In the background, the standards get created and the lobbying and campaign contributions begin.
The Register has written quite a bit about this, and there’s quite a few links in this article. Essentially, it talks about efforts by the major computer hardware and software manufacturers to prevent widespread copying by preventing it in the first place.
However, for effective digital copyright protection to occur, there has to be a one-two punch.
First you need some copy protection standard. Then you need government to enforce that standard by mandating it and providing criminal penalties for those who break it.
That’s where the lobbying and campaign contributions come in.
You’re an American Congressman (I’ll use American terms, but this is just as applicable to any legislator in the developed world). You probably were a lawyer before getting into politics. You very probably believe in the sanctity of personal property and personal property right, and intellectual property rights are part of that belief.
It’s possible that you handled intellectual property law cases as a lawyer, and if not, it’s probable you have other lawyer friends who do.
You probably know very little about the Internet and what goes on there since you’re just too busy to spend any time or focus any real attention to it. Whatever you do know probably comes in dribs and drabs from the news media and/or maybe your kid, which gives you the impression that some pretty bad things are going on out there.
So, even left all to your lonesome, you’re probably pretty predisposed to think making digital copies of copyrighted material is not good, even if you think the MP in MP3 stands for More Pedophilia.
Just what do you think is likely to happen when Mr. Friendly Record or Movie Company Lobbyist shows up along with a nice campaign contribution check and tells you why he needs a few laws to save the music and film industry from a bunch of thieves?
And when those lobbyists get asked for some technical assistance in drafting legislation, do you really think they’re going to voluntarily put anything in that legislation that’s going to hurt the guys paying the bills? Like hell they will; they’re going to grab with both hands and get everything they can possibly get.
Just who is going to stop them?
A couple months ago, we had the case of Dmitry Sklyarov, who essentially cracked some of Adobe’s protections in their eBook system. This is rather against the U.S. Digital Milennium Copyright Act (DMCA), so when he visited the U.S., he got busted.
Eventually, the U.S. Government decided not to prosecute. He wasn’t found innocent, mind you, they just decided that this particular fellow wasn’t the best test case for the new law (he’s going to have to testify against the company he worked for, BTW).
The DMCA is still there. While some of it has been criticized by copyright experts for taking copyright law a little too far in the direction of private owners, it still nonetheless is the law until it gets changed.
What you need to do is to ponder is just how it became law in the first place (hint, hint: see the paragraphs above).
What Fair Use Is And Isn’t
What is fair use? Briefly, “fair use” are uses of copyrighted materials that are exempted from the general application of copyright laws.
To keep this simple, if you think MP3s constitute fair use, that’s what Napster said, too. See how far that got them?
In any case, a new law can simply state that MP3 use does not qualify as a “fair use” , and any arguments about fair use goes out the window. There are no constitutional issues, and BTW, there is no such thing as a blanket constitutional right to privacy.
They certain can mandate that manufacturers make hardware which incorporates CPRM or something like it, and the manufacturers won’t say boo to that, either.
If you think “somebody will come up with a crack for it,” well, if somebody came up with a crack for CPRM, I wouldn’t bet that guy would get off like Sklyarov. Once a couple people start doing some hard time (and bet there will be some behind-the-scenes discussions between the U.S. and other countries about this), I’d bet cracks would dry up pretty quickly.
The point to all this is that it’s pretty stupid to let the music and movie companies you find so evil and greedy write the laws needed to prevent you from doing what you’re doing and prosecute you if you find a way around it without a fight.
If You Sit On Your Butt, You’re Bending Over
The reality is the content providers will pretty much have their way unless those who don’t want what they want do something.
True, there are organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but they can do only so much. Most importantly, they can’t make political campaign donations, while Sony and Disney and Microsoft certainly can.
This is not to say all legislators are inevitably corrupt. However, remember the typical Congressman I described above.
On the one hand, you have big corporations making arguments he’s inclined to agree with anyway and handing him money.
On the other hand, his office will probably get about three teenagers writing semiliterate notes telling him that “music should be free.”
They either can’t vote for him or probably won’t vote anyway, much less hand over money,
To whom is he more likely to listen? If you think the second, Earth to whomever. You don’t live in the real world.
Will the Sonys and Disneys and Microsofts of the world inevitably get their way? They will if all you do is whine and moan.
This essentially boils down to a political matter, and political matters usually get decided by the group that puts more effort into getting their way.
If people got themselves and some MONEY together to do battle with the Sonys and Microsofts of the world in the legislative halls, and make it cost the legislators something to ignore you, victory for the big guys isn’t inevitable at all.
But of course, this requires effort.