Boy buys DVD. Boy can’t play DVD on his PC. Boy writes code to play DVD on PC. Boy is put on trial.

How do you explain to lay people why the DMCA is wrong? Do people care that movie production companies do not want to allow them to play their own DVDs on “unauthorized” equipment? Recently, the MPAA coerced Norway to prosecute a teenager for breaking the encryption on a DVD that he owned. Norway doesn’t even have a DMCA-like law and the MPAA had to twist the interpretation of current law to get the prosecution. Hopefully their court systems have some sense.

What really got me to thinking about this was this analysis by Andy Oram. Many people who are against the DMCA claim that congress didn’t really intend for it to be this bad. Andy makes the case that these rulings are exactly what Congress’s intention was. For example, because of the ruling against 2600, this link (snatched from the Gallery of DeCSS code) is illegal because what it points to is directly compilable code that can be used to decrypt encrypted DVDs.

Yes, the what the link points to is illegal, but the link itself is also illegal. So says the Second Circuit Court. In fact, in his write-up, Andy says that when the EFF pointed to the part of the DMCA that says “Nothing in this section shall enlarge or diminish any rights of free speech“, the court replied “Congress could not ‘diminish’ constitutional rights of free speech even if it wished to.

They then proceded to show that the courts are the ones with the right to take away free speech (I missed that in my Civics class, I guess) by limiting speech through source code, even though other court cases had established that code is speech and not limitable. They also limited linking (as in the above).

Are people incensed by this? Are people upset? Sure, us geeks are, but that seems to be about it. The general public seems ambivilent. Or do I simply judge the interest of the general public by what is shown on TV — a medium that can’t be trusted in this instance because the owners of television are the members of the MPAA. Or, would more people be interested if they knew, but they don’t know because their primary source of information is the television?

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