European DMCA

E L Tonkin py7elt at
Wed Aug 1 02:10:32 UTC 2001

On Tue, 31 Jul 2001, Nick Hockings wrote:

> Quoting E L Tonkin <py7elt at>:

> > As far as reverse engineering and so on goes, this directive puts far
> > too
> > much power in the hands of companies since all they really have to do
> > (from previous behaviour, at least) is to add some kind of encryption,
> That depends who holds copyright on the information that is encrypted.
> Generally this is the author or the author's employer. 
> Thus nobody's personal correspondence or business data could become 
> copyright to a non-free software company.
> The only things that could be "protected" by lousy encryption would be 
> things released as non-free software or data.

Ah, but in my example, the information that would be copyright to you
would be held in the files on the disk. But who has copyright to the file
allocation table? Granted that it details where to find your information,
the table itself really isn't yours at all... it's data, built up by the
company that makes your OS, using an algorithm they copyrighted. Can you
read your information without decrypting the FAT? Would it be legal to
decrypt? Remember, you aren't decrypting your files at all... you're
playing with the encoding that the OS designer used, which isn't really
far from reverse engineering it...

As I mentioned, if the OS designer had a plausible reason for claiming
that the FAT should be encrypted ('it's a secure OS') then you've moved
from accessing your own files to attempting access to information that was
intended to be encrypted, which furthermore doesn't really belong to you,
even if it IS holding information about files which do. Which, as my dear
father would say, is another kettle of kippers entirely.

And if you decided to publish your FAT decrypter, you'd really be breaking
the law. Remember, it's supposed to be encrypted. They wanted it to be
secure. It's a copyrighted, patent, secret, and just about anything else
you can imagine system for secure storage of data, and you (naughty
person) are attempting to crack their system ;-)

If they wanted to prosecute that one, I suspect they could. 

> Remember we are not here to promote the use of non-free ebooks or software.
> If non-free stuff is nasty to use, that's good for freesoftware.
> What we need to do is make free apps, ebooks etc to fill the needs of 
> all potential users. This is a recruiting oportunity. 

This is true. Hands up for volunteers to staff the first Free ebook
publishing house. On the other hand, my experience in the industry is
enough to persuade me that to get into ebooks, the first people you'd need
to recruit would be heavily into marketing - you need to start by
explaining to the distributors why free ebooks are a good idea. They'll
automatically assume you're trying to undermine their sterling work (which
you are) and make it even harder. 

Don't misunderstand; I'm no fan of proprietary software. I don't intend to
use it when I can avoid it. However, content is another matter. Our
culture is increasingly dependent on digital media. Inaction will simply
permit the companies producing audio, data, and video content to make
deals and tie up the digital distribution in encrypted, copyrighted form.
If you wish to walk away from the entire future of all copyrighted
distribution because you don't need it, you're ignoring the fact that many
people don't have that choice. 

Even basic literacy and general knowledge depend on books, video, and
audio content. Is it right that the DMCA constrains them to pay their
"Microsoft tax" before accessing them?


// OLDSIG "All bad art is the result of good intentions." - Oscar Wilde 

/* START NEWSIG */ Processor: (n.) a device for converting sense to
nonsense at the speed of electricity, or (rarely) the reverse.  - Tonkin's
First Computer Dictionary

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