What Mr. Chiariglione Isn't Saying

by Don Marti

Dear Mr. Chiariglione,

Isn't that nice. SDMI customers may continue to have some of the same abilities to make legitimate personal use of copyrighted music that we now have with CDs.

But here are a couple of words I didn't see in your letter. Fair use. First sale doctrine. All the little legal rights that the owner of a copy now has under copyright law that SDMI will take away.

I challenge you to say this, Mr. Chiariglione. Say it with a straight face. Ready? "SDMI will not deprive music listeners of any legal rights that they now have under copyright law."

Let me hear you say that, and I'll shut up about SDMI. Until then, if you're just proposing a technical regime to take legal rights away and then offer some of them back as a gift, well, you're trying to create your own privatized copyright code, and I won't participate.

And are SDMI copying restrictions going to magically disappear when the copyright expires? Of course not. A society that accepts SDMI will be forever silent to listeners in centuries to come. Musicians should think about that before buying into SDMI. A Dark Age is a time from which no written works survive. Why make ours the Silent Age?

I share your desire to establish new business models to replace the antiquated record company system and make it possible for more musicians to earn a living. But your approach is a moral and technological dead end. The computer industry tried "copy protection" schemes and has largely given them up, because they annoy legitimate users and don't slow criminals down.

Let me include the required Napster disclaimer here. Just because I believe SDMI is wrong doesn't mean I support Napster. I hope Napster goes away. They're a parasite company that has taken a huge pile of money from venture capitalists and done little or nothing for music. I hope the venture capitalists involved lose all their money and learn their lesson.

Historically, until the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, US copyright law has done a good job of balancing the interests of copyright holders and music listeners. SDMI does no such thing. Although I will not make illegal copies of copyrighted music, I will support audio equipment manufacturers and musicians who choose to reject SDMI, as well as the hackers who will inevitably bypass SDMI copy restrictions for legitimate purposes.

Sincerely,Don MartiTechnical Editor, Linux Journal

Load Disqus comments