Campinas, Brazil--April 9, 2007--At 10 AM on the next Friday 13, Alexandre Oliva is supposed to deliver the speech "Free Software and The Matrix" at FISL 8.0. There's a lot of legal uncertainty about it, and it looks like legal gray areas are going to be brought up in this debate.

Alexandre says the initial idea was just to use some quotes from the Matrix trilogy to talk about Free Software. "It is truly amazing how it fits", he says, excited. "If you think about it, the Matrix is all about how humans lost control over the machines, and how most don't seem to care about it."

As the idea evolved, he ended up realizing the entire presentation could be built interacting with portions of the movies. "I've never done anything like that before, but it sounded cool, and I couldn't help it!". To give an idea of what he's talking (and will talk) about, he posted on his web page a couple of teasers.

However, this poses very interesting questions. Is copying portions of DVDs for public presentations fair use, or does it require permission from the copyright holders? How far could copyright holders go to stop or try to stop such uses? Could DRM (Digital Restrictions Management), such as the weak encryption used in DVDs, be used to stop Alexandre from delivering his speech?

Obviously he believes he's not done anything wrong. "Morally, I'm sure I'm doing the right thing. Besides, I'm promoting sales and rentals of the movies; how could the copyright holders possibly complain?"

But what about the law? Alexandre doesn't appear to see a problem. "I'm not a lawyer, but I get the impression that my use of portions of other works is clearly permitted by Brazilian copyright law." There are DRM provision in Article 107 of that law, but he says "they're not even close to being as draconian as the DMCA, in the US."

Interestingly, a lot of the speech is precisely about restrictions and control, and the quest for freedom. "People don't know their rights, and they often don't realize they can do something other than go on accepting more and more restrictions to their freedoms!"

It is sure going to be an interesting debate, as fair use rights face legal and technical restrictions. Even more so if the speech is actually broadcast live or recorded on the Internet.

He says the organizers have already been informed, but no legal threats have been made so far. "But then, I didn't ask for permission, because I don't see that I need it." It sounds like a political statement very much in line with the contents of the speech. "I'm going to be there, how about you?", he invites. We shall see...

About Alexandre Oliva

He's been a Free Software user, developer and evangelist since the last decade of the past millenium. In 2005, he co-founded FSFLA, the Latin-American sister organization of the Free Software Foundations in USA, Europe and India. Graduated in Computing Engineering and Master in Computer Sciences at Unicamp, he's been a Free Software developer at Red Hat since 2000.

Press contacts

Alexandre Oliva
+55 19 3243-5233

Copyright 2007 Alexandre Oliva

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