Definitions and History
Industry Strikes Back
Case Studies in new media technologies
Fair use: the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use
by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified
by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting,
teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or
research, is not an infringement of copyright.
MPAA: Motion Picture Association of America
RIAA: Recording Industry Association of America
DeCSS: De-Content Scrambling System. Software created by a 16 year
old linux user to play DVD's on his linux computer. (Linux has no officially
supported DVD players.)
SDMI: Secure Digital Music Initiative.
Whenever there is an unexpected or unforseen evolution
in technology, or an adaptaion of existing technology, corporations want
to be able to profit from it. Alot of the argument for fair use lies within
control. By trying to make it illegal to view legally purchased DVD's on
unlicensed DVD players, the MPAA illustrates that the issue isn't about
copyright infringement, it's about control. Since the corporations aren't
profiting from selling a player as well, they clearly show that they want
to gain profit from every angle. They are, in effect, trying to make it
illegal to view legitamate "fair use" copies (very similar to VHS and Betamax)
of DVD's on players they didn't make. If this trend continues, one day,
you might have to have a DVD player created by Paramount to view Paramount
movies, a Warner Brothers DVD player to view Warner Brothers DVD's, etc.
Music faces virtually the same fate if the SDMI ever officially takes
off. Restricting legitimate rights might seem trivial now, when only "small
rights" are being fought for. If the trend continues, however, then one
day you might have a stack of music players, or dvd players on top of each
other in your entertainment room, just to play a wide variety of studio's
The Approaching Ethico-Technological
Here's ethical stormfront we're facing:
"The information age is not about technology. It is about information
-- about content. [...] Media technologies are only means of delivering
-- and selling -- words, pictures, and sounds. [...] Whoever controls the
content controls the medium. Is that control to lie in the hands of the
suits at Disney, whose sole concern is maximum profits for shareholders?
Or is it safer [with] the individual creators, whose income depends solely
on their reputation for accurate, high-quality work?" [from "Copyright
and Author's Rights", Creator's
The stakeholders in this entire arena of intellectual property, copyright
law, and fair use and copy protection technology can be summed up in three
sets: the Authors, the Publishers, and the Users. Authors create the content,
Publishers market the content, and Users buy the content. For an excellent
exploration of the interplay amongst these groups, please see The
Great Internet Panic: How Digitization is Deforming Copyright Law"
by Anne Fujita.
Wendy Grossman notes that:
CPRM uses the technology to embed the interests of powerful organizations
[directly into a product] without public discussion. Lawrence Lessig, a
professor of law at Stanford University, points out in his book Code and
Other Laws of Cyberspace that technology, far from being neutral, is designed
with assumptions that wind up controlling what we do and how. In this case,
what is being embedded--in removable media, if not permanent media--is
the presumption that we are guilty until proven innocent. [Grossman,
The dilemma is, the Publishers who sell the content are creating the medium,
and by restricting the capabilities of the medium they are restricting
the excercise of legal fair use by law-abiding Authors and Users. Any ethical
debate needs to reconcile
this fact: Authors and Users tend to be individuals (or cooperative and
often publicly open groups, such as music bands or libraries), with all
the problems and resource limitations that living and breathing bring;
while Publishers tend to be huge corporations with resources infinite by
comparison, and without needing to worry about food and shelter.
Ethically, who has higher priority? Who has it legally? And who has
Fair Use v. Industry:
The Industry Strikes Back
Our focus here is the Publishers and their technological means of circumventing
the rights of Authors and Users. The most obvious technological weapons
are "copy protection" or "content protection" schemes that inhibit the
unlicensed copying of the content.
wrong with copy protection? John Gilmore of the EFF
gives a good overview of the situation. To sum up his arguments, there's
nothing wrong with copy protection as long as the Users are aware of their
rights. Copy protection becomes problematic when:
Competing products are driven from the market
Companies don't disclose copy-protection restrictions
Scientific research is unpublishable (see the SDMI Case
Competition is prevented
Abuse of "copyright protection" rewards monopolies
Social policy is created without public input
Copyright's balance of benefits is lost
Beneficiaries are a tiny fraction of society
"Why should self-interested companies be permitted to shift the balance
of fundamental liberties, risking free expression, free markets, scientific
progress, consumer rights, societal stability, and the end of physical
and informational want? Because somebody might be able to steal a song?
That seems a rather flimsy excuse." ["WWwCP",
Case Studies in New Technologies
Betamax was challenged by Hollywood in an early trial
between copyright law and new technology in 1984. The Supreme Court decided
time-shifting TV programs (by extension, recording streaming Internet videos
for later offline viewing), a possibility introduced by the Betamax technology,
is an application of fair use.
DVD and DeCSS: Reverse engineering is okay when it's your car, and
you want to install a new stereo or a different engine. But the DMCA
doesn't allow you to write a program to play your DVD on that new computer.
Not even if you're just a bright fellow trying to see if you can watch
that DVD on your unsupported OS. Here's the story of DeCSS,
which the DVD CCA claims incorporates stolen
CSS technology, despite an army of academics
pointing out scads
of ways to defeat the encryption.
or other forms of Digital TV, in which the
FCC is taking some interest. Congress set a deadline for digital television
to replace analog TV when 85 percent of U.S. consumers have compatible
sets, or by 2006, whichever is later. Public
voices largely consider a forcible switch from analog to HDTV a bad
thing, due to higher costs of HDTV sets, incompatibility issues with older
machines, and the standard's image quality problems.
Peer-to-peer filesharing: Everyone knows Napster,
the first major peer-to-peer filesharing technology designed to allow Users
to share their music collections. After
the RIAA v. Napster decision, peer-to-peer
technologies must consider copyright law and prevention of copyright
CPRM, or Content
Protection for Recordable Media, is a specification
created by IBM, Intel, Matsushita, and Toshiba designed to encrypt content
and prevent copying. It was proposed to be required in all hard drives,
DVD, Flash memory, or other removable media. The initial CPRM proposal
was withdrawn, then another, subtler
specification was submitted. Grossman's
editorial focused on CPRM.
The Secure Digital Music Initiative is an industry consortium developing
an RIAA-approved audio format (like an MP3 with built-in copy controls).
In September 2000, SDMI challenged academics to test proposed security
techniques, for a $10,000 prize (including required non-disclosure agreements
against publishing results). A group of Princeton researchers defeated
the security and are publishing their results to the academic community.
SDMI seems to be floundering
now, but the issues and dangers remain.
Digital Rights Management is a new type of software being developed by
several different vendors to allow restrictions on viewing different types
of media. Both SunnComm and
MacroVision are leading producers
of this sort of technology. Even though new technology is being worked on constantly, nothing
is one hundred percent fool proof, as Microsoft's latest hacker hunt
shows. The problem with new technologies like this is that they often have many
technical problems and are subject to consumer scruitiny. Despite these short comings
though, Microsoft and other companies continue to persue the dream.
Many of the devices in existence today are meant to make our life easier. MP3, DVD, and CD players
were all designed with either portable or convenient access to multimedia in mind.
Because of these ideas several technologies now have the ability to record media in
high quality formats. In order to stop the casual copying of lots of this media DRM, SDMI, and CPRM
technologies are working together to hardwire copyright
law into our every day devices. One such technology built with this in mind was
High Definition Television and the IEEE 1394 (Firewire) standard. Both of these technologies
have encryption and detection algorithms built into them to keep media secure.
In order to be useful in protecting media all of these new technologies must pass consumer
scrutiny. If the technology is hard to use, causes problems, or is majorily
chances are that it will fail. In order to test the waters various manufacturers must
release a sample product.
And even during the test phase problems arise and
law suits are filed.
New legislation to combat media piracy is being suggested every day. Such legislation has
advantages and disadvantages. Many groups such as the RIAA and MPAA are in favor of almost
every available technology, as long as it's not vendor specific. On the opposing side though
many groups don't wish their rights to be further restricted with new legislation
such as the SSCA
(Security Systems Standards and Certification Act). As with every law, the pros and cons must
be carefully measured and weighted.
Index of Topics