Shirky: stupid (c) laws block me from publishing own work online

Clay Shirky tells Boing Boing:

Welcome to the Copyfight. So, at Etech this year, I gave a talk entitled Ontology is Overrated. I want to put a transcript up online, and Mary Hodder, who recorded the talk, graciously agreed to give me a copy of the video.

When she came by NYC last week, she dropped off a DVD, which I then wanted to convert to AVI (the format used by my transcription service.) I installed ffmpeg and tried to convert the material, at which point I got an error message which read "To comply with copyright laws, DVD device input is not allowed." Except, of course, there are no copyright laws at issue here, since I'M THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER.

Got that? I am in possession of a video, of me, shot by a friend, copied to a piece of physical media given to me as a gift. In the video, I am speaking words written by me, and for which I am the clear holder of the copyright. I am working with said video on a machine I own. Every modern legal judgment concerning copyright, from the Berne Convention to the Betamax case, is on my side. AND I CAN'T MAKE A COPY DIRECTLY FROM THE DEVICE. This is because copyright laws do not exist to defend the moral rights of copyright holders — they exist to help enforce artificial scarcity.

Copyright holders in my position, who want to use Creative Commons licensing to share material, are treated as pathological cases, because we're not behaving in the extortionate manner that current regulations are designed to protect.

I've gotten the copy another way, and the transcript will go up, but this is the state of the world, circa 2005: I can be prevented from copying my own words from my own devices, precisely because I want to share them freely, a use the law is perfectly prepared to regard as irrelevant.

Boing Boing reader Thomas provides further evidence of unjust copyright cockblocking:

I have also found that when trying to take screenshots of DVDs (whoever holds the copyright) it is usually disabled by the OS. Similarly, if a miniDV device is asked to record a copyrighted DVD, it will not permit it, regardless of who tagged the disc and who is operating the miniDV device.

The bullshit continues.

d3 says:

I was reading this bb post about Shirky being unable to copy his DVD content using ffmpeg. The software does prevent the user from copying directly from a DVD, but it is possible to copy the .vob files to the hard drive and then ffmpeg will happily convert the files. Personally, I prefer using DVDxDV, which is pretty much a one-click operation from DVD to a DV file. No copying of .vob files neccessary. Strangely, I was just dealing with this issue yesterday. Maybe this can help. I agree that it is ridiculous, but at least there are some people writing tools to help us out.

Leland Johnson says:

The OS doesn't "permit" taking screenshots of DVDs because it's faster to do overlay rendering (direct communication with the video card). Some computers can't update their screens the normal way because it takes more CPU power. If you want to play videos/DVDs and take screenshots of them, the excellent and free Media Player Classic [link below] can be easily forced to never use overlay by selecting the output filter VMR9, which makes screenshots possible.


BB reader daniel says:

If you're an os x user, snapz pro x will happily capture screens from a dvd (or anything else you like, in fact). Link

And M. Noel adds:

OS X users who don't want to pay for Snapz can take screencaps of DVDs by using the screencaputre shell ( command. It comes with the OS, so there's nothing to buy. I always type the command into a terminal, move the window as far offscreen as possible, and then press Enter to execute — so you don't have to see much (if any) of the Terminal window.