Monday, July 8, 2002

This CARP tastes funny.

Slashdot points out that Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA) is introducing
legislation to prohibit CD copy protection. The bill would have several other effects, most of which appear to strengthen fair use rights (!).

It's funny--as stupid and counterproductive as music copy
protection is, the Libertarian in me wonders if it should really be illegal. After all, if enough consumers object to the constraints of copy protection, won't market forces keep it in check? And if you don't like the constraints a company puts on their product, don't buy their product. Why should the government intervene? Let the market decide!

It took me longer than I'd like to admit (several minutes) before I snapped out of that. Having grown up in a world dominated by intellectual property, it's easy to forget
that companies aren't completely free to do what they want with information. (They certainly act as if they are.)

When a company chooses to sell information as a product, they are exercising the privilege of copyright. The grant of copyright comes with limitations, and so the method of sale and delivery must conform to those limitations. When a company cripples your fair use rights, they aren't choosing a valid marketing strategy--they're breaking the law.

It sure would be nice if the above argument were applied, in legislation, to region encoding of DVDs.

In any case, there's a good chance the Boucher legislation won't get far, but it's refreshing to see copyright legislation that focuses on use rights rather than enforcement measures.

1 comment:

  1. Wish I could remember which economic treaty it was that DVD region encoding was violating. There's some international economic arrangement that precludes pricing the same product differently in different areas, and DVD region encoding violates that nicely. So I believe that region encoding is also, in fact, illegal, at least internationally. But then, region encoding doesn't mean a lot if it's all domestic, right?