Civil Disobedience in France

by on October 9, 2006 · 22 comments

The New York Times reports on a protest against France’s new anti-circumvention law:

In mounting their protest, members of the group in Paris saw themselves as foot soldiers of the digital generation battling against ever-tighter controls over songs, film and all digitized culture.

Greeted at the police station by almost as many armed riot police officers as there were protesters, they explained their infractions to passers-by.

“Not only did I not use an iPod to listen to an iTunes song, but I transferred the film ‘Blade Runner’ onto my hand-held movie player,” Mr. Martinez, 28, said. “I am willing to face the consequences of what they consider an offense.”

By his own calculation, Mr. Martinez could face a fine of as much as 41,250 euros, or about $52,000, and six months in prison.

Mr. Martinez patiently laid out the case he built against himself, offering details about his infractions, which included switching music from one format to another and transferring the DVD’s to different players.

“They say the law is intended to stop piracy, but I am not a pirate,” Mr. Martinez said. “I support artists with legally purchased works, but I do not want to be forced to use a particular device to play them.”

This is a clever publicity stunt, but the problem is that Big Content is too media savvy to prosecute individual consumers. They focus their legal guns on the makers of third party media devices. As a result, the average consumer just knows his media devices don’t interoperate. He has no idea that laws like the DMCA and EUCD are responsible for the lack of compatibility.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    Note that I believe, Tim, that this is a criminal offense, not a civil one, so the choice of whether to prosecute or not is not up to Big Content in this particular case.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Sure, but Big Content is likely to have some influence over whether it’s prosecuted, don’t you think? If they ask the French authorities not to pursue the matter, I imagine that would carry a lot of weight.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    ***Martinez said. “I support artists with legally purchased works, but I do not want to be forced to use a particular device to play them.”***

    The kid sounds like a nutcase. Nobody is forcing him to do anything. He voluntarily bought songs whose use privileges he knew would be limited, and now he’s complaining. If he’s that big on use freedoms, he should just switch music services.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    Note that I believe, Tim, that this is a criminal offense, not a civil one, so the choice of whether to prosecute or not is not up to Big Content in this particular case.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Sure, but Big Content is likely to have some influence over whether it’s prosecuted, don’t you think? If they ask the French authorities not to pursue the matter, I imagine that would carry a lot of weight.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    ***Martinez said. “I support artists with legally purchased works, but I do not want to be forced to use a particular device to play them.”***

    The kid sounds like a nutcase. Nobody is forcing him to do anything. He voluntarily bought songs whose use privileges he knew would be limited, and now he’s complaining. If he’s that big on use freedoms, he should just switch music services.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Folks can buy DRM free songs, and use other players not supplied by Apple and its partners. The language of substitutions is so central to regulatory policy I’m surprised its lessons are not found on TLF.

    The anti-DRM campaign really reminds me of “rights inflation,” those who feel they ahve a right to tinker with another’s work, who feel like they’re losing their culture or freedom because innovators don’t do what they want- and all of this fits under some self-important delusion of a revolution or movement. And through all of this, I hear little if no appreciation for companies that bring the products/services in question to market.

    I’d consider more seriously discourse on unilateral changes to EULAs, or reverse engineering policy rather these conversations that tacitly begin with “what about me.”

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Folks can buy DRM free songs, and use other players not supplied by Apple and its partners. The language of substitutions is so central to regulatory policy I’m surprised its lessons are not found on TLF.

    The anti-DRM campaign really reminds me of “rights inflation,” those who feel they ahve a right to tinker with another’s work, who feel like they’re losing their culture or freedom because innovators don’t do what they want- and all of this fits under some self-important delusion of a revolution or movement. And through all of this, I hear little if no appreciation for companies that bring the products/services in question to market.

    I’d consider more seriously discourse on unilateral changes to EULAs, or reverse engineering policy rather these conversations that tacitly begin with “what about me.”

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    This is a clever publicity stunt, but the problem is that Big Content is too media savvy to prosecute individual consumers. They focus their legal guns on the makers of third party media devices. As a result, the average consumer just knows his media devices don’t interoperate. He has no idea that laws like the DMCA and EUCD are responsible for the lack of compatibility.

    Well the lack of this awareness is exactly what Mr. Martinez wants to fight. And I disagree somewhat, Tim with your belief that people are not aware of this.

    In Europe, even before iPods there was a concern about American cultural domination, and much of that concern has been transfered to an awareness of digital rights, and the consequences of overly strong IP policies.

    I travel to Poland each summer (since 1998), and was amazed at how many were keyed into these and other issues, such as software patents.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    This is a clever publicity stunt, but the problem is that Big Content is too media savvy to prosecute individual consumers. They focus their legal guns on the makers of third party media devices. As a result, the average consumer just knows his media devices don’t interoperate. He has no idea that laws like the DMCA and EUCD are responsible for the lack of compatibility.

    Well the lack of this awareness is exactly what Mr. Martinez wants to fight. And I disagree somewhat, Tim with your belief that people are not aware of this.

    In Europe, even before iPods there was a concern about American cultural domination, and much of that concern has been transfered to an awareness of digital rights, and the consequences of overly strong IP policies.

    I travel to Poland each summer (since 1998), and was amazed at how many were keyed into these and other issues, such as software patents.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14019452 Steve R.

    Noel: This is not about “rights inflation, it is the reverse. Our rights are being taken away by the corporations.

    The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 reduced our right to use content by extending the copyright period. This legislation, from what I have informally heard, was done at the behest of Disney.

    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) criminalized normal practices in the dissemination of content. Again this legislation was passed to appease the corporate community.

    If one has increasingly less rights as a result of new legislation, it is incredulously how one can claim “rights inflation”.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Noel: This is not about “rights inflation, it is the reverse. Our rights are being taken away by the corporations.

    The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 reduced our right to use content by extending the copyright period. This legislation, from what I have informally heard, was done at the behest of Disney.

    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) criminalized normal practices in the dissemination of content. Again this legislation was passed to appease the corporate community.

    If one has increasingly less rights as a result of new legislation, it is incredulously how one can claim “rights inflation”.

  • http://www@pff.org Noel Le

    Steve I see yous point to some extent. Yet the contours of the DMCA are still going through the courts. The issue at question on TLF seems to be how much the rev-eng exemptions accommodate fair use and where in the DMCA “fair access” akin to traditional fair use can be defended. Those who structure their policy views with *bright lines* naturally argue for the most farfetched solutions like repealing the DMCA rather than going through our judicial process to iron all this out. Sound policy reasoning would be a bit more cautious.

  • Noel Le

    Steve I see yous point to some extent. Yet the contours of the DMCA are still going through the courts. The issue at question on TLF seems to be how much the rev-eng exemptions accommodate fair use and where in the DMCA “fair access” akin to traditional fair use can be defended. Those who structure their policy views with *bright lines* naturally argue for the most farfetched solutions like repealing the DMCA rather than going through our judicial process to iron all this out. Sound policy reasoning would be a bit more cautious.

  • Charles Kiyanda

    I disagree with some comments by Noel Le.

    “The anti-DRM campaign really reminds me of “rights inflation,” those who feel they ahve a right to tinker with another’s work, who feel like they’re losing their culture or freedom because innovators don’t do what they want- and all of this fits under some self-important delusion of a revolution or movement. And through all of this, I hear little if no appreciation for companies that bring the products/services in question to market.”

    The major point I see here is not that people want innovators to do something more, it’s that new legislation makes using new innovation legally impossible.

    Copyright laws have always been there to ensure that artists would be paid for their work. Once the artist has been paid, then what the user does with the product for personal consumption should be irrelevant to the copyright holder. The problem with anti-drm-circumvention laws is that if an innovator comes up with, say, an mp3 player that’s better, more convenient or just prettier than an ipod, a person who has legally purchased a certain piece of music would be commiting a crime by using a different device. Such a law is then effectively a useless brake to innovation. The real crime is in distributing the music without paying money to the copyright holder. Circumventing a drm measure should not constitute a crime. Introducing laws such as the DMCA accomplish nothing. There are two types of people who circumvent DRMs. Those who then distribute it illegaly (and we already have a reason to prosecute these people) and those who circumvent drm to enjoy legally purchased music more conveniently. I don’t see how criminalizing the second category accomplishes anything. Bear in mind that in a DMCA-free world, companies are still free to introduce DRM schemes. I just don’t think we should criminalize people who circumvent such schemes to get a better experience from the product they bought.

    And that’s on top of having extended the term of copyright far beyond what I would consider a reasonnable length. But I think that’s a different debate.

  • Charles Kiyanda

    I disagree with some comments by Noel Le.

    “The anti-DRM campaign really reminds me of “rights inflation,” those who feel they ahve a right to tinker with another’s work, who feel like they’re losing their culture or freedom because innovators don’t do what they want- and all of this fits under some self-important delusion of a revolution or movement. And through all of this, I hear little if no appreciation for companies that bring the products/services in question to market.”

    The major point I see here is not that people want innovators to do something more, it’s that new legislation makes using new innovation legally impossible.

    Copyright laws have always been there to ensure that artists would be paid for their work. Once the artist has been paid, then what the user does with the product for personal consumption should be irrelevant to the copyright holder. The problem with anti-drm-circumvention laws is that if an innovator comes up with, say, an mp3 player that’s better, more convenient or just prettier than an ipod, a person who has legally purchased a certain piece of music would be commiting a crime by using a different device. Such a law is then effectively a useless brake to innovation. The real crime is in distributing the music without paying money to the copyright holder. Circumventing a drm measure should not constitute a crime. Introducing laws such as the DMCA accomplish nothing. There are two types of people who circumvent DRMs. Those who then distribute it illegaly (and we already have a reason to prosecute these people) and those who circumvent drm to enjoy legally purchased music more conveniently. I don’t see how criminalizing the second category accomplishes anything. Bear in mind that in a DMCA-free world, companies are still free to introduce DRM schemes. I just don’t think we should criminalize people who circumvent such schemes to get a better experience from the product they bought.

    And that’s on top of having extended the term of copyright far beyond what I would consider a reasonnable length. But I think that’s a different debate.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Charles, if you buy a song without DRM, then nobody prevents you from relaying it between various devices.

    My point is that if you buy a song with DRM, its you, not the government or the firm, preventing you from playing it on devices of your choice.

    You raise some good points though…

    ***The problem with anti-drm-circumvention laws is that if an innovator comes up with, say, an mp3 player that’s better… a person who has legally purchased a certain piece of music would be commiting a crime by using a different device. Such a law is then effectively a useless brake to innovation.***

    Putting songs onto the new MP3 player would not be a per se crime (and you know that:).

    Also, if the new MP3 makers are truly innovative, they would have found out how to make their player interoperable with existing digital music DRM schemes, so that users CAN SWITCH to their player. And based on what I see on TLF, there is a market for such a new product.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Charles, if you buy a song without DRM, then nobody prevents you from relaying it between various devices.

    My point is that if you buy a song with DRM, its you, not the government or the firm, preventing you from playing it on devices of your choice.

    You raise some good points though…

    ***The problem with anti-drm-circumvention laws is that if an innovator comes up with, say, an mp3 player that’s better… a person who has legally purchased a certain piece of music would be commiting a crime by using a different device. Such a law is then effectively a useless brake to innovation.***

    Putting songs onto the new MP3 player would not be a per se crime (and you know that:).

    Also, if the new MP3 makers are truly innovative, they would have found out how to make their player interoperable with existing digital music DRM schemes, so that users CAN SWITCH to their player. And based on what I see on TLF, there is a market for such a new product.

  • Charles Kiyanda

    Noel,

    ***if you buy a song without DRM, then nobody prevents you from relaying it between various devices***

    I disagree there. DRMs are closed source. If a company decides not to license their drm technology to a certain manufacturer, they have no choiche but to reverse-engineer the DRM scheme and circumvent it in some way. The DMCA ensures that such an action is a crime.

    ***Also, if the new MP3 makers are truly innovative, they would have found out how to make their player interoperable with existing digital music DRM schemes, so that users CAN SWITCH to their player.***

    While I agree with you, I still think this is, under DMCA, a legal suicide for any manufacturer. That would constitute circumventing DRM. That’s exactly my point when I say that anti-drm-circumvention laws are a brake to innovation.

    Basically, the government is giving legal right to any firm to come up with a scheme that restricts how you can enjoy products you have bought legally. I personnally buy DVDs and rent many more, but I listen to them on my computer, which runs linux, using a drm circumvention scheme. Under DMCA, I am currently committing a crime for using technology that enables me to do something completely legal. I just haven’t been prosecuted yet.

    I would like to add to your last comment. While a perfectly legal interoperable device would be great (I think that would imply giving the DMCA the boot), what would be better is music vendors that ship drm free products. Websites like audiolunchbox are perfect examples. I wish there were more of those.

    Finally, regarding substitution, (you talked about this in a previous comment, I just forgot to go over that point) one has to recognize that when it comes to artistic products, that argument shouldn’t be so simple. You can’t just say: “You’re free to buy somebody else’s music.” A song by BonJovi is not the same as a song by Paula Abdul, unlike computers where a graphics card by ATI is pretty damn close to a graphics card by NVIDIA. For artistic products, substitution cannot be invoked so simply. I think relying on substitution to justify the DMCA is admitting that the DMCA is also a brake to artistic creativity. The same thing the copyright laws are meant to protect and encourage.

  • Charles Kiyanda

    Noel,

    ***if you buy a song without DRM, then nobody prevents you from relaying it between various devices***

    I disagree there. DRMs are closed source. If a company decides not to license their drm technology to a certain manufacturer, they have no choiche but to reverse-engineer the DRM scheme and circumvent it in some way. The DMCA ensures that such an action is a crime.

    ***Also, if the new MP3 makers are truly innovative, they would have found out how to make their player interoperable with existing digital music DRM schemes, so that users CAN SWITCH to their player.***

    While I agree with you, I still think this is, under DMCA, a legal suicide for any manufacturer. That would constitute circumventing DRM. That’s exactly my point when I say that anti-drm-circumvention laws are a brake to innovation.

    Basically, the government is giving legal right to any firm to come up with a scheme that restricts how you can enjoy products you have bought legally. I personnally buy DVDs and rent many more, but I listen to them on my computer, which runs linux, using a drm circumvention scheme. Under DMCA, I am currently committing a crime for using technology that enables me to do something completely legal. I just haven’t been prosecuted yet.

    I would like to add to your last comment. While a perfectly legal interoperable device would be great (I think that would imply giving the DMCA the boot), what would be better is music vendors that ship drm free products. Websites like audiolunchbox are perfect examples. I wish there were more of those.

    Finally, regarding substitution, (you talked about this in a previous comment, I just forgot to go over that point) one has to recognize that when it comes to artistic products, that argument shouldn’t be so simple. You can’t just say: “You’re free to buy somebody else’s music.” A song by BonJovi is not the same as a song by Paula Abdul, unlike computers where a graphics card by ATI is pretty damn close to a graphics card by NVIDIA. For artistic products, substitution cannot be invoked so simply. I think relying on substitution to justify the DMCA is admitting that the DMCA is also a brake to artistic creativity. The same thing the copyright laws are meant to protect and encourage.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    I’ll reply to this later or tomorrow Charles. But take a look at this short piece, which should lay out my views of the DMCA and reverse engineering (http://weblog.ipcentral.info/archives/2006/10/just_say_why_yo.html).

    I’m not opposed to your views, but I think there is more flexibility in the DMCA that you do.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    I’ll reply to this later or tomorrow Charles. But take a look at this short piece, which should lay out my views of the DMCA and reverse engineering (http://weblog.ipcentral.info/archives/2006/10/j…).

    I’m not opposed to your views, but I think there is more flexibility in the DMCA that you do.

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