Saturday, January 28, 2006

DRM: Hooray, a Senate Comittee gets it!

Our civilization seems headed for a very bad technological time. Simply put, congressmen who are 30 and 40 years removed from technical innovations, and judges just as (too) old, will make bad law about exciting new advances in technology that they fail to understand, stifling innovation. But maybe there's hope. An EFF article about a Senate Commerce Committee hearing tells us what happened during a hearing on two bad proposed laws that seek to protect current audio and video providers against innovation and copying: the rather defective Broadcast Flag and Audio Flag laws. Senator Sununu (NH) and 82-year-old Ted Stevens (Alaska) "got it." The artical I've linked to says:
This is a momentous occasion: two powerful senators have woken up to the impact that these proposals will have on their voters. As more and more lawmakers get wise to how these things will harm their constituents' interests, it will get harder and harder for entertainment mouthpieces to go crying to government to enshrine their cushy business-models in law.
[Sununu] pointed out that "we have a whole history of similar technological innovation that has shown us that the market can respond with its own protection to the needs of the artists." And he concluded with one of the most damning depictions of the ahistorical nature of the flag (clip from Congressional RealVideo) you'll hear on the Hill:

"The suggestion is that if we don't do this, it will stifle creativity. Well...we have now an unprecedented wave of creativity and product and content development...new business models, and new methodologies for distributing this content. The history of government mandates is that it always restricts innovation...why would we think that this one special time, we're going to impose a statutory government mandate on technology, and it will actually encourage innovation?"
Senator Stevens's daughter has bought him an iPod, and Stevens pointed out that these proposed laws would prevent him from using the iPod in natural ways to capture and timeshift radio programs.

The EFF article (worth a full read) ends: "As the hearing showed, the holes in these flags are large, and its complex consequences are dawning on both houses. And God help the broadcast flag-makers if someone buys Senator Stevens a video iPod."

And here's what the EFF reporter means: If Senator Stevens wanted to buy a DVD and play it on his iPod, he might soon discover that the Digital Copyright millenium Act, which our congress passed just a few years ago, makes it illegal in the USA to try to figure out how to do that.
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