Rootkit and Fair Use

December 13, 2005 Blog Posts , Broadcast Flag , DRM , Fair Use , Policy Blog

Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times has written a great column (free registration required) that started off with the ongoing ridiculousness of rootkit, and develops his point to the climax:

Plainly, the media companies are engaged in an all-out attack on the principle of "fair use."

Here here!

We see it all over the place: copy protected CDs that you can't put on your iPod; copy protected downloaded music that you can't put on a competing player; excerpts can't be made of access controlled DVDs.

The one that PK has fought the hardest–government mandated DRM that would touch every device in your home even capable of playing digital video–the Broadcast Flag. At a recent hearing, when asked why Congress couldn't exempt broadcast news (for which most copying would clearly fall under fair use) and works in the public domain, the content companies had no response.

If they actually spoke their mind, their answer would be that these grand debates have zero to do with piracy. Instead, it's actually about control–not just over everything they conceive, but what consumers can do with it after legally obtaining it, and what technological innovators can do with it to make it more useful.

Thankfully, that's not how copyright works, and we work every day to ensure it.

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Concerning HD-radio protection

October 6, 2005 Blog Posts , DRM , Policy Blog

What’s HD-radio protection? Well, that’s the other part of the rumors that we’re hearing. A while ago, the RIAA asked the FCC to have a proceeding on protecting the new high definition digital radio format, soon to be rolled out. This new format not only sends higher-quality sound, but also sends metadata, or song info, for what’s currently playing on the radio. The RIAA is claiming that consumers will buy these HD-radio receivers, connect them to their computers, using the metadata set them up to record complete albums of artists, and then send these “high quality recordings” onto the Internet. This boils down to: “If you don’t cripple this new technology, people will use it to infringe.”

I will ignore the argument made that instead of allowing consumers to record off the radio, they want to have a “buy button” on every radio.

Of course, there are lots of holes that can be poked into the RIAA’s theory:

  • When was the last time you heard a radio station actually play multiple tracks of an artist’s album? It just doesn’t happen.

  • There is currently more variety of music traded over the Internet than the legitimate online music services can even legally license. If someone was already planning to infringe by recording off the radio and sharing the songs on the Internet, why would anyone bother to pay the money to setup this elaborate recording system, when they could likely find and download it over the Internet?

The FCC essentially told the RIAA, “no.” So they’ve gone to Congress to tell the FCC to do it.

What is “it?” Good question. One of the latest RIAA draft language requires broadcasters to ” encrypt the transmission of copyrighted material” and make sure that devices are compliant. Think of any potential problems with that? Under the DMCA, is encryption an access or copy control? What if I want to record a talk radio program and save it to my iPod? What if there’s a news story that I want to send to friend? Fair uses with digital radio are probably out the window—not because the technology disallows it, but because the law does.

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