It’s really very simple: the DMCA prohibition against circumventing DVD copy-control is a clear violation of consumer fair use rights. What do citizens do when the law clearly violates their rights? They ignore it:
- A little program called DeCSS caused a lot of commotion when it surfaced on the Internet four years ago. DeCSS does only one task: Remove the encryption on a DVD movie, allowing the video files on the disc to be used at will — played back off the disc, copied to the computer’s hard drive or burned to a second DVD.
….Programmers continued to rework DVD-unlocking software, eventually writing new, more effective code. That, in turn, has given birth to a surprising variety of applications.
These unauthorized DVD programs handle a variety of useful tasks. They allow you to jump past the FBI warning that licensed playback software must display before showing the movie. They let you breeze by the otherwise unskippable commercials that some movie studios are fond of shoving into their DVDs. They can ignore the “region controls” that prevent you from watching the movie you bought in Paris on the player you picked up here.
….In other words, this unauthorized, unlicensed software makes DVDs more valuable and useful to me.
The DVD industry, however, sees things a little differently.
….two things don’t quite make sense in the DVD association’s position.
One is the idea of trying to stop the distribution of a program on the Internet. It just doesn’t work. The entire U.S. government could not stop an encryption program called Pretty Good Privacy from being used throughout the world in the past decade, and things have only gotten easier since.
The second is the focus on DeCSS. You don’t need DeCSS to steal a DVD; you can create a “disc image,” an exact, bit-for-bit copy, and use that to make new copies. Furthermore, nobody seems to use DeCSS anymore. Current unlicensed playback software
….Meanwhile, programmers of unauthorized DVD software are performing an interesting economic service by determining what features customers would enjoy if the capabilities of DVD players were not locked down by licensing dictates.
There’s plenty of free market research here, if the movie industry would only take a look. [Washington Post]
The lesson here: let the consumer tell you what he wants rather than tell him what he can have and enforce the artificial dictate with draconian, counterproductive legal mandates. It’s not about control, it’s about meeting consumer demands, demands they will satisfy one way or another.