I Can’t Let You
Do That, Dave
Computers should not treat their owners as adversaries.
player had in 1996: playing the movie.
If you want to watch your movie on your
phone legally, you cannot do so, because despite the legality of transcod-ing and moving files for personal use,
the legal inviolability of the digital lock
you must break to do that computation
means you must buy all your movies all
over again to watch them on the go.
Watching a movie you paid for on
a device you own is not piracy by any
definition, and it is bad enough that
the DMCA prevents this lawful feature.
It has been 19 years since the DVD was
introduced and not one single feature
has been introduced to the platform in
all that time.
IT HAS BEEN 25 years since the Electronic Frontier Foundation was founded to ensure the civil iberties that mattered in the real world followed us into the
online world, and it has been a heady
quarter-century, with many significant
victories, and we have learned some
alarming, important lessons on the way.
First among these lessons: there is
no distinction between the “virtual”
and “real” worlds. The Internet is the
nervous system of the 21st century. This
was obvious even before the Internet
of Things (IoT) turned our cars and
homes into computers that engulf our
bodies, but the Io T has made the issue
The problems of regulation and the
IoT is an old one, but with a new urgency. Since 1998, EFF has been part
of the movement to reform the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The DMCA has many flaws, the worst
of which is in Section 1201, the “
anti-circumvention” rule, whose ills have
been magnified by recent technological developments, turning them into
something of an existential threat to a
free and fair future.
DMCA 1201 prohibits breaking
“digital locks” that restrict access to
copyrighted works. Though it was
originally conceived as a means of pre-
venting piracy, it has proved most use-
ful at preventing competition and the
creation of legitimate, otherwise legal
technologies. Copyright law has many
flexibilities and exclusions that prod-
uct designers, developers, and users
can freely exercise, without any permis-
sion from the copyright holder. But un-
der 1201, you can only make these uses
if you do not have to break a lock.
For example, it is legal for you to rip
your CDs. Put a CD in your computer’s
optical drive and the manufacturer-supplied OS will launch a tool that invites you to rip and library the music
on the disc, automating the process of
taking your music with you on a mobile
device. Ripping DVDs is legal under the
same theory, with one important difference: DVDs were born with DMCA-covered digital locks. Insert a DVD
into your computer and the only feature you get is the same one your DVD