Troubling times indeed...

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Troubling times indeed...

Postby ThePumaman on Fri Jun 18, 2004 9:50 pm

Recently, copyright laws have been making headlines not only on slashdot, but also in national news. Nothing new, copyright laws have been around since the dawn of the Industrial Age, but now the clear cut lines are beginning to become askewed.

The basis behind the laws make sense, legal protection against the duplication of a person's work. And the moral judgement is pretty clear, stealing someone's work is wrong. But now in the Information Age, the once black-and-white conflict is now in 256 shades of gray.

In the 1980s, the Betamax company won an essential case in copy-protection. The issue was the duplication of movies onto VHS tapes for personal use. Most people agreed with this decision, because it made sense. If you own a tape, you should be able to make a backup of it in case the original ever gets lost or damaged. However, if these backup tapes are sold for a profit then that is clearly illegal, as they have not been licensed for sale.

Skip 20 years ahead and we have computers running the world. We have movies no longer on analog tapes, but digital discs. Entire movies and seasons of television shows are kept on hard drives. Music originates from the internet and then gets burned to a hard copy. In this age of free information and data flow, the lines of ethics are blurred.

While most can agree that downloading pirated media from the internet is illegal, it takes courts to decide on how purchased media should be handled. Apple went to bat against the RIAA about the iTunes music and how their downloadable songs can be distributed. Movie studios and DVD-CCA region encode DVDs to be geographically-specific, meanwhile preventing many imports. While this isn't a big deal to us Americans, people in the outside world have to wait months for the discs to be released in their region, even though the North America encoded discs have their language track.

So now people are getting in trouble with the law about these copyright laws and encoded media, even though they may legally own them. It prompts the question "What exactly am I buying when I purchase this from Best Buy?" or the internet, or wherever. The easy answer is "The right to view the media" and nothing more. The author (or distributor) retains all rights to the media and the medium it's carried on.

But now, the landmark Betamax case [url=""]is trying to be overturn[/url]. Not just overturn, but outright obliterated, and with it the personal rights of media owners. The time of information and media freedom of coming to pass, and thanks to the media's biased view on P2P, it seems to be the mission of many congresspeople to put an end to the information age.

The issue of copyright infringement is bringing cases to 9th level superior courts and grand juries. They have to decide the ethics of the highly complex situations that the internet and freedom of information creates. I predict in the years to come we will see numerous more assults on P2P and the rights of media buyers, and hopefully, a revolution against this barrage against civil liberties.
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