In talking about my most recent postings about DRM, the DMCA, and their effects on intellectual property I started to consider why the MPAA and RIAA are so determined to force these kind of restrictions upon consumers.
The argument most often put forward by those organizations is that they need to protect the intellectual property of their members. Whether it be a song; a movie, a book, a photograph, or a painting, it was the art form that was being protected. The unique combinations of words, or melody, or paint on a canvas, was what was being protected. I have no argument with this. As a writer I feel I should be fairly compensated for my work and when a person uses my works – for which an economic value is attached – then I should be fairly compensated or they would have infringed on my rights and I have a recourse to take against them. The recourse comes in the way of copyright laws. If I can prove infringement of my rights to gain economic value for my writings then I can take action. This is the basic premise of why the MPAA and RIAA want to use DRM and lobbied for laws such as the DMCA. They want more ways in which to protect the economic rights of their members.
With new technology comes new risks and in 1998 when the DMCA was drafted and passed into law few people expected the far reaching effects. However, the law placed the power in the hands of copyright owners and their representatives. With a online world where most people are anonymous and the emergence of digital content new challenges were faced. The result was instead of proving that an infringement took place and going after the infringer directly these lobby groups had power to just notice the digital content provider or host of suspected infringement and they had to take down the material in question. So now instead of proving that you stole that shirt from the store, you were assumed guilty until you proved you did not take the shirt. This is the real world analogy to how the DMCA can be used and often is.
So the result has been that the MPAA and RIAA have set up brokerage houses for out of court settlement of copyright violation of their works. Why pay tens of thousands of dollars defending yourself in court when you can pay thousands of dollars and settle. The problem with this is you admit a crime you may have not committed based on your financial ability to defend your self. Such was the case of a woman who was sued a few years back by the RIAA for downloading songs to her computer, the problem with the case was she never owned a computer and it was eventually tossed out.
Considering all this and argument that it is the IP they are protecting, then why are we being charged full value for each copy of a movie or song? Consider the converse. If I have purchased a DVD and I want a digital copy to play on the my laptop so I donâ€™t have to carry the disk around I can purchase it from an online retailer like iTunes but I canâ€™t – legally – make a copy of it myself. I have purchased the IP already and subsequent purchases should be just for the new form of media. If I own a record then getting the CD version should only cost me the cost of the media not a full repurchase of IP contained within or if I scratch a DVD a replacement should only cost me the media cost.
So basically organizations like the MPAA and RIAA are using DRM and laws like the DMCA to protect their economic interests and creating an system in which we have to repurchase content with each new format that is introduced. Thus removing our options to legally use it a manner that suits our needs, these are the basic principals of Fair Use in the US and Fair Dealing in Canada.