The RIAA - Hollywood - DRM - Linux Suicide Pact

Posted by tadelste on Dec 29, 2005 11:26 AM EDT
LXer.com; By Carla Schroder
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The entertainment industry has put itself on the fast-track to destruction, using well-proven tactics as explained in Preventing DVD Playback on Linux Like Prohibition in the 1920's. Are their heavy-handed tactics to lock up and control everything we touch signs of plain old human stubborness? Stupidity? Insanity? A bit of each? How else do you explain their inexplicable actions?

After reading Tom Adelstein's Preventing DVD Playback on Linux Like Prohibition in the 1920's, I had to lie down and think about it for some time. (Snoring is too a sign of thinking.) Now Tom has a scholarly style of writing. I'm more of a Bart Simpson, and the conclusion I came to after lengthy pondering and cogitation is "WTF is wrong with those people?"

Actually, I had already come to the conclusion that the fine folks behind the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Digital Rights Management, and the Business Software Alliance are either nuts, corrupt, or both. These are all things that Real People (like you and me) don't need and don't want. The DMCA is on shaky ground Constitutionally, but until we get a Constitutional amendment that requires new laws to pass Constitutional muster before they can be enforced, we will spend our lives enduring barrages of similar madnesses.

Tom nailed it with this statement:

"Dell, HP, Gateway, Sony, IBM and the rest of Microsoft's partners will find themselves painted with the same brush. You cannot enforce the DMCA any more than you can force people to buy American cars. Take a hint from General Motors: The word eventually gets out that you have inferior products and the price isn't right. Microsoft's OEM partners will become the buggy whip manufacturers of the 21st Century."

Now, sitting here in my modest little house, thinking my dumb ole laypeople thoughts, I find myself wondering what sort of mindset would prefer to perpetuate an inferior product line and ignore what customers are willing to pay for, and instead devote considerable energies and money to fighting with their customers, and treating them like criminals, and purchasing punitive unenforceable laws, and sue tens of thousands of people, and plant destructive software into peer-to-peer networks and on customer's computers, for which they should go to jail, but nooo, that won't happen, instead of devoting those resources to improving their products, and delivering what customers want to pay for?

It's certainly not an intelligent one. As Tom noted:

"In the one area where the US had an absolute advantage, we have lost it. We held an absolute advantage in technology until we started exporting jobs to countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Mexico and China. Once the cat was out of the bag, our friends became our economic foes."

Brilliant, eh? Shoot yourself in the foot after taking careful aim, then whine about it. And here we go again.

"Intellectual Property"



Like Richard Stallman, I detest the sloppy, inaccurate, propagandistic term "intellectual property." It deliberately implies that ideas and concepts can be owned. Well, they can't. What we are talking about are copyrights, trademarks, and patents, or very specific implementations of ideas and concepts. In this discussion, we're talking about copyrights and fair use. As an author, I have a fair bit of self-interest in copyrights. I don't care to see my works copied and sold by someone else. By dang, if there is money to be made from my labors, I want it.

But suppose someone copies an article from a website and passes out copies at a LUG meeting. Should I get all cheesed off about it? Heck no, that's normal behavior and fair use, just like passing out copies of a newspaper or magazine article.

What if someone buys a copy of my book and shares it with friends? Again, duh, go for it. Have a good time.

What if they buy their copy at a secondhand store? I make no money off that. Oh well, that's life, and that's the fate of all products.

What if my book were distributed in electronic form, and therefore easily copy-able and distribute-able? Now it gets scary. What can I do to protect my precious income-producing words? I can generate an income stream from that, if I listen to my customers and package and deliver it in a format that they want. In fact, my book is available in a digital format at Safari Books Online. You can't easily copy the whole thing, but you can read it, and search it, and print pages, and read other books as well, for less cost than the price of the printed book. I don't make much money from Safari Books. But it makes books available to users on a tight budget, and to users who want to try before they buy a hard copy. I make a little bit of money from readers who use Safari the same way they use the public library- maybe they only need to look up one thing, which means purchasing an entire book doesn't make sense. A little bit of money is better than no money.

I admit I am nervous about the concept of delivering a book entirely in digital format. I need to earn at least $40,000 from a book to make it worthwhile for me financially. Will digital delivery cut into my income? Or will it expand my readership by making the book available at a lower cost? I believe the latter. Sure, there are always freeloaders who are ingenious at getting things for free. But most folks are honest, and all they want is fair value. If I write sucky books that no one wants, like the way that the music industry releases crappy CDs, and Hollywood makes dopey movies that no one wants, I won't sell more books by criminalizing customers and instituting lame copy-protection schemes.

Fair Use and Human Behavior

"Like the availability of alcohol during Prohibition, people can find supplies without much trouble. Right now, you can obtain the decryption code on DVDs either by purchasing a license for that component by itself or you can download it from Internet sites in foreign countries. Canadian Whiskey wasn't as easy to get as DVD playback code.

And while you can use the courts to get to a few people, most will never see enforcement."

So here we have an entire industry exerting considerable effort to exclude a whole class of customers, because we use a computing platform that they cannot control. Sure, Microsoft will be happy to screw over its end users by including all manner of DRM nastiness. But in the end it won't matter anyway- customers who choose to view their legally-purchased DVDs on Linux will easily, if illegally, find a way. What sort of madness is this?

Despite the attempts of the software and entertainment industries to convince us that we only license their products, not own them, most folks view items that they purchase as owned, and theirs to do with as they jolly well feel like. That's the reality, and fighting that is futile. Their attempts to "protect" their "property" are laughable in any case. Professional pirates, the ones who copy and print off thousands of discs, aren't even slowed down by their silly lawsuits and copy-protection schemes. The only ones who get hurt are their own customers- the very ones who pay actual money for their products.

The way to attract customers is to offer attractive products at a fair price, and be nice to them. Not strongarm them. You know that, I know that. Why don't these bigshot corporations know that? Something else you and I know- no business has a God-given right to succeed. Businesses fail all the time- that's life.

And some of them accelerate their failures by being buttheads. Give 'em rope and let 'em go.

**UPDATE:**

I should have mentioned that the MPAA and RIAA believe that playing copy-protected media on Linux is breaking the law, because it circumvents copy-protection, which they claim violates the DMCA. Here is an old, but informative, article on this issue.

Meanwhile, the MPAA claims that they love Linux and Linux users, and simply want someone to distribute a licensed, official media player for Linux. See "Windows- and Macintosh-based computers can play DVDs, so is it fair to deprive the Linux community?" at DVD_FAQ.


Carla Schroder has had a variety of jobs and businesses: auto mechanic, landscaping and housecleaning, massage therapist, freelance Linux/Windows computer geek, and technical writer. See Enterprise Networking Planet and Enterprise Unix Roundup Tips of the Trade for fab weekly Linux howtos, and be sure to purchase copies of her Linux Cookbook for everyone on your Christmas list.

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