Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Not-so-Bad Copyright Law

The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act which just passed Congress and was signed by President Bush yesterday has two major provisions. The most widely reported section gives cover to companies (such as ClearPlay) which create software that allows users to automatically skip portions of DVD movies. This provision of the bill is, in some sense, the first in a long time to give media consumers more rights to control media they already own. In other words, this was a good thing.

To buy the support of the entertainment industry, the law has provisions making it an explicit federal offense to make a recording in a theater of a movie, and to try to crack down on people who share movies, songs, or software before their official release dates.

Of course, this law isn't going to stop dedicated pirates who will simply move their warez to some country where it's not illegal to share them or where cyberlaw enforcement is minimal. I also think the way portions of it are worded might (accidentally) give cover to institutions whose members use their networks to pirate stuff with a value of less than $1,000 without the institution's knowledge.

Another positive provision in the law is a title that makes it easier for libraries to make copies of "orphan movies" (non-commercially exploitable films) during the last 20 years of their copyright. We need a similar law for abandoned software for history's sake.

Considering that this law could have been the infamous Induce Act, I think things didn't turn out so badly.

(For those wondering, the donkey picture does not represent a Democrat, but is the logo of eMule, a popular file-sharing program. Merci à Cont@ct.)

Related: Slashdot, DU, Hollywood Reporter, N. Todd Pritsky

UPDATE: French judge bans DVD copy protection (hat tip: PaidContent)