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The Digital Rights Management Workshop

Doc Searls has a useful entry entry (via Dan Gillmor) summarizing various accounts of the Department of Commerce's second Digital Rights Management Workshop. My favorite is from Ruben Safir, who attended on behalf of New Yorkers for Fair Use and New York Linux Scene:

We decided, after much discussion and after considering many opinions on the mailing lists, to attempt to drive into the public lexicon the phrases, "DRM is Theft" and "We are the Stakeholders". We carefully chose these expressions to counter the rhetoric coming out of the copyright monopoly content industry, especially the claim by Senator Hollings that he had assembled all the "stakeholders" to write his CBDTPA bill and Jack Valenti's rhetoric that the simple act of listening to a DVD on a GNU/Linux operating system is stealing property from the motion picture industry.
The highlight came when Jack "Boom Boom" Valenti of the MPAA took the floor:
He put on a classic Jack Valenti performance, saying that it was his position that government intervention in this matter wasn't a bad thing. He said his experience in the Johnson Administration passing the 1965 Civil Rights Act showed him how important and good proper government intervention can be. He then continued by saying that it was his hope that the leaders of the IT industry and the computer field would come to a consensus in the next month on a DRM standard that would protect the property of the movie industry from theft...

Jack, in order to convey how serious the MPAA is about getting DRM enacted quickly, said that while the MPAA responded to a letter from Microsoft about progress toward DRM in 24 hours, that when the MPAA sent such a letter to Microsoft, Microsoft took a long time to respond. Microsoft at this point all but threatened to buy out all of the movie producers if they continued to be such a pain in the neck. Although this was not their exact words, their threat was neither veiled or lost on Mr Valenti.

Meanwhile, Jack tried to persuade the panel that the movie industry had never really been against the VCR. This caused some agitation among the panelists, and the crowd laughed. The panel pointed out that despite the movie industry's professed love for the VCR, they brought an injunction against panel members whose companies made VCRs -- an injunction that was eventually defeated in the Supreme Court.

Jack Valenti is intelligent, articulate, charming, and a dissembler of the highest order. If we must continue to put up with him in the public sphere, could we at least pass a law banning him from continuing to make references to the Johnson Administration and the Civil Rights Act?

As for DRM, I'm dissatisfied with the arguments on both sides. As a free market adherent, I believe that I should be able to sell my property to others on whatever terms we find mutually agreeable. If I want to sell someone a print of a photograph I took, but as a condition of sale require them to agree to display it in their living room, or in their restaurant, or alternating between the two except in months that end in R, that's no one else's business but ours. At the same time, and also as a free market adherent, I find it obscene that numerous politicians are attempting to create laws that would mandate technologies in my consumer devices, such technologies solely designed to restrict how I use the device, therefore -- in theory -- benefiting a third-party.

Is the motion picture industry in danger of being Napsterized? Yes. Would that be bad for the industry and for the US? Probably. Does that justify government intrusion on the scale currently contemplated? No.

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