Sound Bites on Fair Use and Copyright Law

by Derrick Story

Sept. 10 was Digital Rights Management Day at the Seybold Conference in San Francisco, CA. Two panel sessions in particular, "The Anti-Piracy Wars" Parts 1 and 2, moderated by Bill Rosenblatt, tangled with the thorney bush of digital rights management, fair use, and personal computing.



I thought you might enjoying reading a few of the sound bites from these sessions. Remember, these statements are out of context and part of an ongoing discussion. That being said, I think you'll find them fascinating.



"People confuse 'fair use' with 'personal use.' They are not the same. Fair use is a set of guidelines used by judges in a courtroom. Personal use is your activity on your computers at home," Ted Cohen, Vice President of New Media for EMI Recorded Music.



"Fair use is important to innovators as well as consumers. It's fair use that allowed the VCR to innovate on top of the television," Joe Krauss, head of DigitalConsumer.org



"Media companies, under the guise of piracy, are asking congress to give them more control over fair use. Hollywood wants to control innovation." Joe Krauss.



"Fight piracy; don't squash innovation," Joe Krauss.



"The copyright bargain: a balance between protection for the artist and rights for the consumer," Robin Gross, Electronic Frontier Foundation.



"We're on the path of creating monopoly business practices out of copyright law," Robin Gross.



"The marketers can compete with free; it just has to be better. Look at bottled water if you don't believe me," Jonathan Potter, Digital Media Association.



"The record industry is still pissed off that other people are making money off their business, even if it promotes their products and increases their sales. I think they're still mad about radio," Jonathan Potter.



"Fair use is always going to be a gray area, and it should be. We need to allow for things we can't see yet," Robin Gross.



"Just let me use the technology I want at a fair price," Jonathan Potter.

These are just a few snips from over three hours of compelling conversation by people who really understand these issues. And that's the key, understanding the issues. We already know that consumers aren't going to take the time to learn and comment about DRM, fair use, and copyright law. And we also know that the entertainment industry is willing to throw lots of money at persuading congress to write bad law.



So my friend, whether we like it or not, it's the technology sector that has to bring common sense to this issue. And that means you and me.





I'm open to comments about fair use, DRM, and copyright law.


6 Comments

artymiak
2002-09-11 09:35:58
There's a solution ... make DRM difficult to use (should be easy to do in practice :-)

There's hope that the technological solutions developed to implement DRM in practice will be so difficult to use that consumers simply won't buy them. Most people cannot remember all of their passwords and PINs for credit/debit/cash/car/store/whatever cards, so how can they remember all of the DRM settings, passwords and other stuff?

derrick
2002-09-11 10:41:36
Make DRM difficult to use; It's an interesting notion
Funny that you should mention this ...


One of the issues yesterday was the idea of introducing "soft DRM." In other words, consumers would have lots of latitude to use legally-purchased content on a variety of personal devices. But large-scale distribution would be made difficult.


John Erickson, from HP Labs, chimed in that tech companies weren't as interested in building soft-DRM technologies because they were "too hard to do." Binary solutions, in other words "all or nothing," are more popular in the tech world because they are easier to build and distribute.


This is what I mean by saying that we have to get involved. If we're not participating because good solutions are too hard, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the consequences.


I know your tongue was in cheek when you posted your comment, but actually it touches on a great issue.

artymiak
2002-09-11 13:10:25
Make DRM difficult to use; It's an interesting notion

One of the issues yesterday was the idea of introducing "soft DRM." In other words, consumers would have lots of latitude to use legally-purchased content on a variety of personal devices. But large-scale distribution would be made difficult.


DRM is a straight path to police state, only it will be run by content providers, not goverments. To make "soft DRM" work in the way you describe it, the customer would have to register all digital devices he/she owns with the content provider's database otherwise the DRM system on each device would not allow him/her to play or open the files on devices other than the machine the file was downloaded on. Of course, you could avoid such registrations with a hardware key, which one had to insert into every device the file is played or opened on, but that's not going to make peoples' lives easier, is it?.


This is what I mean by saying that we have to get involved. If we're not participating because good solutions are too hard, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the consequences.


I agree that we have to get involved, but first we have to know what rights will be managed by these DRM systems. Suppose you download an MP3 file with the right to play it back. Would you be allowed to grab a video stream (without sound) generated by iTunes using the audio stream from that MP3 file? Would the right to distribute (or create) such video streams fall under "derived works"? Perhaps I'm splitting hair, but I'm trying to show that DRM will be an expensive mistake that will only destroy or privacy nothing else.


I think that technology will ultimately render these DRM systems useless, because law will always lag behind technology. Suppose you download your favorite song and according to the licensing agreement you play it but you cannot give it to your friends. But you have another computer with a mic and use it to record that song played on the first computer. Presto! All that DRM magic is gone and you have a redistributable copy. The quality is low, but you can enhance its quality the right software. To stop peaople doing that you'd have to forbid people to use microphones or monitor who they are sharing their files with. Again, this leads to police state.

derrick
2002-09-11 13:17:21
Make DRM difficult to use; It's an interesting notion
Some good thoughts here. I hope others chime in.
artymiak
2002-09-13 07:25:33
Make DRM difficult to use; It's an interesting notion
Wired has a story on this as well. Slashdot covers it too.
dh
2006-03-08 16:36:43
you suck!!