[linux-elitists] Rachel Chalmers interviews Jim Gleason

Don Marti dmarti@zgp.org
Thu May 4 12:53:42 PDT 2000


----- Forwarded message from Jim Gleason <jgleason@electriclichen.com> -----

Date: Thu, 4 May 2000 15:08:43 -0400 (EDT)
From: Jim Gleason <jgleason@electriclichen.com>
To: nylug-talk@nylug.org
Subject: [nylug-talk] press coverage of the DMCA protest 


LINUX USERS TAKE TO THE STREETS OVER DMCA

Rachel Chalmers 
GMT May 03, 2000, 10:50 AM | ET May 03, 2000, 05:50 AM | PT
May 03, 2000, 02:50 AM
Sectors:Convergence:News & Analysis

Washington DC - Jim Gleason, president of the New York Linux Users Group,
spent Tuesday protesting with 20 others on the steps of the Library of
Congress. Inside the building, the US Copyright Office was holding a public
hearing on a new provision in the controvers ial Digital Millennium
Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits any attempt to circumvent copy control
mechanisms. Content owners want to ensure that no content is exempted from
this prohibition. Critics of the DMCA say this provision will kill the
public's right to fair use, and end the fruitful practice of reverse
engineering.

Gleason has a particular stake in the issue. He is gravely concerned for
Norwegian teenager Jon Johansen, who was arrested for distributing DeCSS.
This is a tool that unscra mbles the Content Scrambling System, which was
designed to prevent piracy of DVDs. Its defenders say DeCSS was written to
enable Linux users to play legitimately acquired DVDs on Linux systems, in
the absence of commercial software. DeCSS opponents retort that commercial
software now exists. Gleason also blames himself for a January preliminary
injunction handed to three US websites that had linked to DeCSS which found
that DeCSS was a circumvention under the DMCA and therefore illegal. He
believes that t he Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) made it
unreasonably hard for the defendants to say their piece in that hearing,
partly by selecting New York as an appropriately conservative and distant
venue.

"These defendants did not have the o pportunity and the time to adequately
represent themselves," Gleason claims. "They were representing themselves
via videoconference against these well-prepared, sharp MPAA lawyers. The
judge felt insulted. He said: 'What do you take me for?'" Gleason beli eves
that if members of NYLUG had protested outside the courtroom, a view
contrary to that of the MPAA might have had a chance to be heard. He fears
that the injunction marks the beginnings of legal precedent in
interpretation of the DMCA. Hence the demon stration. "We wanted to at least
show pictures of Jon Johansen's face," he explained, "so the people who are
reading through the reply comments would be moved to ask themselves, 'Is
this law adequate? Should we rewrite it? It's very loosely written, and s o
far, all the legal interpretations have been made in the interests of the
MPAA."

"There has to be a dialog," he insists. "The motion picture industry can
spend a lot of money on lawyers and do these interesting legal tactics and
arrest kids in foreign countries. Obviously, the free software industry
cannot do this. Yet the toothpaste is out of the tube. The ability to
quickly disseminate entertainment content over the Internet is a fact. I
accept that copyright owners' rights need to be carried over, but at the
same time, there's always been fair use models with all forms of copyright
and reverse engineering. So far no judge has seen fit to interpret the DMCA
in a way that enables us to play DVD movies on our Linux machines. But we've
got to ha ve the ability to write new and innovative software. You can't
expect anyone to put this toothpaste back in the tube."

Inside the Library of Congress, the US Copyright Office was reviewing 129
reply comments on the DMCA and the circumvention prov ision. Those comments
broke down along fairly predictable lines. Sony, Time Warner, the MPAA,
RIAA, the Business Software Alliance, the Software and Information Industry
Association and the DVD Copy Control Association all want to strengthen the
DMCA by s eeing to it that no content is exempted from the circumvention
provision. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Open Source Initiative (OSI),
Library of Congress, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
(CPSR), NPR, PBS, the National Archives and R ecords Administration and
Copyright Commons all call for a more balanced approach, which weighs the
public interest in fair use and free speech against the exclusive title of
copyright holders.

"It is, of course, common ground that digitization offers great economic and
social benefits," conceded Time Warner lawyer Bernard Sorkin, "but those
benefits can be wiped out by the looming dangers of easy, cheap and perfect
quality reproducti on, easy, cheap and perfect quality distribution and the
ability to make changes in the digitized work be it text, audio or video."

"We do not challenge the doctrine that copyright should apply to online
works, just as it has applied to works in traditional media," responded
Andrew Orem on behalf of CPSR. "Nor do we deny that widespread copying takes
place, online as elsewhere. But we object to the misuse of copyright law to
remove traditional consumer and research rights. If not reined in by the
Copyright Office and other branches of government, the cases discussed in
this comment could lead to a safe haven for exploitative hoarders of
information and culture."

"The DVDCCA lawsuit over DeCSS has demonstrated that provider cartels are qu
ite willing to use the DMCA as a club with which to beat the open-source
community," added a typically outspoken Eric Raymond, writing for the OSI.
"If they succeed, they will dramatically reduce consumer choice and stifle
the production of the valuable p ublic good that is open-source software."

A second round of public hearings will be held on May 18-19 at Stanford
University in California. It's safe to expect further protests from the
politically active Linux user groups in that region. Post-he aring comments
can be submitted until June 23, 2000. After consulting with the Department
of Commerce, the Register of Copyrights will make a recommendation to the
Librarian of Congress, who will make the final decision. Interestingly
enough, the Library of Congress photographer was thrilled by Gleason's
demonstration. No one has ever demonstrated on the steps of the Library
before. As the Digital Millennium roars on, it seems likely to be ground
zero for many such bitter battles over intellectual propert y.

----- End forwarded message -----

-- 
Don Marti                  Information wants to be $6.95. 
dmarti@zgp.org            
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