Subject: DRM versus society
From: Alexandre Oliva
Organization: FSF Latin America

Copyright was originally designed to benefit society, but mislabeling creative works as property has been used in the digital age to justify measures that deprive society of both the works and the benefits.

Copyright was an incentive to creativity, to the publication of creative works, through a temporary limited monopoly granted to authors. Once the monopoly expired, the status prior to copyright law was restored: everyone could share and build upon the covered work.

Respecting the monopoly was everyone's short-term sacrifice for the long-term availability of more and better creative works. And it was a small sacrifice, for the term was short, and publishing was costly and difficult regardless of copyrights and fair use rights.

The mind-twisting phrase "intellectual property" turned upside-down the logic behind this sacrifice: instead of serving society, the law became a tool to defend intermediaries' interests that take away both from society and from the authors they claim to represent.

Creative works are intangible, and thus non-rival, expressions. It does not make sense to regard them as property. Indeed, copyright law does not regulate the enjoyment of such creative works.

However, mislabeling them as property has enabled these intermediaries to fool society into accepting extensions of copyright monopolies, contradicting their very purpose: to make more creative works available to the society, after a short period of deprivation.

In the digital age, it became much easier for anyone to create and publish creative works. It could have been a great benefit to society.

But mislabeling such works as property has enabled the same intermediaries to fool society into accepting such insulting and costly measures as Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) to patrol and police uses of the works, to preserve the intermediaries' obsolete business model.

DRM amounts to using general-purpose and specialized computers, such as audio and video recorders and players, to stop the public from using works in ways that are permitted by copyright law, but that might enable future copyright infringement, regardless of whether any infringement actually takes place or is even planned.

The public at large is thus proclaimed guilty of pre-crime, and denied the benefits of technological advancements, of fair use rights and even of the public domain.

Welcoming into law the presumption of guilt for whatever rules the intermediaries manage to encode, in the devices necessary to enjoy the creative works they publish, would turn the intermediaries into private legislators and law enforcement agents in the digital age.

Having just visited Canada, I could have been fined and imprisoned if Bill C-61 was in effect, just because I carry in my computer movies, songs, and software needed to play them, even though copyright law does not require a license for such works to be enjoyed or carried.

I would be disgusted if Canadian legislators were to pass a law that required major sacrifices of everyone for the sake of promoting (my?!?) interests whose very legitimacy can only appear to be justifiable through the mental contortions of "intellectual property".

I, as author and copyright holder, do not side with the intermediaries that claim to defend my interests when they lobby for this law.

Please do not move copyright law farther away from the goal of every law: benefiting the society that establishes it.

Thank you,

Alexandre Oliva

Copyright 2008 FSFLA

Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this entire document without royalty provided the copyright notice, the document's official URL, and this permission notice are preserved.