European DMCA

Nick Hockings s96121272 at
Wed Aug 1 18:23:28 UTC 2001

Quoting E L Tonkin:
> 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
> fileallocation table? Granted that it details where to find your
> information,the table itself really isn't yours at all... it's data,

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but this is my understanding of the law:-
(If anyone knows better, please correct me :)

This data (in the file-allocation table) is created by the user. It is a product 
of him collecting files on his hard drive. It is impossible for the company to 
say they wrote it. If they had written it, they would be able to tell you what 
they wrote, without first checking  the users's computer. Therefore the data is 
copyright to the user.

> built up by the company that makes your OS, using an algorithm they 
> copyrighted. 

You can't copyright algorithms, they are the wrong type of concept to come under 
copyright. If a proprietary algorithm were protected by copyright that would be 
easy to circumvent: just paraphrase it. Then you have not copied the author's 
words/musical notes/programming code.

What companies sometimes manage is to patent algorithms. This is against the 
statute of patent law in most of europe, but unfortunately companies, courts and 
most of all patent offices have disregarded this restriction. (see links on FSFE 
site wrt patents) 

Patents are a very serious threat to freesoftware and to ecconomic development 
generally. A patent is a government granted monopoly making it illegal to offer 
the same type of service or product. What is even worse is that international 
trade treaties often bundle the right to trade with extension of these 
monopolies into other countries. eg US gov issues monopoly to US company, now 
all countries wishing to sell anything at all in the US must grant the same 
monoploy to the same US company. This applies not only to their
exports to the US, but to their domestic market as well. (Like the East India 
company without the steam trains!)

> 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...

So long as you can show that this is necessary to retrieve the infromation 
created by the user you should have a good defence. But either way it makes a 
good argument for businesses not to use a non-free O/S. Non-free = weak 
encryption, that locks the user in, while failing to protect him.
Generally I agree with you though: non-free software copmpanies will use every 
means they can contrive to lock in their clients, and destroy anyone who tries 
to break their racket.

> 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. 

I doubt any existingpublishing houses will convert, that would mean throwing 
away their invested capital before it had lost all its value. Here it is a case 
of if you can't join them, beat them. is here and its part of 
the GNU project. 

> I'm no fan of proprietary software.  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. 

This is the same material that was in paper books and video-cassettes. It was 
never free. It comes from the time when copying was expensive, so copyright was 
a practical way to pay for publication as well as printing. Most of itis still 
sold at less per hard copy, than per e-book user license. 

The digital format of choice for free content is XML, and it is better than any 
proprietary format I know of.
> 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?

There is a very large amount of material produced by teachers and lecturers for 
their students that is not published. These authors have nothing to loose  in 
contributing to free e-books. Indeed they stand to reduce their current 
duplication of effort and get a much better product. The means is available to a 
significant number of them to collaborate with one another and programmers by 
email. It would take a modest effort by a small fraction of educators to rapidly 
produce the ebooks they need. 

What we need to do is take the concept to them, and provide the technical 
support. Such a high profile "good-work" should not be hard to raise funds for. 
Nupedia is there, but at the moment it is a fledgling. What is lacking at 
present is a recruiting drive to persuade educators everywhere to contribute 
what they already produce.

Nick Hockings

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