EFF has published a great critique of the "safety valve" in America's digital copyright law, which is supposed to protect "consumer rights" by allowing for hearings every three years at the Copyright Office to reform the statute.
The US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA, 1998) makes it a crime to break a digital lock that controls access to copyrighted works, even if you do so to enable a lawful activity. For example, you might want to break the DRM on a DVD that you bought in Europe so that you can watch it on your the DVD drive in your American laptop. No copyright law protects DVDs from being watched outside the place where they were purchased, but the cartel the controls DVD-player licensing requires manufacturers to prevent you from doing this. The DMCA makes it illegal to break the protection and do something that is perfectly lawful.
Every three years, the Copyright Office holds hearings to determine whether they should allow some exceptions to this law. But the process is so tortured and the criteria are so absurd that this process practically never grants an exemption:
* No Tools. You can get an exemption for acts of circumvention, but the Copyright Office lacks the power to legalize circumvention tools. So, unless you are an engineer, a computer scientists, or can afford to hire them, you're not likely to be able to take advantage of any exemptions granted.
* Impenetrable Complexity, Impossible Burdens. In order to effectively participate in the rulemaking, you need to wade through >200 pages of bureaucratic legalese and have graduate level understanding of copyright law. You have to persuade the Copyright Office that your activity is noninfringing and gather evidence that demonstrates a "substantially adverse effect" on noninfringing uses beyond “mere inconveniences or individual cases."
* "Mere Inconvenience" = Ignoring Consumers. Where consumers are concerned, the Copyright Office discounts their concerns as "mere inconveniences." So region coding is no problem, according to the Copyright Office, because you could just buy a separate DVD player from every region. Copy-protected CDs are no problem because you can play them on CD players, even if they won't work in your computer. Where the copyright industries are concerned, in contrast, the Copyright Office presumes that DRM is the only thing that stands between them and financial ruin.
This gadget does exactly as promised: it looks like a thumbdrive (sort of) and fries the circuitry of any computer it’s plugged into. It’s made from camera flash parts, is charged with a standard AA battery, and delivers a 300V zap of DC destruction to the port for all your USB-murdering needs. Note that this […]
The Cobham catalog, exposed by The Intercept, features countless pages of surveillance gadgets sold to U.S. police to spy on American citizens: tiny black boxes with a big interest in you. In the creepily bland feature lists and nerdy product names is a whisper of a dark future; perhaps darker than anyone can imagine.
This image depicts the most commonly-found stylesheet colors on the web’s top sites—Paul Hebert did an amazing amount of analysis and this is just one of the intriguing visualizations he came up with. Most of these are obvious staples, especially HTML red and blue, though it’s interesting how far the blue “cluster” is from the […]
Loot Crate is a totally different kind of subscription service that mails subscribers monthly boxes filled with curated geek, pop culture, and gamer paraphernalia. Its cult following awaits a box every month filled with everything from bobble heads to T-shirts to special edition collectibles. But nothing gets Loot Crate fans as excited as the limited […]
The ARMOR-X Mini Flexible Phone Tripod is a smartphone tripod that is designed with flexible legs to rest on virtually any type of surface. Other tripods have proved useless unless I conveniently have a flat surface in front of me, which is why this particular tripod was appealing enough to try out. The ARMOR-X is compact and easy […]
You don’t need to get an advanced degree and take out massive loans to become a coder. This bundle of 10 courses was designed to teach anyone to code at home for less than it costs to go out for dinner. I was particularly impressed with this new 2017 bundle because it includes courses on […]