Copyright laws in the "Digital Millennium"

Warning: Rants and text-walls ahead.


Anyone who's looked at a gaming forum lately has no doubt come across a few heated debates about Copyright law, and Digital Rights Management. From what I gathered, the general consensus is that Modern copy protection is failing, and failing hard. Not only does it encourage the piracy it seeks to thwart, but it discourages legit customers from buying their products.

I think the reason this is, is because we are using 18th Century copyright laws to regulate a 21st Century world. To explain why the 18th Century laws wont work today, I'll have to explain the law itself.

In America, copyright doctrine is broken down into 3 categories. Exclusive Rights, Fair Use, and Unregulated Use.

Basically,

The exclusive rights (or regulated uses) are the things that only the holder of a copyright can do legally (reproduce a work [copy], create a derivative work [write a sequel], distribute the work [sell, or give away], and publicly display the work [obvious]). Anyone who wants to use a work in these ways needs special permission from the copyright holder.

Fair Uses are the few things that would normally fall under exclusive rights, but are unregulated, and don't require permission from the copyright holder, such as citing a work in an academic paper, or making a parody of a work.

Unregulated Uses are all the things that are not regulated by copyright law. You can read a book, you can memorize said book, you can lend said book to a friend, you can discuss said book with other people who may or may not have read it, you can borrow said book from a library, you can use said book to prop up your table, you can sell said book after you got tired of it, you can modify said book (like ripping out pages, or erasing that chapter you thought was retarded, and rewrite it as a fan-fic), etc.

Before the advent of PCs, it was pretty black-and-white as to what you could and could not do. Pretty much the only thing you couldn't do with a legally bought copy was to copy it word for word, and then redistribute it. It was nigh-impossible to violate a copyright without mal-intent.

But when you throw PCs into the mix, EVERY THING YOU DO CREATES A COPY. Just installing a game to play, you have the copy on the disc, the copy on the harddrive, and a copy in RAM. Looking at a book online makes a copy in your Temporary Internet Files folder, and another in RAM. There's no escaping it. So now, almost all formerly unregulated uses fall under the "reproduce" part of exclusive rights, and thus, are regulated under current U.S. copyright law.

Now that almost all uses are regulated, a publisher can pretty much dictate when, how, and how often you can use a digital work. Want to loan a game to a friend? Too bad, your copy is locked to your PC. Want to quote something from a digital work? The holder can forbid it in the EULA. Want to mod the game? Good luck not getting a C&D a year into the project. Almost everything that we could do with an offline copyrighted work that was once perfectly legit can now be regulated by the copyright holder. Hell, the copyright holder can even regulate how many times you're allowed to READ an e-book. And as you all know, a copyright holder can regulate how many times you can install a game, regardless of whether or not there is mal-intent behind multiple installs. If they wanted, they can regulate what time of day you can run a program. Just read any EULA of a recent game. Most of it is legal speak for "Even though you bought this game in a store, you dont own it, and we still have all rights to it, so here's what you can and cant do with this game." When we buy a game, we're not actually buying the game, but a license to use that game in a way the publisher deems fit.

This is why current copyright law fails. It fails, because it is outdated, and cannot deal with today's technology.

Now I'm no lawmaker, and I cant claim to have the answer to this problem, but I have no doubt something needs to be done. And it seems that congress is just making it worse. Instead of making previously legal uses legal again, they're making more uses illegal. And the punishment for violating these formerly unregulated uses is becoming ridiculous. I'm sure we've all heard the stories about 6 year olds getting sued for thousands of dollars, or teens being criminally tried.

I'm not advocating piracy, however. It was illegal to distribute thousands of copies before the internet, and it should remain illegal long after. But all these regulations on things that we should be allowed to do legally anyway is just wrong.


I used this page as my reference, and shamelessly used its pictures :) http://www.sslug.dk/~chlor/lessig/freeculture/property-i.html
Its a good read, if you can get past the wall of text. The author is Larry Lessig, one of my heroes.

I'm also sure you can look up his many speeches on YouTube.

Rights is a very VERY broad spectrum these days ranging from content to code to custom designs.

So I'll briefly comment on what I've read.

Code/content is getting into a very grey area. Second life for example: I' pretty sure when it first came out, the ToS said "Everything you make is ours." Not sure about nowadays, but what I do know is people are sueing other people over code for a game they didnt even make, only modified for pornographic purposes etc etc.

There have also been cases where game items have been the centre of certain civil cases. I remember reading about habbo hotel furniture being sued over when it was 'stolen'. even though habbo has a system that let only those authorised by the owners to take it. Pretty sure theres a clause there that says "We own this game and everything in it" so lawsuits around game material kind of....fail.

But apparently not these days, people are now beginning to ignore the ToS in court too, i read an article about ToS being unfair and biased towards the company who make the game. Well duh, its THEIR game.

As a final note, I'm reminded of the pointless 'gamer bill of rights' that was thought up by some idiot gaming company. all but 1, maybe half, of their 'rights' were enforcable. Most of them the gamers dont even have the right too, even with common sense put through it.

Madness all of it.

Excellent rant.

I believe that soon it will be illegal to use a VHS/DVD recorder, video camera or photois in general, because they will be breaching some act of privacy or copyright, the way that this is heading.

I feel more educated about this subject now. Thankyou.

Copyright law is a bit outdated. The internet has moved to fast for it, and developers are reluctant to use DRM.

Here's my idea (Came up with it in three minutes): What if CD keys were unique to a certain CD, and the key was printed on the CD graphic? That's the point of a key. One lock, one key. Not one lock, infinite keys (via keygen).

Novajam:
Here's my idea (Came up with it in three minutes): What if CD keys were unique to a certain CD, and the key was printed on the CD graphic? That's the point of a key. One lock, one key. Not one lock, infinite keys (via keygen).

Here's my idea: Go into game development.

Seriously, the industry needs people like you.

Bring back disk in drive protection I say.

That and block it from being copied from the install files.

(either that or keep some of it on the disk, such as the boot process. hang on i'm gonna copyright this)

Lord Krunk:

Novajam:
Here's my idea (Came up with it in three minutes): What if CD keys were unique to a certain CD, and the key was printed on the CD graphic? That's the point of a key. One lock, one key. Not one lock, infinite keys (via keygen).

Here's my idea: Go into game development.

Seriously, the industry needs people like you.

Funnily enough, that's what I hope one day to do.

smallharmlesskitten:
Bring back disk in drive protection I say.

That and block it from being copied from the install files.

(either that or keep some of it on the disk, such as the boot process. hang on i'm gonna copyright this)

*cough*
No-cd Crack
*un-cough*

SilentHunter7:
I think the reason this is, is because we are using 18th Century copyright laws to regulate a 21st Century world. To explain why the 18th Century laws wont work today, I'll have to explain the law itself.

The inherent problem I have with this rant is that it is premised on what amounts to an untrue thesis. The law is a growing and organic thing, the laws on the various books today are quite different from the laws of the 18th Century.

Your suggestion seems to imply the solution to DRM lies in the order. I would suggest that it does not. Licensing software works very well. I guarantee you, copying software or not BioWare (for instance) has paid in full for every copy of Maya, 3DS Max, Adobe CS, etc. they own. If they did not, the respective software manufacturers would haul them in. Frankly, the solution to DRM lies in developer and publisher hands. The problem being is that their best solutions impact the functionality of their product or (worse) the consumer's hardware.

Installing Spore 5 times? after a primary play-through I uninstall a game almost immediately. with 120 gigs on my hard drive freeing up 5-15 is a big deal. now if I ever want to play the game again, review it, get some screen caps, etc. I have four more chances to do it.

Unacceptable.

Nevermind piracy, game's studios are working to inhibit totally legitimate sale and trade of their product on the second hand market, Spore will only ever work on one computer and second hand copies only get 4 opportunities to be installed if we overlook this. This is a load of shit that drives me up the wall. I get ever so pissed off about this one. The game's industry is just like any other product industry out there, second hand sales are part of any business model and these idiot tricks to keep them from happening make me actively encourage piracy.

I don't pirate because it is a pain in the butt. Find a copy in the recesses of the internet, find a cracker, hope to hell it isn't a virus, have to run a major virus sweep afterward anyway to get rid of the Trojans the crack sites put on your computer. And DRM is making me consider it for a number of titles.

Ultimately this leads me to agree that something has to be done. Just for different reasons.

I agree that the law changes, and the current copyright laws are different than what was on the books in 1700's England, but they still handle the problem in the same way; by letting people do what they will with their copy, except duplicate. This is the problem I have; it can't address the problems with over regulation of digital media, which cant be used without being duplicated by the end-user.

the problem is that the floodgate is open. The possibility exists that people can get ANYTHING they want without paying for it. People have been shown that all it takes is patience until someone breaks the latest copywrite enforcement technique.

Imitation Saccharin :

smallharmlesskitten:
Bring back disk in drive protection I say.

That and block it from being copied from the install files.

(either that or keep some of it on the disk, such as the boot process. hang on i'm gonna copyright this)

*cough*
No-cd Crack
*un-cough*

*cough*
Like I said (probably didn't) keep the game boot data on the disk and make it so it can't be taken off. Shouldn't be too hard.

smallharmlesskitten:

*cough*

How dare you how dare my how dare you!

smallharmlesskitten:

Like I said (probably didn't) keep the game boot data on the disk and make it so it can't be taken off. Shouldn't be too hard.

Wouldn't the corps being doing it already if it was this easy?

Indeed, installing such software on disks doesn't last long at all. Especially with Linux systems that can be coded to ignored such things. No doubt within 3-6 months there would be a working windows program that would do the same thing.

http://www.defectivebydesign.org/

Linked with the GNU and FSF projects, this site essentially sums up the reason why I am vehemently opposed to DRM programs.

Ahh, fuck I didn't realize how old this thread is.

Imitation Saccharin :

smallharmlesskitten:
Bring back disk in drive protection I say.

That and block it from being copied from the install files.

(either that or keep some of it on the disk, such as the boot process. hang on i'm gonna copyright this)

*cough*
No-cd Crack
*un-cough*

*cough*

The only thing that can stop people from using ISOs to get around CD protection is super-super restrictive DRM, like safedisk or securom, and even that gets cracked by the major burners/mounters in a matter of weeks.

*/cough*

Novajam:
I feel more educated about this subject now. Thankyou.

Copyright law is a bit outdated. The internet has moved to fast for it, and developers are reluctant to use DRM.

Here's my idea (Came up with it in three minutes): What if CD keys were unique to a certain CD, and the key was printed on the CD graphic? That's the point of a key. One lock, one key. Not one lock, infinite keys (via keygen).

I have a friend in the record business, the tech to do just that was deveoped, and then abandoned. It was not cost effective and either came with too much technical overhead or could too easily be bypassed.

 

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