Fair Use Foes Lose Another Battle

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Last week, we brought you word of a very important victory for those who want to stem the loss of our Fair Use rights. ElcomSoft, a company that was being prosecuted for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), was found to be not guilty by a jury.

That represented the first serious dent in the DMCA, which has already been used by big media companies and large copyright holders to limit Fair Use rights to make copies of legally owned software and music; it even had a chilling effect on online free speech, when a US judge decided the DMCA made it illegal to even link to code which could decrypt a DVD. It has been remarked by civil libertarians that it is stunning that linking to something could be illegal in the US. The not guilty verdict for ElcomSoft, a company which made and sold a product that could decrypt Adobeis eBook format, was the first major court decision that didnit side with Big Media.

Today, there was another set back for the those companies who wish to control how and when you use content and software you legally purchase. Reuters is reporting that a deadline in Europe has passed with most EU countries having neglected to enact that bodyis version of the DMCA. This means that the media empires will have to start anew in their efforts to get legislation passed throughout the EU. From Reuters:

A deadline for adopting a new EU law on copyright protection has passed with just two member countries signing up, dealing a blow to media and software companies beset by unauthorized duplication of their works across the Internet.

"Itis a bit disappointing," Francisco Mingorance, European policy director for the Business Software Alliance (BSA) trade group told Reuters on Monday. "Obviously, this will delay the process."

The deadline for implementing the European Unionis Copyright Directive, a broad set of laws designed to better protect the distribution of film, music and software across the Internet and onto digital devices such as mobile phones, was Sunday night. Just Greece and Denmark have adopted the directive into local law, officials said.

With hopes dashed of having a strong copyright law in place for the start of 2003, media and software companies complain that they are largely unprotected from digital piracy, an activity they see as the biggest threat to their future. The BSA, a global body that counts among its members Apple Computer, Microsoft Corp, and Intel Corp, estimates the European software industry loses three billion euros ($3.09 billion) annually due to unauthorized duplication of its products.

[...]

The EU passed the directive in April. At the time it was seen as a big victory for copyright holders who wanted existing laws modernized to ensure they would be compensated for the digital distribution of their works.

[...]

The industry lobbyists have not convinced politicians that technological stop-gaps such as rights management tools, which would ensure a copyright holder is compensated each time his song is downloaded onto a mobile phone or a computer hard drive, would work or are necessary,

The full article includes comments from the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a trade group that counts Apple among its membership, as well as other information on this important topic.

Spin: At stake is not stopping piracy, but rather total control over how and when you use content on your computer. Most US politicians have been in the pocket of lobbyists whose political contributions finance their campaigns, and those politicians have been willing to completely sell out their populist constituencies in favor of those lobbyists. The result is that large copyright holders have been able to run roughshod over consumers in almost every case they have applied the DMCA, until now. Combined with Europe largely not falling line with the aims of copyright holders, it can be hoped that we are seeing the beginnings of the pendulum swinging back towards something approaching sanity in this area.

While we are on a tirade about this, write your local politician and find out his or her stance on these issues. Then, make sure you make it known to that politician where your vote will go based on that stand come the next election.

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