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copy protection

The blunt sword of legislation

Minnesota's Senator Klobuchar has co-sponsored a bill to criminalize certain behavior by peer-to-peer file sharing programs.

The bill is supposed to require a sort of informed consent by computer owners whenever a P2P file sharing program arrives. Here's what the bill wants to require:

• Ensures that P2P file sharing programs cannot be installed without providing clear notice and obtaining informed consent of the authorized computer user.

• Makes it unlawful to prevent the authorized user of a computer from:

1. Blocking the installation of a peer-to-peer file sharing program, and/or

2. Disabling or removing any peer-to-peer file sharing program.

Having taught several networking courses (not to mention having written my share of networking software), I'm not sure where they can draw the line. What constitutes 'clear notice,' and does that include such things as Windows and Apple file sharing? Do these OS vendors already comply with planned legislative requirements, or will they have to update their configuration software?

Does "Microsoft Genuine Advantage" violate the law if it won't let the computer owner block its communication with the Mother Ship in Redmond? If so, how does Microsoft check for people using the same license on two or more computers?

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A 21st Century Family Library

Over the years, our family has bought three copies of the Crosby, Stills & Nash album. My wife and I each bought a vinyl copy back in the '70s. Recently we bought a "clean" (not copy protected) copy from the iTunes music store. I expect that's the last time anyone in our family will have to buy a copy of that album, including all our descendants.

I believe that music sharing is "fair use" within a family. I'm inclined to feel that way about video, and no doubt I'll feel the same way about digitized books. Cousin Jon sent me a couple of links describing "do it yourself" book scanners. I need to get myself one of those. But a family library of digitized books has an interesting implication for publishers: it will decimate the reprint market. My (not-yet-existing) great grandson won't ever have to purchase a copy of Pride and Prejudice and should never have to buy any other books I collect in digital form.

Thought provoking polemic on copyright

Apparently someone in the UK has proposed a sort of "three strikes" law - if your household is accused by a copyright holder of illegal downloading multiple times, then the holder can demand removal of the househ0ld's Internet connection.

Cory Doctorow, the author, wrote a polemic about how this reflects on the big media firms it tries to help.

He notes how copyright owners now use "takedown notices" as an extrajudicial form of censorship.

British Library/Adobe: Quality - 0, Protectionism - 1

I had the misfortune recently to upload an article sold through the British Library ("British Library Direct"), as background for another post. The British library charges 5 pounds for copyright permission and another few pounds for "shipping and handling," which consists of posting a link to a copy protected document, and e-mailing me the link. The document is provided in a copy protected format that is readable using Adobe Digital Editions. Features of the document suggest that we can blame the low quality on Adobe, though it could be the British Library's fault.

The quality of the resulting document is an insult to the history of publishing. I can print razor sharp, high resolution documents on my printers. The displayed - and printed - document from the British Library is on par with 20th century mimeograph technology. The underlying software allows me to make exactly one printed copy, but the copy is almost too blurry to read.  And this cost me US $20!

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