In the latest Electronic Frontier Foundation post for Copyright Week, Corynne McSherry tackles one of the most troubling aspects of modern copyright law: the idea that even though you've bought a device or a copyrighted work to play on it, they're not really your property. Because of the anti-circumvention rules (which are supposed to backstop "copy protection"), it's illegal to discover how your technology works, to tell other people how their technology works, to add otherwise lawful features to your technology, and to make otherwise lawful uses of your media.
You bought it, you own it, right? Not always. Over the past decade, we have been quietly shifting to a world in which both digital goods (like mp3s, video files, and ebooks) and physical goods that contain software (like cars, microwaves, and phones) are never truly owned, but only rented.
Not to worry, say big copyright holders; people don’t want to be owners, because all they really care about is “access,” and more and more content is being made “accessible” in more and more ways. Sure, you might have to pay a premium for the “privilege” of, say, watching the movie you “bought” on more than one device, but no one’s forcing you to do it. Besides, they tell policymakers, just give us more tools to punish unauthorized uses and we promise to build more “authorized” channels – as long as users are willing to pay for them.
There are a lot of reasons they are wrong. Here's just a few:
First, most people have no idea that all they bought was a license. After all, the button they clicked on the Amazon site said "Buy," not "Rent." Little do they know that Amazon has the right to (for example) remotely delete books from their library, without notice, at Amazon’s whim. Or that the holiday special they were planning to see might suddently become "unavailable."
The Copyright Week campaign comes with six principles for you to sign up to.
You Bought It, You Own It! Time to Reclaim the Right to Use/Tinker/Repair/Make/Sell/Lend Your Stuff
Tim Wu, the Colombia University law professor and anti-trust/competition expert who coined the term “Net Neutrality,” has published an open letter to Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Rogue archivist Rick Prelinger writes, “Oakland students planned to paint a mural on a dark freeway underpass in their city. The project is stalled because Caltrans asserts copyright to murals on its property. The details are a bit sketchy, but there’s a petition here.
Steven Boyett writes, “Humble Bundle has released a unicorn-themed Bundle, with proceeds to benefit the World Wide Fund for Nature and Fauna & Flora International. For as little as $1.00, you can get Ariel, by Steven R. Boyett (full disclosure: that’s me); Unicorn Mountain, by Michael Bishop; Homeward Bound, by Bruce Coville; and Unicorn Triangle, […]
Bamboo has lots of uses beyond just being panda food. Things like bikes, roads, scaffolding, and musical instruments are made from the fast-growing grass. But unless you are participating in a tropical-themed LARP, you probably wouldn’t want a shirt made from bamboo stalks. So why do bamboo bed sheets make any sense? Because yarn extracted from […]
If you want to work in tech, but don’t have any desire to code web apps to help businesses sell things to other business, you might want to consider a career in cybersecurity. Judging from the apparent complete infiltration of Russian hackers in American cyberspace, it seems fair to speculate that there’s a major shortage of […]
All moms are different. But all moms like getting flowers on Mother’s Day, and that’s a fact (not, however a fact we can document in any fashion.) Instead of getting chewed out for forgetting to call her on the second Sunday of May, you can take care of it ahead of time with Teleflora’s flower […]