Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

TCS: Tech - Tipping Their Hand

Tipping Their Hand
By Glenn Harlan Reynolds

For years now, I've been saying that the record industry's long-term legislative strategy had less to do with preventing copying than with sewing up the market to ensure that Big Entertainment companies won't have to worry about competition from independent artists. It looks like I've just been proven right.

The proof comes in the form of a bill sponsored by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) that would make it a crime to fool "digital rights management" systems, even if doing so were for a legal purpose. Here's how the bill would work:

Biden's new bill would make it a federal felony to try and trick certain types of devices into playing your music or running your computer program. Breaking this law--even if it's to share music by your own garage band--could land you in prison for up to five years. And that's not counting the civil penalties of up to $25,000 per offense. "Say I've got an MP3 collection and I buy a new nifty player from Microsoft that only plays watermarked content, and I forge the watermark to allow my legal MP3 collection to play," says Jessica Litman, who teaches intellectual property law at Wayne State University. "
What they're trying to do is to create a system that's not so much proof against copying - a mostly impossible task anyway - as a system that's very unfriendly to content that comes from anyone other than Big Media suppliers. It's not about copying. It's about competition.

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