited to the Space Telescope Science Institute, vs. someone at another institution, is PD but they request credit). The situation is that what comes off the telescope isn't the pretty pictures seen on desktop backgrounds and the Hubble Heritage site, but much less-processed black-and-white images. See, for example, this example. Skipping over the issue of the proprietary period for the data, which is an entirely separate issue, there's a lot of work that goes into converting these images -- even the science-grade processed images -- into the pretty pictures, involving the choice of colors (lots of the really nice ones are four-color, rather than three-color, or involve converting multiple filters to a single display color) and tweaking the intensity stretch for maxium aesthetics. Here's a brief description of part of the process. There are people employed by HST who basically do nothing else. While StSCI has chosen to release their pretty processed images, it's not as automatic as "HST is a NASA mission, so everything it produces, no matter how much additional processing has gone into the final product, is public domain." Color images produced by other observers may or may not be copyrighted, depending on the policy of the institution. (Most observers would probably be happy to have their images used, with credit, so long as it isn't for purposes they find offensive.)

#105 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:11 PM:

Susan @ 97,

I recently attended a Publishing and the Interwebs forum (which was mostly Interwebs for n0Obs), at which the final panel of the day was a copyright discussion. The first speaker was a representative of the Librarians of Canada, and he came out as a strong proponent of the information wants to be free view of copyright. He declared, proudly and staunchly, that librarians are not in favour of any measures that will restrict the dissemination of information in any form.

I guess the libraries that have rare books in their collections didn't receive that particular memo.

#106 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:16 PM:

jennie @ #104:
Given what the BL charges for photocopies or microfilming, the motivation may be financial. I've gritted my teeth and paid as much as $70 for a single page. Fortunately, it was a Very Cool Page.

Unfortunately, since I really need stuff from them, I have to play their game. But when the item in question is in any other collection, I go there first. Libraries elsewhere in the UK are much more accommodating. Oxford is just a joy to deal with. And there's a very nice librarian in a small town in Scotland who was quite bemused to suddenly receive calls from the U.S. about some old letters, but happy to make copies for about $6 total, including postage.

I much admire the Library of Congress, which has scanned huge amounts of material and made it available on their website.

#107 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:24 PM:

Matt Austen, I think the question raised this morning on NPR is more meaningful: sure, they can sue, maybe they can win, but can they get the number off the internet?

Given that it showed up yesterday on ICANHASCHEEZBURGER (now aged back to page 2) all signs point to no.

#108 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:45 PM:

Susan @ 105,

Oh, I'm sure their motivation is financial, I'm just amused by the contrast between charging $70 for a page and the vehement, indignant championing of everyone's access to free, FREE information I heard at the summit.

And the Library of Congress rocks my world.

#109 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:45 PM:

Fade @ 99

Yes. It's the one-and-two of a color that gets me. I usually run the pattern through a copier (fair use!) and color it with highlighter as I work, so I know where I am.

The one that isn't quite done (all the one-and-two stitch bits) is the Eagle Nebula, from the picture they released for Hubble's 15th. (APoD ran it as the 'Dust Fairy'.)

As far as competence - I make plenty of mistakes myself. There's always at least one stitch crossed the wrong way, one the wrong color that I had to work over with the right color, the tension is off a little somewhere even with the good hoop. And somewhere I probably had to take out a bit completely and redo it because it was so the wrong color.

#110 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:58 PM:

P J Evans @ 108

I've never even gotten far enough to switch colors when trying cross-stitch; for all that crochet and knitting worked just fine, there's something about cross-stitch that I just don't grok. I've never yet completed a single row without becoming frustrated, usually before I even start crossing the squares. Which is really a pity, because there are some lovely patterns out there, and it's so much better suited for transforming an image into yarn-art than, well, crochet or knitting. My mother used to do patterns from books or across pre-printed grids, and had so many marvelous colors of yarn. Me, well, I make socks, rather ineptly. I suppose not every craft is for every person.

When you're doing the nebula, is it all in 'standard' colors, or are you using any of the glittery threads I've seen used in patterns? I'm not quite sure if a glittering nebula image would end up very pretty or rather silly-looking, though I'm inclined to believe the former.

#111 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:20 PM:

Fade @ 109

Standard stuff. I've used metallics and some of the other specialty stuff in projects, and while the effects can be spectacular, I haven't fallen in love with most of them. (Beads might be fun to put in where the stars are, if I could find the right colors.)

#112 ::: Jp ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:28 PM:

Jules@#94 - That's an interesting decision, especially as I'd been thinking of Bridgeman with respect to the parallels to satellite photography.

On a philosophical note I think I probably agree with Randolph@#100, insofar as it involves a non-trivial effort to create something that wouldn't exist otherwise. More significantly, I can't see any latitude in the Berne convention for a signatory to allow free use for any photograph except within standard fair practise or the context of of reporting current events.


Patrick@#101 - Lehman's quote does not represent Lehman's own position, but does establish that some copyright stakeholders (i.e. publishers) believe that fair use is no longer applicable. The fact that Lehman and his organisation rejected the argument does not mean that those arguing for it do not exist or are not attempting to achieve those goals via other legislative or other means intended to supplement the DMCA.

Personally, I have trouble with the concept of a specific legally defined right (whether it be fair use or a right of way) which is permitted to be abrogated by means of a deliberate impediment.

#113 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:06 PM:

Patrick@101: The actual statement had the EXACT OPPOSITE MEANING

Hm. It's always interesting when folks make words mean whatever they want it to mean. I suppose your verion of reality would work just fine.

Oh, wait, except for the fact that Lehman is the guy who rammed the DMCA down our throats. Yeah, you should keep portraying him as the "Defender of Fair Use".

Because your interpretation of what he said should always overrule any actions he actually took.

because I can't resist flaming people who say dumb things.

This from a guy who responded to a statement about copyright law by making up some hypothetical about waterfront property law, and arguing that his hypothetical example was somehow more relevant than reality.

Whatever. It's clear your opinions are safely removed from any outside influence like reality or similar issues. Feel free to blather.

#114 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:26 PM:

Greg: Not to defend any particular position or interpretation here, but <cough> is an analogy to waterfront property inherently more crazy than an analogy of copyright to bounty hunting?

The Other Patrick has a valid point. The HD-DVD DRM mechanism, as with the DVD CSS DRM, is being used to defend both against a lot of legitimate uses of material under fair use and a lot of known and expectable illegitimate uses of material. (I assume everyone understands this, but if you don't believe the latter is going on, just Google for torrents of movies and you may understand their motivation.)

So what is an appropriate position to take in regard to civil disobedience via illegal posting of a "lock combination" - actually a pretty good analogy - to protest a law which protects a lock mechanism that is being used to restrict both unethical illegitimate and perfectly ethical and traditionally legitimate behavior? Beats me. I just think the question is a couple generations removed in abstraction and indirection both from "they're copyrighting a number!", or "but every binary file is just a number!"

On the whole I think the crack is probably a good thing, as it might get through the industries' heads that this is a losing proposition, but I'm willing to agree that it's a little more complicated than some people are making out.

#115 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:34 PM:

To quote the Beatle Vultures from Disney's Jungle Book, "Now let's not start that again."

#116 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Randolph@100 --- copy photography may involve a lot of effort, but since Feist, in which the Supreme Court specifically rejected the "sweat of the brow" argument as justification for copyright (in that case, on the listings in some company's phone book), effort is not enough to make something copyrightable in the U.S.; there has to be some element of creative expression. A cleverly altered version of an original image clearly qualifies --- but the most exact possible reproduction of the original (with no creative elements added by the photographer), perhaps not, no matter how much effort it takes to achieve that.

(To attempt a reductio ad absurdam: typing out a complete copy of, say, the Baroque Cycle would involve an enormous amount of effort, but the product would not be a separately copyrightable work. Though, if you added illustrations, you'd have copyright in those.)

This has a practical effect on some software copyright litigation; one of IBM's defenses against some of the claims in the infamous SCO lawsuit is that some of the code allegedly copied into Linux is dictated by standards or functional requirements --- if a thing can be done only one way, no one gets to copyright the one way of doing it.

#117 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:43 PM:

P J 71: Copyrighted. Not, as some abominable people have said, "copywritten." It's your right to control copies, dumbasses!*

*no one here; I was apostrophizing.

#118 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:58 PM:

BTW, to play devil's advocate here for a minute, I'm not sure that everyone taking the "it's just a number" line would want, say, their credit card numbers to get the same treatment.

(I'm opposed to the DMCA myself, but for other reasons...)

#119 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 03:01 PM:

Clifton, Patrick said:

The argument that the public has the right to fair use and that the DMCA somehow locks them out of what is righfully theirs is, well, lame.

So, I started out by discussing the DMCA, Fair Use, anti circumvention clauses, and so on. Everything grounded in copyright law. Patrick doesn't address any of the legal aspects and simply says "that's lame". And then he goes on to say it's like waterfront property. If you wish to (cough) that both approaches are the same, by all means, clear your throat.

As far as metaphors go, I'll simply point out that "Bounty Hunters" as a metaphor is more accurate than a "Waterfront" or any other land/property based metaphor in one very important way: the metaphor behind Bounty Hunters doesn't commit the fallacy of reification. It doesn't talk about an abstract thing like the labor involved in creating a work of art as if it were a physical object like waterfront property.

As for the rest of your post, I don't know what to tell you. Are you willing to sacrifice Fair Use, allow a complete and infinite monopolization of rights, all copyright law to be used to restrict and control ideas, knowledge, and information, all in the name of "fighting piracy" or "illegitmate uses" as you put it?

Steve Jobs recently posted a thing about iTunes selling DRM'ed music because the music companies force him to. That was the only way they would give him permission to sell their content. Jobs then mentions that whatever number of songs were sold in a DRM-locked-down-electronic-format, about four times as many songs were sold on CompactDisc format with no DRM.

The argument that DRM somehow protects content only works in a vacuum. The reality, the whole picture, is that consumers, by a large percentage, HATE DRM, and buy a lot more of the DRM-free versions.

And consumers don't hate DRM because they're all fricken pirates. They hate it because DRM SUCKS. It is a pain in the ass for any legitimate consumer to use.

The industry presents the argument that were they to create a world of DRM-only music/content players, then their sales would SKYROCKET. Why? Because they argue that they're bleeding from the arteries, piracy is stealing the lifeblood of money right out of them.

The problem is that they are wrong.

This is hard for people to get sometimes, but a multibillion dollar industry is flat out wrong.

They were wrong about the VCR bleeding them dry through piracy.

They were wrong about cassette tapes bleeding them dry though piracy.

And they are wrong NOW about piracy bleeding them dry.

If you believe their worldview, then you will not question the accuracy of their assumption and you will argue that something must be done to prevent these poor souls from being bled dry.

But the reality is that they are wrong.

Transform the world into DRM-Only players and you're going to find a lot of consumers won't put up with the pain in the ass that comes with DRM overlords being programmed into their content players, the micromanagement, the blocked functionality. Sales will go DOWN, not up.

DRM-Free content on CompactDiscs outsells DRM content on iTunes by 4 to 1. It is impossible to look at this fact and believe the music industry's worldview that piracy is bleeding them dry or that a DRM-only world would cause their sales to skyrocket.

And so, I am unable to answer your "So what is an appropriate position to take?" question because I believe it starts with a false premise.

#120 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 03:09 PM:

Xopher @ 116

Just a joke. You probably noticed there wasn't a 'w' in there. (I do think that it's usually proofwritten, though. Or poorfread.)

I'm always amused by the assertion by the studios and their DRM advocates that a movie can be downloaded 'in minutes'. Maybe, if you have a T1 line and a lot of memory or disk space available. Most of us don't have that connection speed, and I'm certainly not going to download multi-gigabyte files on dialup. Even multi-megabyte text files are a pain to pull in that way!

#121 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 03:10 PM:

their credit card numbers

It isn't their credit card number. It's the number to the Public Park that I used to go into for free. But because some billion dollar company got pickpocketed there one night, and they didn't like the police reponse, they decided to lay down their version of the law and lock it all down.

#122 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 03:18 PM:

#119 PJ Evans: Maybe, if you have a T1 line and a lot of memory or disk space available.

That's the direction we are heading in, though. In my opinion a lot of what is going on with the content providers trying to lock things up is because they expect that before very long download is going to be the way most content is distributed, and they want to be the ones charging for it.

They want to lock the barn door now, while the horse is only getting a little frisky but still inside.

I think this explains their opposition to "net neutrality" as well.

#123 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 03:34 PM:

Charles Dodgson, #115: "A cleverly altered version of an original image clearly qualifies --- but the most exact possible reproduction of the original (with no creative elements added by the photographer), perhaps not, no matter how much effort it takes to achieve that."

But the original was not a photograph at all, so it is not an exact reproduction; it takes both creativity and craft to get a good result in art copy photography. I dislike O'Connor's reasoning in Feist; it smacks of the sort of reasoning that leads wannabe authors to claim that published professionals have been stealing their ideas. Usually nonsense, of course; execution--craft and creativity--is what makes a finished work as opposed to an outline. Any familiarity with art and technology history quickly leads to the observation that there are very few truly original ideas; if we are to limit copyright to truly original work, there would be many fewer copyrighted works, and this is much more plain in the visual arts than in writing. And yes, every so often truly original work comes along. But not very often, and, if we are to limit copyrights to truly original ideas, we have the awful situation of the copyright office and courts getting into art criticism.

Which seems to me to be where we came in.

#124 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 03:59 PM:

DaveL @ 121

They seriously think everyone is going to have access to that kind of connection in the near future? May I have some of whatever-it-is they're using?

#125 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:17 PM:

P J Evans (119): Sure, you can download a movie in minutes. Several hundred (or is that thousand?) minutes.

#126 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:24 PM:

download time for music is near zero. People still buy CD's or subscribe to Rhapsody or pay for music in some format or another.

regardless of how bad their capability is for predicting the bandwidth capacity of the internet, their basic premise has already been proven wrong.

#127 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:26 PM:

#120:Part of the piracy argument is the idea that people, left to their own devices, are fundamentally incapable of being civilized, or organizing into communities or societies. e.g., if we allow words simply to be printed on pieces of paper bound together with no protection of content, then, obviously, people will pirate those bound volumes and no one will ever buy the legal ones again. Therefore, not only must we ban photocopying machines, but we must prevent the publication of any information which may lead to the creation of a photocopying machine or else it will be the end of the publishing business as we know it.

(Looking at it this way, they think that DRM systems keep getting cracked only validates their belief about the intrinsic baseness of humanity.)

In reality, people have been quite willing to pay for value. CDs are unprotected, but I don't think anyone would argue that CDs have been an unsuccessful format. Books are unprotected. They've been around for centuries. Everyone someone brings up e-books, someone mentions that books aren't going away any time soon.

If people had the mentality towards books they had towards electronic works, they would be arguing that it's ok for book publishers to mandate how and under what circumstances you can read your book. e.g., only a maximum of 5 people can read your copy ever. Your book will be readable in North America, but if it detects that you've gone to Japan, it will refuse to open. It's ok to read the book with your reading glasses, but if it detects that you've used your bi-focals, it will refuse to open. If your book detects that it's theoretically possible for someone to read over your shoulder, it will replace the text of each chapter with a synopsis.

Now, clearly, we wouldn't stand for any of these things when it comes to books. Why is it suddenly different for movies or music? Civilization does not immediately collapse at each slight provocation. We have lots of experience which suggests this.

#128 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:29 PM:

Clifton @ #113:

It's theoretically true that HD-DVD encryption blocks both legitimate and illegitimate uses. But in practice, the story is completely different. Why? Because these DMCA-enforced digital "rights management" schemes are weak. They're very very easy to circumvent. You don't need a lab full of code-breakers or lots of expensive equipment. A teenager can do it. These sorts of schemes aren't going to stop piracy. They barely qualify as attempts to do so*.

So, we should ask ourselves: If these DRM schemes are too weak to prevent piracy, then why are they being forced on us?


* If you're serious about preventing piracy, you do what video game companies do: you design the hardware so that it's hard to use pirated copies.

#129 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:40 PM:

T1 is not very fast these days. My cable modem is about 4 times that speed; FIOS is 20.

Certainly not everybody will have that; but a significant fraction will (and an even higher fraction of those who are customers for content).

#130 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:43 PM:

P J Evans @ 123

Here are some figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that show that at the end of 2005 the US had over 49 million broadband subscribers, which is roughly 25% of all internet users in the country*. The same data shows the UK having 9.5 million subscribers, but I don't have percentages there.

Most of those connections are DSL or copper cable, with download bandwidths of 0.5 to 3 Megabits/sec. Fiberoptic connections with bandwidths from 5 to 15 Mb/s are being offered now in some places in the US** and at up to 24 Mb/s in the UK. Incidentally, a T1 line is guaranteed for 1.5 Mb/s, so in many cases broadband users are doing better than T1 speed.

Worldwide growth of broadband subscribers is about 30% per year. So, yes, they have good reason to expect a lot of people to be able to download large files in the near future.

* modulo issues of how many users there are per subscriber line, of course.

** They're available in the Portland Metro area, but not in the city, where I live. I suspect this is Verizon punishing Portland for the city's attempt to legislate away provider monopolies.

#131 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:47 PM:

lorax @ 103, any work produced by employees or contractors of the US Government is not copyright, by law.

Jp @ 111, you have the right to write an 18-page Proustian description of my belly button; however, I have every right to put the impediment in your way of declining to show it to you.

#132 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 05:05 PM:

The Other Patrick: The argument that the public has the right to fair use and that the DMCA somehow locks them out of what is righfully theirs is, well, lame.

Except that the public does have a right to Fair Use, and the DMCA does lock users out of uses that are rightfully theirs.

I'm avoiding your waterfront metaphor and going straight for the literal -- The copyright maximalists really are in the process of doing away with the doctrines of Fair Use and First Sale, leaving them on the books, but implementing ineffective technological barriers and bribing Congress to pass laws that punish people for discovering how ineffective those barriers are.

Congress is supposed to work for us, we the people. The copyright maximalists are a small, but very wealthy, minority, who have succeeded in imposing their will upon the rest of us largely because the rest of us are ignorant of the actual issues. Ed Felten has coined a potentially powerful metaphor demonstrating just how absurd the limitations are that we've allowed the maximalists to impose upon us. If enough of us realize how absurd those limitations are, we can have them revoked. That's not lame.

(Look! I got through the whole post without having to pretend I was talking about waterfronts, or bounty hunters, or colo[u]rs!)

#133 ::: Jp ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 05:34 PM:

Seth@#130 - I don't think that analogy is relevant. Not only do I not have legally defined rights to research your navel, but you haven't made use of a state-granted monopoly on possession of a navel that requires as a condition that you grant access rights to it for research purposes. The existence or otherwise of any Seth Breidbart navel access control device is thereby immaterial.

I'd try to come up with a better analogy, except that pretty much all analogies are bound to miss the point in some way. Copyright is a legal bargain. It offers creators the right to restrict others from reproducing their works, together with mechanisms for enforcing those rights. It also defines rights which the creators are not permitted to restrict. This latter group of rights collectively constitute fair use.

As such, fair use rights aren't rights granted to the public as a structure built on top of copyright. They're uses which a creator exercising copyright specifically aren't allowed to restrict; they're what's left over when all of the rights they are allowed to restrict have been defined. Therefore, building a barrier which does restrict those rights isn't stopping the public from swinging their fists at point where their fist trajectories intersect with publishers' noses, but being given an inch and taking a ruler.

Oh bugger. I promised no analogies, didn't I?

#134 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 05:56 PM:

Seth @130, hence the clause for StSci.

An astronomer at, say, Stanford University who uses the Hubble Space Telescope, then produces a nice color image, may or may not hold copyright -- or her institution may or may not -- depending on the institutional policy. The *original, raw, unprocessed* images are PD. But this astronomer is not a government employee.

#135 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 06:34 PM:

(Look! I got through the whole post without having to pretend I was talking about waterfronts, or bounty hunters, or colo[u]rs!)

But you get dinged five cents every time you use the word "maximalist".

Bounty Hunters isn't used to show what is wrong with copyright. It can show that, but that isn't what I created it for. I came up with the metaphor to show where the solution should be.

It's actually pretty easy to show that something is wrong with copyright. Unless a person has a vested interest in copyright, most folks can see it pretty plainly when pointed out.* The trickier part is to try and explain what the right answer should be. In that case, the government is setting a reward to pay people for their labor to do something. And the reward should be set as low as possible but just high enough to get the job done.

* Upton Sinclair said something about a man can't understand a concept if his paycheck is dependent upon him not understanding it. Seems to apply here.

#136 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 07:07 PM:

I am, of course, finding the whole "waterfront analogy" vastly amusing.

Because, it occurs to me that you may have the right to use a punk cryptographic system to keep the bits you publish from being copied easily by the hardware and software available in the market today, but that doesn't mean my friends in the basement downstairs shouldn't have the right to put an impediment in your way and point out how your code doesn't work.

I don't think your analogy conveys what you think it does…

#137 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 07:59 PM:

On the waterfront analogy:

The DMCA coulda been a contender. It coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what it is.

#138 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 09:20 PM:

T1 is not very fast these days. My cable modem is about 4 times that speed

There's more to bandwidth than speed. DS-1 over T-1 and E-1s have nice low latency connections, typically less than 20ms per link. I consistently get under 50ms on the STL-Richmond link, which is T-1s to NAPs at both ends, with an MPLS cloud in between.

Same router to home -- four miles as the crow flies, is over 170ms, with a much higher deviation. Total line lengths is less than 10 miles. DSL isn't bad, but it isn't DS-1.

For surfing the web? No real difference. For VoIP? It's borderline noticable. For online first-person shooters? The guys playing at the office with DS-1s have a real advantage over the DSL/Cable modem gang. The guys with OC-3s *really* hold the top trump in that regard.

Remember: You want bandwidth? Pack a 747s with DVDs. The latency sucks, however. In real life, see the Aricebo Radio Observatory, which ships several dozen DLTs per day worth of data -- on DLTs and other such tape.

#139 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 09:58 PM:

#117 I'm not sure that everyone taking the "it's just a number" line would want, say, their credit card numbers to get the same treatment.

The same treatment in what sense? While I wouldn't enjoy the situation, I certainly wouldn't expect government intervention and lawsuits to have my credit card number removed from websites. I'd call my credit card company and have it cancelled. Credit card companies have a whole infrastructure to deal with disclosed & compromised numbers, and neither they nor I predicate our financial security on the non-disclosure of those numbers.

SSNs are more of a pain because of the stupid equivalence of "knowing your SSN" and "being you". Still, even if your number is posted publicly, there seem to be ways to resolve the ensuing problems.

What the movie companies have done, though, is to lock everything up in such a way that getting one 128-bit secret unlocks everything, even though it's practically impossible to keep a secret like that, and even though there's no real way of revoking it if it's disclosed. Their security plan for "if key disclosed" has the action "sue everyone on the Internet".

Now because the number has uses beyond illegal ones - and because this security plan is so mindbogglingly stupid - instead of people & ISPs quietly cooperating as many of them would do if you asked them to remove a pirate copy of Spiderman 3, they get very annoyed and have it tattooed onto their arms and posted in HTML comments and sing songs about it and incorporate it in poetry and generally don't cooperate.

Security plans can't exist in isolation of the way the public will react to them. The credit card companies don't pledge their fortunes on being able to sue everyone on the Internet if a number is disclosed.

#140 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 11:35 PM:

Jp@132: Some years back, there were a few instruction/code books printed in gray on red to prevent photocopying (as part of a system of access control/copy protection for computer games: you had to enter a magic word, chosen randomly from the book each time the program was run). I have no problem with that; I would oppose using its existence to prohibit better photocopiers from coming on the market.

j h woodyatt@135 gets that point exactly right.

Erik@137: the context was downloading movies and the like quickly, so bandwidth is indeed relevant. (Yes, FedEx of a box of DVDs has higher bandwidth, and not quite as good latency as a cable modem. But so long as the bandwidth is faster than watching time or at least not too much slower, downloading is viable.)

#141 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:37 AM:

It just dawned on me why I may be talking past a bunch of the other people on this point, and it's because of my different assumption about what waterfront access means.

Under Hawaii state law, which inherits this point from Hawaiian Kingdom law, which adopted it from both English common law and Hawaiian traditional law, the entire public has an absolute right of access and use to any beach or water edge. Private property does not extend beyond the highest high-tide mark, and private entities - whether individuals or corporations - do not have a right to block any existing or traditional access ways to the beach. This has been upheld again and again in court here. (I have read that California common law also holds much the same thing, via a different path of precedents, but that it has been ignored there so often for so long that both the public and most lawyers are now ignorant of it.)

Do you see where I had taken the analogy to go? If somebody padlocks an access way to an area the public has a right to, they should not be surprised if somebody then cuts the lock off or publishes the combination - even though cutting the lock may not be considered the "appropriate legal remedy", etc. If they prolong the matter and try to keep the public out, they'll just end up in court slapped with a lawsuit, as has happened to an ex-Beatle and other such celebrities here.

This then gets to the same point jhw also made. If the public has a right of access and use, they should have a right to do whatever is necessary to get that access and use. This is also where the DMCA really screws things up. because it makes the equivalent of opening that lock a major criminal action - even when it's done for a perfectly legitimate purpose.

But this still has nothing to do with whether a decryption key is "just a number".

#142 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:33 AM:

Jacob @ 138:

Actually AACS has a whole system for revoking the device-level keys. They've already said this key will be invalid for all disks released after a month or two from now. As I understand it, the problem at that point is the device which used this key - XBox HD-DVD drive, I think - effectively becomes a brick unless it is loaded with a new key. This will not be charming or endearing to the people who own one. It also won't make people eager to invest in HD-DVD players, if they have an expected usable lifetime measured in weeks or months.

A.J. @ 127:

I suspect you don't hang out among any fanatic and low-budget gamers or read gaming news sites?

In short, copy protection of video games doesn't work either and never really has. Video game consoles do indeed get hacked, and have been getting hacked for years. They get mod-chipped to allow them to play pirate copies of games, they get modded to let them play games from other regions (because the content-providers on some console platforms do the same stupid region-dependent releases and pricings), they get modded and sold with hard drives full of pre-pirated games... The manufacturers grit their teeth and live with it, because they can see they're making enough money despite it. You should read the history of how the original Xbox got hacked; it's quite interesting. It involved developing a number of techniques which seem similar to those brought to bear on the AACS break.

In my opinion, the media companies are not failing to successfully protect these formats because they secretly want to fail, or because they have some even more devious plot in mind. They are failing because the goal of copy protection is fundamentally impossible; it's almost mathematically provably impossible.

The media company executives don't have the knowledge base or the kind of intelligence needed to understand why this is true, so they look for technical "wizards" who will tell them it is possible. Anyone who tells them it is not possible will of course be rejected as being either too stupid to find the way, or clearly in league with the crooks and pirates and crazies.

It is a necessary consequence then, that the media companies end up with copy protection schemes designed by techs who are either too stupid or self-deluded to understand technically why they will fail, or are scamming the media companies into believing it's "unbreakable" while hoping they can just make it confusing enough to last a little while. The other side shares no such delusion. It should come as no surprise then that a key for the scheme has been broken quickly (though I might have expected it to take a few more months.)

As I explained above, the system does account for that but it does it by essentially dropping support for devices which use the old keys, hence turning them to "bricks."

The really neat part is that it sounds as though the hackers involved are on the brink of getting to higher-level keys, past the whole process by which keys and devices are revocable. I don't know the scheme well enough to be sure, but it sounds as though it might make it possible to "unrevoke" devices, hence breaking the copy protection scheme for all time. All when it's barely hit the market. "Many eyes make bugs shallow."

#143 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:02 AM:

Clifton @ previous:

I'm aware of the sorts of things hardcore gamers do. (I'm not hardcore myself, but I am extremely fond of my SNES emulator, for whatever that's worth.) And I basically agree with you that it's impossible to prevent everyone from using pirated games.

But there's a significant difference between installing some software that has DeCSS built in and soldering new components onto your Playstation's motherboard. Damn near anyone can do the former, and you have to be highly motivated to bother with the latter.

To me, that indicates that Sony, Nintendo, et al were reasonably successful; you have to go to some serious effort to play pirated games on up-to-date hardware. You can emulate the older stuff, but for most people it's easiest just to buy the games for the newest consoles.

But the people who wrote the DVD/CSS encryption weren't even trying... seriously, they used a 40 bit key! And the HD-DVD doesn't look terribly much more sophisticated.

Maybe you're right, and everyone involved is just a bunch of morons. I don't know. I'm not convinced that evil and stupid are mutually exclusive, in any case.

#144 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:12 AM:

Sorry if someone in this longish thread has already brought this up, but EMI and Apple have just announced an agreement to bring DRM-free downloads to iTunes. They'll cost a little more than the regular DRM-subject files, but I can't imagine that either company would be doing this if they expected to lose money thereby. And wouldn't I have liked to have been a little fly on the wall in the RIAA head office when they got the news!

I am currently in the process of converting my pop-music vinyl collection into digital formats. Interestingly, there's a pattern in the way I've been doing it. If I only want half-a-dozen songs or less from a given artist, I have no hesitation about buying them frim iTunes, because it's quick and easy. If I want significantly more than that... I go over to Amazon and buy a "Greatest Hits" CD (assuming one is available) and rip them myself, because I want those songs in hard-copy as well as mp3 format.

And if there's a specific song I want that's not available on iTunes, and not readily available via Amazon, then I send my partner the torrents expert on a search mission. I just landed the original-1968-single version of Bob Seger's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" (which is significantly different from, and IMO superior to, the later re-release) that way; AFAIK, it's never been released on CD. And I didn't want it to resell; I wanted it to listen to. Yeah, I could have bought some equipment and some software which would have allowed me to create an mp3 from my own vinyl single -- but why should I have to re-invent the wheel?

#145 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:23 AM:

#141 Clifton:

The point of revoking the key is so that pirate players which use the revoked key can't decrypt new content. Nobody's going to turn all the existing players into bricks--the lawsuits would bankrupt them, even if they weren't put out of business by a refusal of customers to ever buy anything from them again.

There are complicated schemes for handling this kind of revocation. Typically, the system has some limit of revocations, after which either you can't publish anything anymore for the old players, or you start cutting old players out of seeing new content. But I haven't looked at the scheme being used by the HDDVD stuff, so I don't know the details.

#146 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:13 AM:

I'm wary of real-world analogies when discussing copyright. One of the big problems with copyright, as I see it, is that it just doesn't map onto physical reality particularly well. The idea of something that can be infinitely replicated without any additional cost is pretty alien to our real-world experience, and it tends to get pushed under the rug a lot. When questions of intellectual property come up, the reaction has almost invariably been to try to treat it like it's a physical object. Reasoning by analogy is a fundamental part of our legal system, and it really bites us in the ass when it comes to copyright. (This is, I think, essentially where the concept of Fair Use comes from: once you've bought it, you can do more or less whatever to want with it--carry it around, give or lend it to someone else, use it as much or as little as you like; anything, that is, except exploit its ease of reproduction. You can use it in all the ways that it's like a thing, but in none of the ways it's like an idea.)

This "common sense" position worked as long as there were substantial costs to reproduction. Making and buying a CD was enough like making and buying a pot or a hammer that the analogy held. Now, not so much. What used to take an entire industry of reproduction and distribution has been replaced by desktop-publishing and the internet. This has exposed the huge, gaping difference between any real-world analogy and intellectual property: if you "sell" your IP, you still have it. If I "steal" your IP, you still have it. The incentive for individual users not to distribute is absent, in a way that's impossible to duplicate in the material realm.

This is why I think that real-world analogies make for poor arguments. Copyright in the digital age is so different from what we are familiar with that any analogy can't help but mislead.

Really, the power-grab underway by the companies in the recording and distribution business is a far more honest recognition of the realities of digital reproduction than the defense of the blurry concept of Fair Use. The only people who really get the realities of the media are the recording companies and the pirates--everyone else is still trying to treat intellectual property like it's a thing. The record companies, for all their flaws, have at least figured that much out. Sure, their proposed legal framework is obviously rapacious and terrible for consumers, but at least it responds to the reality of intellectual property, and not to a poorly thought-out analogy from the material world.

#147 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:26 AM:

146 Heresiarch:

I think the record companies' actions w.r.t. piracy and DMCA track with a really common pattern:

a. Group X has a legitimate complaint, like "people are giving away copies of our stuff"

b. Group X lobbies, campaigns, etc., to get this problem taken seriously, and is eventually able to get into position to get laws passed to fix the problem.

c. Group X uses this opportunity to address their legitimate concerns, but also all kinds of other concerns. The support for protecting their stuff from being stolen gets used for protecting their business model from competition, or extending copyright protection on stuff they already own, or whatever.

The tort reform movement looks like another nice example of this. Start with the real problem of jurisdiction shopping and predatory lawsuits, and then use that justification to "fix" the problem of corporations being held accountable in court for screwing people over.

#148 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:32 AM:

#140: Yes, FedEx of a box of DVDs has higher bandwidth, and not quite as good latency as a cable modem.

Which is precisely the Netflix business model (modulo the "FedEx" part), and Netflix is on record as saying it's temporary, and they expect downloading to be the way to go before too long.*

* Value of "before too long" to be determined later, but I bet that inside Netflix they have a strong idea of what that value is.

#149 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:39 AM:

146: The only people who really get the realities of the media are the recording companies and the pirates

and, apparently, you.

One of the big problems with copyright, as I see it, is that it just doesn't map onto physical reality particularly well.

The "Bounty Hunter" metaphor focuses on the labor involved in creating the work, and does not map IP onto some physical thing.


This "common sense" position worked as long as there were substantial costs to reproduction.

Yes, yes, the VCR is to the movie industry like the Boston Strangler is to women. Sure. Sure. We've proven time and time again that having the technology to make cheap copies has ALWAYS nearly killed off the content providing companies.

VCR's ended up being a goldmine for the movie companies. And they were dragged kicking and screaming to that pile of money, the ungrateful bstrds.

What is being argued for here, is not protection from thievery, but protection of the status quo, the maintainence of whatever current business model has someone at the top want to stay at the top.

The fact is that there are business models that would work with cheap, high bandwidth. Rhapsody sells music by a monthly subscription. I've subscribed to it for a year or so. I don't have to buy CD's, but I pay for music, and I get access to the entire library. And I can access it from any computer I use, work, home, wireless, whatever.

But the problem is that Rhapsody means all the people making money selling CompactDiscs are facing unemployment.

There is a business model that allows money to be made in the world of yet cheaper copy/distribution, but the monastic scribes are complaining that the printing press is about to turn the world into a bunch of thieving pirates, and something must be done to prevent this technology from allowing rampant piracy.

And, if it happens to keep them employed, well, that's just the gravy of a just world.


#150 ::: Jim Satterfield ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:51 PM:

There should be a song sung to the tune of YMCA but I just don't have time to write it...

D-e-e MCA! You ought to fear the D-e-e MCA!

#151 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:20 PM:

Greg: I like the bounty hunter analogy considerably more than others, for the reason you mention in #118: it tries to avoid reification, and also because it frames the transaction not as between creator and individual purchasers, but as between creator and society as a whole. That said, any analogy that gets you into frequent arguments about whether or not it's a good analogy has problems.

"What is being argued for here, is not protection from thievery, but protection of the status quo, the maintainence of whatever current business model has someone at the top want to stay at the top."

I agree. But which is it, Greg? Are they wildly over-exaggerating digital distribution's dangers to their profit margins a la the Boston Strangler, or are they monastic scribes about to be economically obliterated? You can't have it both ways.

"The fact is that there are business models that would work with cheap, high bandwidth. Rhapsody sells music by a monthly subscription. I've subscribed to it for a year or so. I don't have to buy CD's, but I pay for music, and I get access to the entire library. And I can access it from any computer I use, work, home, wireless, whatever."

Again, I agree. It's going to be very different from what exists now, though. It will be a much bigger dislocation than the shift from video cassettes to DVD, or even the introduction of home video. Companies will cease to exist. Others will be born. You can hardly blame the companies for being scared--their world really is changing this time.

"There is a business model that allows money to be made in the world of yet cheaper copy/distribution,"

True. But I don't think it will be as much money. It certainly won't be as easy to extract. It's been shown that when given the choice, people prefer more variety in their entertainment. The common center, which studios have spent decades cultivating, will shrink. Distributors will be forced to go after more and more niche markets as the center collapses. Fewer focus-grouped and bubble-gum-bland mega-stars, more idiosyncratic artists who actuallly write their own material. Frankly, I'm excited. There will be more music available, and my guess is it'll be cheaper. The flip-side of that is there'll be fewer obscene profits to be wrung from the industry.

#152 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 04:54 PM:

Greg and Heresiarch:

There's been a lot written about why it's hard for very successful companies to innovate. Basically, it's common that you get to the point where the available innovations would threaten your existing business, and that's really, really hard to let happen.

I think the same forces drive the recording and movie industries' opposition to various bits of new digital technology.

But the industries' response is different, because they can often get the government to intervene on their behalf. This raises the question in my mind: Do societies sometimes get into that same position, where, because of existing entrenched interests, it becomes impossible to innovate further? It seems like this happens, and like it's happened to the US from time to time, but also like we escape it fairly often.

It also makes me wonder if this kind of thing is behind those fields where innovation seems inexplicably stalled. In Zubrin's book _Entering Space_, he more-or-less said he thought one reason nobody had developed a much cheaper way to get stuff into orbit was because the companies in the launch or launch vehicle business would lose money by any such innovation.

It's probably silly to worry about this, given that we live in an age of constant, shocking, revolutionary technological and social change. But I wonder, without these conservative forces, if we'd be lighting our homes with fusion power transmitted across superconducting wires and sending e-mails to our friends on the Mars colony.

#153 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:17 PM:

You can hardly blame the companies for being scared--their world really is changing this time.

Of course I don't blame them. I just completely and absolutely refuse to allow them to bstrdz the law to keep them employed without calling it what it is: monopolization not for the public good but for the benefit of those at the top of the heap.

The allegation is always that democracy is for the people, that free enterprise will find a solution. But when that gets twisted to the point that free enterprise and democracy is defined by billion dollar companies purchasing the legislation they want, to the detriment of the people, well, I gotta complain.

#154 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:33 PM:

It also makes me wonder if this kind of thing is behind those fields where innovation seems inexplicably stalled.

I don't know about what's stalling space exploration. I can tell you a bit about the hardware engineering field, if you're interested.

Basically, Moore's Law, the idea that computing power doubles every 18 months, comes with a price.

I remember when the cost to tapeout a chip, (the cost to get the manufacturing plant to retool their process to manufacture our chips), was something like $100k. This was some years ago. For a while, it was so cheap that I didn't even know how much it cost. It was cheap enough that for some consumer products, you could let some bugs slip through and show up in the chips, test them in the lab, and have another tapeout to fix the last bugs.

It currently costs something like a million dollars to tape out a chip. That's just the tooling cost to setup the factory, not the design cost, or the manufacturing cost or anything else. Factory retooling. One million dollars.

The cost is so high that you probably won't see any hardware companies start out of some guys garage anytime soon. The number of tape outs per year, overall, has plummetted. Companies can't afford it. innovation is getting throttled by this massive NRE cost to tapeout a chip.

It's actually a bit depressing for me, having gotten into a field because it seemed like it was limitless potential, only to find that it's definitely hit a cost ceiling. Innovation can really only be done by the massive companies who can afford to absorb these massive costs while they way the couple of years it takes to design, build, debug, a new chip.

#155 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 12:36 AM:

#152 albatross: "This raises the question in my mind: Do societies sometimes get into that same position, where, because of existing entrenched interests, it becomes impossible to innovate further? It seems like this happens, and like it's happened to the US from time to time, but also like we escape it fairly often."

I just read a book on that very subject. It's called Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond. I highly recommend it. He gives a list of five causes, all of which are essentially some kind of catastrophic change (environmental damage, particularly deforestation, figures prominently). But that's only half of it--the other half is the subsequent failure to deal with that change. Frequently it seems that the reason these potentially catastrophic changes were ignored until too late was that the local elites weren't interested in admitting there was a problem, much less dealing with it. Easter Island chieftans needed the trees to build their giant statues, so the island got deforested, and nevermind the consequences to everyone. The Mayan emperors were too busy erecting monuments to their own glory too notice the droughts coming year after year.

It's that same old Upton Sinclair quote: “It’s difficult to make a man understand something when his paycheck depends on his not understanding it.” The same is just as true of elites as anyone else. They are making so much profit from the status quo that any elite will be profoundly reluctant to admit to a need for profound reform. When societies change, the old elites rarely stay on top. Much easier to deny that any change is taking place at all.

Read the whole book. It has some very scary things to say about the current environmental and political situation, and also offers some rays of hope.

#153 Greg London: Agreed. In fact, like I said above, allowing elites to monopolize the decision-making process can cause entire societies to collapse. One of the strongest arguments for democracy I've ever heard.

#156 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 01:34 AM:

I agree. But which is it, Greg? Are they wildly over-exaggerating digital distribution's dangers to their profit margins a la the Boston Strangler, or are they monastic scribes about to be economically obliterated? You can't have it both ways.

It could, of course, be both: i.e devastating to the middleman, and quite unnoticeable to the creator. I don't mind copyright law being written to help U2; that's what it is there for. I do mind copyright law being written to help keep EMI in cocaine and dwarfs.

#157 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 04:46 AM:

I have a couple irons in this particular fire: I'm a passionate media junkie, a longtime hacker, friends with quite a few owners of small (very small) independent record labels and currently employed by the content operations group at Rhapsody. I came to Rhapsody because I've spent the past several years painstakingly ripping my ~7,000 CD strong collection and have learned a lot about the challenges thereof, as well as a fair amount of specialized knowledge about the quirks of musical recording metadata that have come in pretty handy at my job.

I think there are very few people in the digital music side of the music industry who have much love for the DMCA and current copyright regime. For those who don't know, before its acquisition by Real, Rhapsody was a product of Listen, who got their start by being a kind of public directory of good, legal music on the web. I'm certain that much of Rhapsody's senior management would be thrilled to operate in a DRM-free world, as long as they were still able to make money. Rhapsody's business model is not predicated on DRM, believe it or not. It's predicated on the idea of what Real's CEO, Rob Glaser, calls the "celestial jukebox" – that is, there's a value to having access to a two million+ catalog of tracks that it would be very difficult to create on your own, available for immediate streaming access. Speaking as someone who's managed to rip about 50,000 tracks out of his own collection, I have a healthy amount of respect for this philosophy. You could spend the rest of your life downloading torrents or other MP3s and only build a small fraction of Rhapsody's catalog, and you'd have to have somewhere to put it. The amount of disk space used by Rhapsody's media files is mind-boggling (to the point that it's a project just figuring out how much of it there is).

Anyway, dealing with the DMCA and the related laws governing label rights and music publishing rights (which are unbelievably arcane) are a huge part of Rhapsody's job, and I think everyone there wishes these things would just go away. DRM is a pain in the ass to implement and support (which isn't helped by the fact that we support multiple DRM schemes), dealing with rights in the absence of a compulsory license is ridiculously convoluted (there are at least 8 rights flags for each track in the catalog, all of which have different effects on how our users can make use of our catalog), and the time and money spent on dealing with these projects, while keeping me employed, has proven to be a huge drain on Rhapsody's ability to offer cool new features and the broad editorial coverage we count on to differentiate ourselves from our rivals. If we could legally unencumber ourselves from this mess, we'd be thrilled to do so.

The thing to keep in mind is that the current situation benefits a very small number of people. Unless you're an artist selling hundreds of thousands of copies (or more) of your album, are a highly-placed label executive, are a Disney heir, or are a lawyer, the DMCA does not bring you any new benefits. Independent musicians and songwriters get very little out of the current arrangement, which anyone can see from the way that an ever-increasing number of artists are releasing music directly to their fans without DRM, or even (in the case of the Barenaked Ladies) working to get the laws changed or repealed.

The situation with movies seems more complicated, but only because the present-day reality of filmmaking is so capital-intensive. This is starting to change. We're still a few years out from independent filmmakers releasing direct to digital, but when that happens, and as small teams get the kind of power that large studios had 30 years ago (to do special effects, to cheaply shoot scenes that would have cost millions not too long ago, etc), we're going to see the same democratization of film that we've seen in music. Given how catastrophic that democratization has been for the major labels, I think the MPAA is doing everything in power to forestall that from happening in their backyard. Too bad. History's not on their side, which is why they're starting to sound so histrionic and reactionary.

Peter Gutmann has described Windows Vista's DRM scheme as "the longest suicide note in history", and I think it's easy to think that things are going to keep getting worse, but I think that's an overly gloomy assessment. A lot of this stuff hasn't been tested at the Supreme Court level, and the Court has shown that they're willing to think hard about these things. And as the Kaleidescape case shows, the lower courts are starting to get in on the action too, and not in the favor of the big rightsholders.

The real question is if the MPAA / RIAA and their constituents are going to figure out how to compromise with their customers in time to avoid a disastrous showdown. Some would argue that it's already too late, but I think we're just now starting to see some answers. The answers so far don't speak well for the rightsholder's ability to adapt to change.

I speak only for myself and not on behalf of Rhapsody. I do think that the value of our product exists independently of our use of DRM, but of course my opinion is my own and not theirs.

#158 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 04:57 AM:

Greg @154,

You'll be happy to know there's at least one person building a fab in her garage.

Evidently there are a lot of abandoned methods from earlier times that are perfectly adoptable by the modern designer. Bit like when gasoline engines became the standard for cars: didn't mean that there wasn't life in electric (or other non-gasoline) cars, but that the big companies weren't going to be building them. Yet.

#159 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 12:18 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 158

You'll be happy to know there's at least one person building a fab in her garage.

O frabjous day. If that works out there'll be major changes in the hardware biz. Some friends of mine work at a startup that's designed a custom chip for video streaming servers (among other things), and they've spent the last year or more finding out how much fun it's not to be the tail of the dog on a large custom fab. I suspect having their own fab, or being the big customer of a garage operation would have saved them 3-6 months in prototype and development time. That time equates to a lot of money in sales opportunities when you're going against giants.

#160 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 04:07 PM:

I'm going to patent "69" - both as a number and as a business technique - with my legions of trained attack lawyers I will soon rule the PrOn industry, then the Internet, and then the WORLD!

#161 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:36 PM:

I have nothing useful to say here aside from noting that, should there come occasion to compile a volume called "Half The Fun: The Best Of Making Light Commentary," Christopher Turkel's #34 needs to be in there somewhere.

(Nevermind reading it; I get fits of giggles just from looking at it.)

#162 ::: Nathan Russell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 10:38 PM:

Albatross@#145, lawsuits?

Yes there's good reasons they wouldn't brick players, but I can't imagine lawsuits being one. A quick web search suggests hd-dvd players are down to $350-500. If you buy one which later is bricked, and you sue the company for the replacement cost, where exactly are you going to find a lawyer who will mount a case against a multi-billion dollar company and charge that little?

#163 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 08:36 AM:

#162: Google for "class action lawsuit"

For that matter, imagine what, say, Wal-Mart does the day several hundred thousand people bring back the DVD players because they've suddenly stopped working.

#164 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 12:49 PM:

echo "
Baptize hopscotch; abrade the sphinx. / Elegy for a janitor, a vortex magician:
Join the thinker where jokers fear to joke / Or rant in the ammonite's rowboat.
" | tr A-Z a-z | tr bcdfgjklmpqvwxyzetaonirshu 0-9A-P | tr -cd 0-9A-F; echo

#165 ::: Nathan Russell ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 01:29 PM:

#163: Good point. For that matter, Wal-Mart wouldn't *have* to sue. They could simply tell the player manufacturers that they will not be able to carry players until they are compensated and receive assurance that it will not happen again. And, of course, in the meantime they won't carry new HD-DVDs either.

#166 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 03:16 PM:

To be clear, I know about AACS key revocation. It's just that it doesn't work. At all. If it did, then the "sue everyone on the Internet" action item in the event of key disclosure wouldn't be necessary. When the credit card company revokes your number, all processing that uses online verification (which I think is nearly all processing except the occasional obsolete transaction with the card present) immediately ceases working with that number.

I believe the key currently being distributed came from Corel's Intervideo software HD-DVD player, which makes revocation a lot less destructive than it is for a hardware player, because you can at least download an update for a software player. Still, for people who don't get the update (i.e. most normal people), it might come as an annoying surprise that when they put in that Spiderman 3 HD-DVD a year from now, as not only will it not play, but all of a sudden none of their HD-DVDs will play in the Intervideo player until they download an update.

Hardware players have it much worse of course. I hadn't heard the phrase "bricking" to describe it but it's perfect. Your expensive HD-DVD player will suddenly cease to function when you put in a newly-purchased disc. Not just for that disc. For all HD-DVD discs.

People using players that don't bother to check revocation lists - like, oh, anyone using the revoked key in a pirate HD-DVD player - aren't badly affected by revocation. Their players won't disable themselves, and they'll still be able to read (and copy) every HD-DVD that was released before the key revocation.

Revocation is a bizarre form of punishment. The goal is presumably to try to get the manufacters of players to protect their secret key - like the one now posted on a million websites - or suffer enormous consequences from angry customers. But the people actually affected by it are innocent users of that manufacturer's HD-DVD players.

In a world where only giant corporations with deep pockets produce HD-DVD players and class-action lawsuits against them won't bankrupt them, maybe that works. In the real world, where tiny operations run out of a shed in Shanghai - exactly the kind of manufacturers most likely to accidentally disclose their keys - are going to be making HD-DVD players, there won't be anyone big enough to sue when your player breaks.

Well, perhaps the AACS administrators who revoked your key...

#167 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 05:35 AM:

And, in other DMCA news, a bartender who posts photos of fake IDs has been hit with a DMCA complaint. Via/.

#168 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 01:16 PM:

Randolph, #167: Oh, that's priceless. I'm glad to see that the guy has a realistic attitude about it. If I were he, that would be just about enough to tip the balance in favor of reporting all the not-so-legal harassment to the authorities... but then, I'm well known to be a vindictive bitch who believes in enforcing "actions have consequences" on the Entitlement Class.

Do keep us posted on what happens with this, eh?

#169 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 08:50 PM:

Pissing off techies is a bad idea.

host -t AAAA aacs.7deadly.org
host 217.151.97.233

Google still shows 103,000 hits (and stuff like the ones I've posted can't be easily found by googling).

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