DDT for P2P

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There’s one huge problem with any digital copy-protection scheme.

What about the old stuff? Music and movies have a much longer shelf-life than, say, software.

If “golden oldie” radio stations work today, one could easily see “golden oldie” P2P networks in the year 2060. I’m sure some of you by-then old geezers will want to hear Britney before . . . well, use your imagination. 🙂

What’s a poor music or movie company to do?

Sometimes A Man’s Got To Do What A Man’s Got To Do

First, there was MP3.com and Napster. They were centralized, so they were very easy to stop with a little legal action.

So peer-to-peer networks developed. Much harder to stop legally; there’s no kingpin to sue and injunction to death. It’s the difference between driving whales to extinction and doing the same to fish.

The P2P people figured they were pretty smart and safe. What were the content providers going to do, hack into their hard drives?

Well . . . .

A bill has just been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives which would allow content providers to do just that.

Here’s the core of the bill:

Notwithstanding any State or Federal statute or other law . . . a copyright right owner shall not be liable in any criminal or civil action for disabling, interfering with, blocking, diverting, or otherwise impairing the unauthorized distribution, display, performance, or reproduction of his or her copyrighted work on a publicly accessible peer-to-peer trading network, if such impairment does not, without authorization, alter, delete, or otherwise impair the integrity of any computer file or data residing on the computer of a file trader.”

What does that mean? If this became law, it lets content providers play vigilante and put things on your computer which will block your use or distribution of digital content, and you can’t do squat about it legally.

I’ll Sue!

That’s the whole point of the bill. It removes all grounds for you suing (unless the action also caused certain kinds of monetary damages).

Would it pass constitutional muster? The bill essentially lets content providers come up with any scheme they like, so it’s hard to judge when what’s being judged doesn’t exist yet. It would make a interesting Supreme Court case, but the Supreme Court
has traditionally not found that stolen property deserves much if any constitutional protection. That doesn’t mean the Supreme Court would uphold a law like this (it really would depend on the specific details); just don’t assume they’d automatically would find it unconstitutional.

But I Made An MP3 Copy From My Own CD! (and I’m even telling the truth about it)

This bill doesn’t address that question. This bill doesn’t address most questions, and when it does, it usually fouls it up. It’s really a very badly-put together bill; you know a bill is bad when even the content providers will find it crappy (it would create a flood of lawsuits against them, for openers).

I don’t think this bill will ever see any meaningful action taken on it, much less pass, so I’m not going to spend time going into its many faults.

What is important about the bill is that it is an advance indicator that some people in the content creation industry are ready and willing to take some pretty extreme action to stop copying.

This particular bill is a piece of junk, but better ones will likely follow in the years to come.

Ed

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