Xeni @ Boing Boing Blog
Shirky: stupid (c) laws block me from publishing own work online

Clay Shirky tells Boing Boing:

Welcome to the Copyfight. So, at Etech this year, I gave a talk entitled Ontology is Overrated. I want to put a transcript up online, and Mary Hodder, who recorded the talk, graciously agreed to give me a copy of the video.

When she came by NYC last week, she dropped off a DVD, which I then wanted to convert to AVI (the format used by my transcription service.) I installed ffmpeg and tried to convert the material, at which point I got an error message which read "To comply with copyright laws, DVD device input is not allowed." Except, of course, there are no copyright laws at issue here, since I'M THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER.

Got that? I am in possession of a video, of me, shot by a friend, copied to a piece of physical media given to me as a gift. In the video, I am speaking words written by me, and for which I am the clear holder of the copyright. I am working with said video on a machine I own. Every modern legal judgment concerning copyright, from the Berne Convention to the Betamax case, is on my side. AND I CAN'T MAKE A COPY DIRECTLY FROM THE DEVICE. This is because copyright laws do not exist to defend the moral rights of copyright holders -- they exist to help enforce artificial scarcity.

Copyright holders in my position, who want to use Creative Commons licensing to share material, are treated as pathological cases, because we're not behaving in the extortionate manner that current regulations are designed to protect.

I've gotten the copy another way, and the transcript will go up, but this is the state of the world, circa 2005: I can be prevented from copying my own words from my own devices, precisely because I want to share them freely, a use the law is perfectly prepared to regard as irrelevant.

Yes. Welcome to the copyfight. The scary thing is that more and more people are beginning to think it is NORMAL not to be able to do what Clay is upset about not being able to do.

5 Comments

At no time was Clay required to use DVD as the originating medium for his transcript. Quite frankly, it's his fault for picking a DRM-locked medium. In any event, as a comment on the eternally annoying BoingBoing pointed out, he can simply copy the files to his hard drive and convert them.

Normal? It's just about as normal as having to reboot a Microsoft computer every day, or see a BSOD. Why do normal people settle for this stuff.

I'm tempted to say "oh, grow up!". .

I had a similar experience with a clerk at an Office Depot who refused to make copies of blank copyright forms when I was doing all of my registrations a few years ago. You cannot copyright a government document, which this was, and you can't copyright a blank form because it lacks sufficent originality and is obvious.

This clerk (a perfect example of Wayne Dyer's dictum that "a clerk is a jerK") would not be moved.

So I went elsewhere to get the forms made, and made my copies of the completed forms there as well, and bought my office supplies there. I did go back to that Office Depot to let them know about the problem. The main manager was embarassed that I had been so poorly treated and that it had cost him some business.


But as pointed out above, you had other options for getting the work done. The law, as you yourself pointed out, respects your rights. Ignorant fear-ridden people who don't understand it and try to make one size fits all solutions are the problem here. It has nothing to do with the law and Creative Commons won't innoculate us against this kind of mindless, bloody-minded, stupidity.

Only pirates have a need to copy or otherwise access DVDs...

You should simply buy a $5,000 software package and buy a license from some copyright cartel, who will in turn compensate you for the duplication/editing of your performance.

You need to think of the real issue here: What would David Geffen or Jack Valenti do if the pirates steal DVDs?

See Apples I-Pod ... You can record a speech on it but you're not able to plug your I-Pod anywhere and place the mp3-file of your speech on a foreign desktop - because only a personalized I-Tunes is able to synchronize all mp3's on your I-Pod with 'your' i-Tines Files on 'your' PC/MAC. Sometimes you can only burn the whole stuff on a CD (only Audio-Track). At last, you must 'rip' your own CD to get your 'File' back - and belive it or not - they do. God thank i was born 1969 - i saw voice-recognition hardware an a Commodore C=64 in 1986, since years i only buy the hardware from the last year ... and i know how far we away from the bright future we expected, (as i pressed the power-button of my Commodore Amiga500 in 1991). today - i know how to divide the useless and the schameless hardware. Therefore i'm still a friend of things that work for me and not for the idea of selling content in a jail-box - to force me to think about going to jail if i open this box (; pandora-regards from Berlin, agee

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