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DMCA: We're not all criminals reader Jon "maddog" Hall, executive director of Linux International, says recent extensions of copyright and patent protections work against the principle behind fair use.


DMCA: We're not all criminals

In response to the Jan. 29 column by Rep. Rick Boucher, "Time to rewrite the DMCA":

I have to agree with Boucher's analysis that the copyright and patent laws were created to improve the transfer of information, not to stifle it, and that recent laws and extensions of copyright and patent protections work against this principle.

An example of this is the video industry's insistence of creating DVDs that can only be played in a particular area of the world. Citing issues of illegal pirating of the movies, they make it so that movies sold in the U.S. can only be played on players manufactured in the U.S. Recently I was in Britain and saw a DVD in a store that contained a movie unlikely to be promoted to the U.S market. While I was perfectly willing to pay for the British DVD, I found out that I could not play it on my U.S.-based DVD player.

A second issue would erupt if I tried to move my rather extensive DVD library to Australia. Since U.S.-based DVDs would not play in Australian DVD players, I would have to export my U.S.-based DVD player to Australia. Of course I would then have to have a voltage converter (from 220 volt, 50Hz to 110 volt, 60Hz) to allow my DVD player to work. I would also need a TV that would accept NTSC input from my DVD player (not the PAL that Australian TVs use), and the same type of voltage converter for that too. All because my collection of DVDs are artificially limited to play only on a DVD player made in the United States.

Or I could sell my entire collection of DVDs at bargain prices and purchase them again in Australia at a huge loss.

How sad that the movie industry has developed such a scheme, as I often enjoy picking up music CDs in countries that I visit, just to hear native singers sing native songs that would have little or no market in the U.S. And I take music CDs with me, knowing that if I have access to a CD player in any country I can play my music.

The United States already has laws to protect against copyright and patent invasion. It has laws to protect against import of pirated CDs and other intellectual property. Countries like China are beginning to generate their own laws to cut down on rampant pirating as they try to enter the WTO. This is a bad time to instigate new laws that remove the legitimate right of someone like myself to fair use of the music and intellectual property that I purchase.

I think we need to fix the DMCA, then enforce the laws we have already, rather than generate more restrictive laws that remove the freedoms that generated the economy we enjoy today. Increase the penalties on copyright infringement, but don't make people criminals for the inoffensive use of fair-use copying.

Jon "maddog" Hall
Executive director,
Linux International
Amherst, N.H.



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