From the Editor - Freedom, the 64-bit Way

by Don Marti

Freedom and DVDs, unfortunately, make an explosive combination. In the US, a judge cited the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in a decision banning our technology journalism colleagues at 2600 from even linking to one DVD-descrambling program, DeCSS.

In other countries, though, whether you can play DVDs on your Linux box depends on whether you let your government impose a DMCA-like law. Today, the UK Campaign for Digital Rights ( and other organizations are trying to prevent DMCA-like laws from taking effect in Europe.

While the legal sniping continues, we're getting more and better free, open-source DVD software for Linux. Dave Phillips covers his favorite players and some DVD-playing tips on page 42. Ian Pointer shows how to make your own DVDs with menus and background music on page 50. By the time DVD-playing software for Linux comes under attack outside the US, it won't be merely a C program on a Web site. As Linux desktop adoption continues to grow, DVD software for Linux will run on millions of desktops that users take for granted.

And, those users are voters and jurors too. A California jury acquitted Elcomsoft, a Russian software company that developed software to convert proprietary “e-books” to open formats, of DMCA charges. That's not surprising, considering that California jurors probably are used to desktop applications and don't think selecting “Save as...” from the File menu is a crime. Jury foreman Dennis Strader told the San Jose Mercury News, “Under the eBook formats, you have no rights at all, and the jury had trouble with that concept.”

It's hard to sell a product without a demo, and freedom needs a demo too. So it's a race. Can freedom lovers deploy software that gives people a chance to experience their digital rights before governments take those rights away? Congress' attempt to impose mandatory digital rights management in the US didn't go anywhere, so the incredibly versatile effects builder Pure Data (page 60) is safe for now, as is the jukebox at Chez Marcel (page 24). The more people are used to doing something, the harder it would be to take away.

Gaining an ally in the struggle for freedom and justice—what better reason to build someone a Linux system? When you read Glenn Stone's article on page 36, build an Ultimate Linux Box for a family member or friend, too. The Ultimate Linux Box gets to be more of a bargain every year, even as we add 24/96 audio and move up to the 64-bit AMD64 architecture. Turn up the volume, put on some Oggs, break out the power screwdriver and enjoy this issue.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal.

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