Mr. Chiariglione Responds to Don Marti's Last Letter

by Leonardo Chiariglione

After our several conversations over the last month, I thought we understood each other as two technologists working to push forward frontiers of knowledge using pretty much the same tools. I thought that I had met a colleague who shared the same goals, while possibly disagreeing on the way to reach them. And I had hoped we had opened the door to free and open technological discourse.

Your letter changes that view and, in my mind, puts you in unexpected company. Rather than someone who, like me, is looking to technology to solve thorny issues, you now seem to be aligned with people who fear technology and seek to restrain its use. As I read your latest letter, your approach seems to call for a halt to any problematic technology. I say this because based on your letter, your answer to issues some have seen as raised by SDMI seems to be: Does SDMI prevent people from exercising their fair use rights? Then ban SDMI. Let's take that argument to its logical extension. Does MP3 enable people to make illegal use of copyrighted music? Then ban MP3. Has MPEG-4 started enabling people to do the same with video? Then ban MPEG-4. Will MPEG-7 offer the possibility for people to increase the scale of illegal use of copyrighted content? Then ban MPEG-7. Does file sharing enable people to increase the scale of illegality in the use content to the masses? Then ban file sharing protocols or, while we are at that, protocols in general.

I do not want to be part of that company. As much as, wearing my MPEG hat, I reject the claims that come from some quarters that technology for content digitisation, compression and description should be put "under control," I reject the witch hunt that seems to be waged against content protection.

Let me make this clear: I think the questions that you raise are important. But I do not think that one technologist asking another technologist these questions gets us anywhere. I am not a lawyer, and especially not versed in American law. Technology is universal, but the concept of user rights is, unfortunately, not universal in either space or time. Today in my country I cannot make a photocopy of a few pages of a printed book, while in the U.S. this appears to be protected under "fair use," a doctrine of the American legal tradition. Before the invention of printing, people copied manuscripts at will. But the invention of printing made the English Parliament issue the first copyright law that prohibited the unauthorised reprinting of books.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that there must be a good balance between the rights of the different players: authors, publishers, retailers, consumers, etc. But the stance you have taken puts you in an awkward position. MPEG and SDMI are technologies. From a fellow technologist I expect that they would be considered for what they are: Technologies. Let's leave to others the profession of issuing anathemas.

With kind regards,Leonardo Chiariglione

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