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Camcording, DVD-Ripping and Normative Behavior: the MPAA’s Disingenuous Argument Against Fair Use

May 11, 2009 Analog Hole , Copyright Office , DMCA , DRM , Fair Use


If you were following the DMCA Section 1201 anticircumvention rulemaking proceedings last week, you likely saw Tim Vollmer’s video of the MPAA’s demonstration on how to create a film clip by pointing a camcorder at a TV set (embedded above). This demonstration was the MPAA’s response to an exemption request filed by educators, who are seeking to exercise their fair use rights by breaking the CSS encryption on DVDs in order to make short clips for classroom use. As you’ll recall, a group of media studies professors led by Peter DeCherney successfully filed for just such an exemption in 2006 (for more on that, see our video interview with DeCherney, embedded after the break). Three years later, the educators have returned, in an attempt to renew the exemption and to expand it to include students in media studies classes as well as educators outside of the media studies field. Despite having three years to regroup, the studios returned with the same tired, apocryphal argument: despite the fact that DVD-ripping is already widespread, if educators are allowed to legally rip, demand for DVDs will plummet and the industry will collapse. As an alternative, they suggest camcording, a cumbersome process that produces low-quality clips while requiring a significant investment in video recording equipment. Practical matters aside, the MPAA’s argument for camcording also happens to contradict a number of the organization’s other arguments against fair use–a fact that was not lost on many of the witnesses at last Wednesday’s hearing.

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DC DMCA Exemption Hearings at the Copyright Office: Follow along on Twitter

May 6, 2009 Copyright Office , DMCA

Every three years, the Copyright Office holds hearings to listen to commenters suggestions for exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition on circumvention of access controls. We’ve previously written about the handful of exemptions that the Office has granted (which expire and must be renewed every three years). This year, we’re on the ground and live-twittering what’s going on. Today, Mehan is manning the Public Knowledge twitter account picking out a number of choice quotes and responding to questions.

But we’re not alone at the hearing. A number of twitterers are there, and you can follow the related tweets using the #dmca1201 tag.

And now, thanks to Kristen for sharing her CoverItLive, we now have an embedded client so you can read the tweet-reports of what’s going on at the hearing live below:

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PK tells the Copyright Office: Technology will enable the blind to access more information

April 22, 2009 DMCA , DRM

What does access to information mean to you?: the ability to read your newspaper – physical or online – every day?; the ability to go to a book store and buy your favorite author’s book?; the ability to read professional publications to advance your career? Most of us rely on these sources and more to keep ourselves informed and participate in society. But for the blind and the visually impaired access to information is not easy. Works have to be converted to special formats to enable access. Because copyrights are implicated during the process, copyright law provides certain exceptions enabling the creation of accessible formats.

Are these laws sufficient to allow the blind to read anything they want to? Is the market responding to their needs? The Copyright Office is asking for public comments on these and other questions.

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Debating Three Strikes, not the Problem it’s Supposed to Fix

April 13, 2009 Broadband , DMCA

The New York Times yesterday ran an article detailing some of the debates around three-strikes laws, such as the one recently rejected by the French Parliament. What struck me about the article, though was the way in which it was framed. Here are the opening lines:

Is Internet access a fundamental human right? Or is it a privilege, carrying with it a responsibility for good behavior?

That is the question confronting policy makers as they try to bring Internet access to the masses while seeking to curb illegal copying of digital music, movies and video games.

The United States Congress held hearings last week on the growing problem of piracy, which the American entertainment industry says accounts for the loss of $20 billion a year in sales.

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Amazon Feared the Bad, Crushed the Good, and Made the Bad Worse

March 18, 2009 DMCA , DRM

Technology is never inherently bad, it may have bad uses. So we must encourage the good uses and steer from the bad. When hobbyists at mobileread.com wrote a guide for reading legally purchased third-party books on a Kindle, Amazon lawyers demanded the guide’s removal. Instead of encouraging the good uses, Amazon feared the bad and made it worse.

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