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Posts Tagged ‘Sita Sings the Blues’

DAY against DRM: Video

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 4, 2010

[Note: The subject is Video… sorry, it just occurred to me that folks may come her looking to see video rather than discuss it.]

May 4 - day against DRMTuesday May 4th has been designated the Day Against DRM by the Free Software Foundation.

“Today is about taking time out of your usual routine to speak out in favor of a DRM-free society. We do not have to accept a future where our interactions with computers and published works are monitored and controlled by corporations or governments.”

Defective By Design: Day Against DRM

Most people don’t know what DRM is, even if they’ve heard of it. Yet it is becoming an ever more prevalent component in our electronics, which are in turn becoming ever more prevalent in our lives.

DRM stands for digital rights management.

“Digital rights management (DRM) is a generic term for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices. The term is used to describe any technology that inhibits uses of digital content not desired or intended by the content provider. The term does not generally refer to other forms of copy protection which can be circumvented without modifying the file or device, such as serial numbers or keyfiles. It can also refer to restrictions associated with specific instances of digital works or devices. Digital rights management is used by companies such as Sony, Apple Inc., Microsoft, AOL and the BBC.

The use of digital rights management is controversial. Proponents argue it is needed by copyright holders to prevent unauthorized duplication of their work, either to maintain artistic integrity[1] or to ensure continued revenue streams.[2] Some opponents, such as the Free Software Foundation, maintain that the use of the word “rights” is misleading and suggest that people instead use the term digital restrictions management. Their position is essentially that copyright holders are restricting the use of material in ways that are beyond the scope of existing copyright laws, and should not be covered by future laws.[3] The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other opponents, also consider DRM systems to be anti-competitive practices.[4]”

Wikipedia

Boy sits in a tree reading.

I don’t have (and won’t have) a Kindle, for many reasons, but the Kindle provided one of the most ironic DRM stories. In the mistaken belief that George Orwell’s masterwork 1984 was in the public domain, Amazon released it as a Kindle book. Many people bought it. As it turned out, the book wasn’t in the public domain, so Amazon utilized their ability to access the Kindles of the people who had “purchased” the ebook and summarily removed them. People who hadn’t finished reading their copy suddenly no longer had one. People who had utilized the Kindle’s annotation feature lost their annotations with the ebook. Amazon did reimburse their customers. It was after all an honest mistake on their part; they had not known the book was not really in the public domain. But what this episode clearly illustrates is that the Kindle that people pay hundreds of dollars for, as well as the ebooks that they purchase from Amazon, are not under their own control.

If you were one of these customers who purchased the Kindle ebook reader and ebook, Amazon utilized their DRM capability to reach inside your Kindle and take back the ebook you had purchased in good faith.

ownership

Clearly, there is a failure to communicate. When we buy something, we believe we own it. The person or company we paid should no longer have any right to the product. They certainly should not have the right to come into our homes and take back the product we have purchased.

But DRM exists to allow the seller to control the product, and how we use the product, even after we have paid for it.

No one actually comes out and tells us in the store that we are buying goods that have been deliberately crippled with DRM.

If they did, customers might not buy them. But there is no ambiguity with retailers– they tell us they are selling us things, and we believe we are buying them.

But apparently the concepts of property ownership that have been prevalent in our society for centuries have suddenly changed. Yet people, customers, consumers have not been told about this. But we need to know about it. We need to understand it. And we need to give our informed consent.

But manufacturers, retailers and governments are not discussing it with us.

Over the past decade or so, instead of explaining to consumers that the rules of buying and selling have changed manufacturers have just been quietly putting DRM on products that we purchase. It is easier for them to cripple the technology than try to explain that they’ve changed the rules. After all, if customers know that the rules have changed, the very natural question is: what do we get out of it? The unfortunate answer to that is “shafted”.

video DRM

The first time I heard about DRM, it wasn’t called DRM, it was called “copy protection”. I heard that the Disney corporation had developed a method of preventing customers from copying the pre-recorded Disney video tapes. At the time, video was state of the art, and no one else was copy protecting movies. As near as I can figure it, the process made the signal of the video tapes too weak to copy well. There is just enough power to play on a television, but the signal strength was too weak to make copying possible. This copy protection was ostensibly to prevent bootlegging. The funny thing is, it didn’t. Although consumers are prevented from making a back-up copy of the movie they purchased, bootleggers always have state of the art equipment to get around DRM.

The speech balloon I added to Sita says "No DRM for Me" - Sita created by Nina Paley.

Click for larger image which can be printed as a 4×6 Day Against DRM mini-poster.

Although I never tried dubbing any of the Disney movies that I bought for my family, I came to this realization that this is roughly how VHS copy protection DRM works when I started copying my home movie video tapes onto DVDs on a VHS to DVD burner. If there are glitches in the video signal, or dropout, or “snow”, when I am copying video tapes the recording abruptly ends, the machine stops dubbing and notifies me that I do not have the right to copy this material. This is particularly infuriating because I certainly do have the right to copy my own home movies I have made onto my own DVDs.

computer DRM

My sister had a similar problem with her first VISTA computer. It would not allow her to copy photographs she’d taken of her own family onto her own computer, because VISTA believed she was infringing copyright.

DVD DRM

When video tape first came out, North American video tapes were recorded in NTSC and European tapes were recorded in PAL. This was a way to address the physical problem of different television technology. This was necessary because broadcast signal and the scan lines in television sets varied. Because we were already used to the fact that videotapes were different in different regions, I know I never questioned the idea that there would be region restrictions for DVDs.

But I’ve since learned that there is no physical reason for DVDs to have regional restrictions. This is another form of DRM. If I live in Canada, and purchase hundreds of DVDs, then move to Sweden, all of my DVDs would be worthless. So I would have to purchase them all over again.

cel phone DRM

We bought a set of family cel phones, but although the phones had many really great capabilities, they had been locked down and crippled, so that the customer was forced to do everything through the retailer’s website (very expensive). We returned them and went with a different company.

There are more DRMed products every day. Consumers must begin to tell manufacturers and governments “No DRM.”

Sita Sings the Blues: No DRM

cover art for SITA SINGS THE BLUES dvd

Filmmaker Nina Paley made a wonderful animated film using very old sound recordings that were clearly in the public domain. But big media “copyright reforms” have changed things so radically –by retroactively extending the copyright term which should have ended and placed the recordings in the public domain in the 1980’s– that somebody owns the particular rights – “synch rights” — which you need when using recorded music in a film. ”

The long and the short of it is that Nina Paley would have to pay had to pay gigantic sums of money in order to acquire these rights and release her film. Another alternative would be have been to throw out the film (a couple of years worth of classical animation). She instead decided to:

“pay $50,000 in license fees and another $20,000 in legal costs to make it so. That is why I am in debt. …

“Having paid these extortionate fees, I could have gone with conventional distribution, and was invited to. I chose to free the film because I could see that would be most beneficial to me, my film, and culture at large. A CC-SA license does not absolve a creator of compliance with copyright law. The law could have sent me to prison for non-commercial copyright infringement. I was forced to borrow $70,000 to decriminalize my film, regardless of how I chose to release it.

—Nina Paley, CORRECTION


chose the radical course of releasing her film under a creative commons license.

You can download the movie for free on Nina’s website: Sita Sings the Blues

You can learn more about the distribution at the Question Copyright “Sita Sings the Blues” Distribution Project

Just recently Nina Paley was offered an opportunity to distribute Sita on the American streaming site Netflix, who refused to run her film without their standard DRM. You can read all about it on Nina’s blog Although the money would have been helpful in paying off the film’s outstanding debt, Nina Paley turned Netflix down for ethical reasons.

Nina Paley believes that strongly that DRM is bad.


image credit: “No DRM for Me!” is a remix of part of this image from Nina Paley’s wonderful animated film “Sita Sings the Blues”.

A higher resolution version of this re:mix 4×6 mini-poster is available here: http://russwurm.org/bulletin/images/NOdrmFORme.jpg


For more links about Day Against DRM blogs posts and activities from all over the world, visit http://groups.fsf.org/wiki/Group:Day_Against_DRM_2010

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errata: A.C.T.A. is BAD

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 8, 2009

er⋅ra⋅ta
  /ɪˈrɑtə, ɪˈreɪ-, ɪˈrætə/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [i-rah-tuh, i-rey-, i-rat-uh]
–noun
1. pl. of erratum.
2. a list of errors and their corrections inserted, usually on a separate page or slip of paper, in a book or other publication; corrigenda.
Origin:
1625–35

Usage note:
Errata is originally the plural of the singular Latin noun erratum. Like many such borrowed nouns (agenda; candelabra), it came by the mid-17th century to be used as a singular noun, meaning “a list of errors or corrections to be made (in a book).”

–dictionary.com

analogy revision

It has been impressed upon me that it is better to create an additional blog post than to edit one which has already been published. So here are the (is the?) errata for A.C.T.A. is Bad.

I’ve had a few verbal comments about the two analogies I presented in respect of the Chicago woman arrested for trying to record “Twilight” on digital camera. The point I was initially trying to make was that the wrongheaded copyright laws are causing minor infractions to be unjustly treated as very large and serious crimes.

However it’s been pointed out to me that this woman wasn’t even committing an infraction so much as being a byproduct of daily life, a happenstance. Looked at in that light, she wasn’t in the wrong at all. At worst, she broke a theatre rule, which at most should have gotten her kicked out, not sent to jail.   So it was an error on my part to even suggest that she was legally in the wrong at all, as in the case of a teenager with a joint. Although smoking pot is only considered a minor crime, it is still clearly illegal in Canada. So, I needed to craft a more accurate analogy (as follows):

This is the equivalent of charging a teenager who has walked through a cloud of marijuana smoke as a drug dealer.

a second correction due to imprecision

A lack of clarity is more to blame for the problems with the second analogy than error. But the point is to communicate an idea, and if done too broadly it can result in a spectacular failure. The problem was with this:

“the child who swiped a tempting lollipop from the grocery store.”

In my mind I was picturing an innocent toddler in a stroller passing the lollipops (fiendishly placed at stroller height) and naturally the angelic baby reaches out for the temptation. The intent was to produce an illustration of a guileless infraction, entered into without any awareness of wrongdoing.

However it has been brought to my attention that “child” can just as easily bring to mind a practiced semi-professional young offender, so if that’s how you read it you’ll go away with a rather different idea than I intended, so that analogy doesn’t achieve the desired result.   (It is also an excellent argument for beta-readers.)

From a purely common sense point of view, there is no way that the product of this “infringing” recording would be commercially marketable to even the most die hard Twilight fan, so clearly there can be no demonstrable intent to bootleg the film, making the very charges a gross miscarriage of justice.

accidental recording

When I was writing the original I didn’t get into another area which will certainly lead to trouble for innocent citizens, because these absurdly punitive laws also criminalize accidental recording.

Since video cameras first appeared on the market it has always been extraordinarily easy to record accidental footage. I can’t tell you how many hours of video I have inadvertently recorded over the years of feet, floors, sky, or, my personal favorite, more than an hour of the zippered interior of the camera bag.

This is accidental footage, and it may very well contain inadvertent copyright infringement. When you are not aware that the camera is recording you could easily be playing a music CD.

One of my saddest moments as a videographer was when my son was spontaneously invited on stage to perform with an amazing local musical group at a Canada Day celebration. Although I stood on a picnic table (quite likely annoying the people sitting there) to record my child’s 15 minutes of fame, I was SURE I was recording. However, looking at the tape at home although there is an entire inadvertent documentary on the doings of the ants in the grass, the one thing that was NOT recorded was my child’s stage debut. (Fortunately the local paper took a picture, but still.)

Because it is as easy to not record when you want to as it is to record when you don’t want to.

Digital cameras are doing video so well now, but sometimes it is even easier to accidentally record on them.

What we need to realize is that the companies who are creating this technology we are using to record our daily lives are quite often the very same ones who want to send us to jail for what they call copyright infringement.

At this point, it is looking more and more dangerous for us to go to the movies. It will certainly be much safer to not buy or play commercial DVDs in our homes. After all, we might end up in jail as a result.

It is certainly safer to alter our habits and watch movies and listen to music produced by companies who do not want to put us in jail.

Movies like Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues or legal free music downloads available from the Pirate Party of Canada’s Canadian Pirate Tracker

Because 3 Strikes Laws & secret ACTA treaties are nothing more than a declaration of war on consumers.

chocolate frog*

With all of the bad copyright things going on, today Michael Geist’s blog provided Canadians with a most amazing chocolate frog:

Canadian Recording Industry Faces $6 Billion Copyright Infringement Lawsuit:

“ The defendants in the case are Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada, the four primary members of the Canadian Recording Industry Association.”

Like many of the people who commented on Mr. Geist’s home page, my attitude is that it looks good on them, and I for one expect the court to NOT go easy on them. As a cynic I expect the defense they will drag out is the “we can’t afford to pay what we owe or we’ll have to go out of business” plea. And sadly the judge/jury will probably fall for that.

Yet every one of those corporations are Canadian “branch offices” so there is no reason the mother companies couldn’t be convinced to contribute. Since these guys give no quarter to non-commercial infringement, as deliberate systemic commercial infringement they should get none, otherwise our government is condoning bootlegging which should be illegal and prosecuted.

Personally, I would rather see these corporations put into receivership if necessary. All the copyrights they hold could revert to living creators, the assets can be sold off, perhaps at fire sale prices to the technicians who actually did the hard work of pressing disks and distribution.

Maybe this is just what we need to jump start the digital music industry. Artists who have established a following can enter equitable agreements with the music distribution companies who will not own the soul (or copyright) of the creators in the manner of a “company store”. Because after all its better for our talented musicians and songwriters to do the work they are suited for. This could be the beginnings of a GOOD music industry, and a celebration of Canadian musical culture not seen in this country since the 1930’s. Bravo.

[*Chocolate Frog:   Sorry, no actual chocolate here, or frogs either for that matter. My family watches the end credits of movies all the way to the end, and are sometimes rewarded for doing this by way of a bonus scene at the end, usually something to make me smile. After reading the Harry Potter books we started calling this a “Chocolate Frog” because it was an unexpected extra.]

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