Why copy-protection in music sucks. We've seen articles like this before, but never from the WSJ! It looks like even the mainstream, conservative biz press has found a clue.
Did you know that under U.S. copyright law, it's generally considered permissible to make copies of music you've purchased? "It's completely legal," explains Jessica Litman, a law professor at Wayne State University and the author of "Digital Copyright." As long as you're making a copy for private, noncommercial use, you're pretty much in the clear. File-sharing services have gotten into trouble by enabling copying on such a massive scale that it's not really noncommercial even if no money changes hands.
NOW, AFTER TWO years of complaining about services like Napster and KaZaA without offering alternatives, record companies are finally fielding their own online music networks. But guess what? Those networks don't just prevent illegal copies. They block other copies, too.
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Jessica Litman, author of Digital Copyright is being interviewed in another one of those excellent, week-long participatory interviews on the WELL.
I have bad news for you. I'm afraid that section 1201(a)(1)(A) *does* make it illegal for an individual consumer, acting alone, to figure out how to get a piece of password-protected content. ("No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under [the copyright law]") The law does allow consumers to get around copy-protection (although it makes the tools for doing so illegal). It prohibits individuals from circumventing "access protection," no matter what the reason, unless the behavior comes within specific, narrow exeptions.
The American public stood for this because it didn't make it onto the news media radar screen until the law started being enforced. We in the copyright law community were not very articulate in our efforts to explain why the law would be a disaster. Both as lobbyists and as media spokesfolk, law professors, librarians, computer scientists and public interest groups are amateurs. Interested journalists who did understand had difficulty persuading their editors that there was a story here that readers would care about. The supporters of the law insisted loudly and effectively that the only people that the law would hurt were the copyright pirates.
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