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August 14, 2004

digital media competition, ass   (geekin, opinion)

from a /. thread:

[We should] treat the race to scramble and descramble content as a kind of market competition that should be unfettered by the DMCA--or new FTC rules

This is the most intelligent thing I've heard anybody say about the copy protection controversy.

Back in the 70s and early 80s HBO was broadcast through the air like DirecTV. People used to build their own receivers using antennas made out of coffee cans (I know -- I had one). After HBO had harassed and threatened antenna owners for several years, the courts finally ruled that the company couldn't control what people did with the broadcast signal in their own homes. HBO's next move was to scramble the signal, which was easily defeated by those with access to spectrum analyzers but largely stymied the coffee-can community. The eventual solution was for HBO to join the cable world.

I always thought this was the sensible way to handle the controversy. Make companies do business in the real world, rather than letting them reshape [the world] to their needs [through legislation]. Lately our government has gone in the opposite direction, with legislators tailoring laws to suit the demands of their financial backers.

One thing that must be repeated over and over is that copyright infringement is not stealing, because copyright is not property. It's a temporary restriction imposed on everybody except the copyright holder. Copyright holders don't "own" anything, and copyright doesn't give them any extra rights, it takes rights away from everybody else for a limited time. Copyright infringement may cause financial losses, but so do lots of other things -- arson, vandalism, assault, murder, for example -- and we don't call those things theft.

It's important to keep repeating this because the content industry has essentially hijacked the concepts of property ownership and theft. They play the part of the little old lady chasing a purse snatcher, and they label critics of current copyright laws as socialists threatening the whole concept of private property.

Posted by yargevad at August 14, 2004 02:03 AM

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