Many Linux and open source advocates are upset about verdict on the MPAA vs 2600 DeCSS criminal case. Many people blame this exclusively on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This law was passed in congress in 1998 and gives copyright holders previously unmatched rights. I believe that if there is anything holy and fair in this country, that this slanted law will rejected by the copyright office, struck down by the supreme court, and protested into oblivion by anyone who takes five minutes to understand the numerous loopholes and the agenda represented by those loopholes.

But this isn't just about the DMCA.

The DMCA could have never been poised to do so much damage if it weren't for the other regular abuses of the American people, abuses that should have never been tolerated. The post purchase contract or license, and the extension to the time a party is allowed an exclusive control otherwise known as copyright are the real problem.


Laws like the "Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act" have been extending copyright, (20 years in this case) in a fashion destructive to consumer and the artist. The original lifespan of copyright was 14 years, now it is life of the author plus seventy. Most people are unaware of this or think it is OK. It is not.

When copyright was created the idea was compromise. A reasonable amount of time to make enough money to offset printing costs and to make a fair profit. It was targeted specifically at books and maps. The idea was extended to provide a good living for artists and eventually song writers and movie makers and even computer programmers. This is all good. copyright is a moral idea, if you create something you get a government granted monopoly on that thing for period of time. It allows a person to dedicate their time to developing their skills of expression with out the risk of someone walking away with their creation and selling it as their own.

Copyright works do not compete during their monopoly period. If you do not want to break the law you adhere to the terms the author sets, or you don't view/use/listen to it. This is OK so long as information is not vital to the health of the society at large and someone else offers it. Over time, we have extended the monopoly period, and some companies began collecting Intellectual Property as a revenue source. It has gotten to the point that frighteningly few ideas in our society is not owned by some company. Some refer to this as pop culture.

Ideas go stale and die. Few complain about the communists anymore, most people publicly abhor drugs and wild sex, and I don't see much about the trickle down theory either `;), but copyrights don't fade away they just sit, accumulating more money with every movie remake and sometimes without one. Information needs to compete with the prospect that it will go stale. Only novel ideas contribute in a big way, but then why are we paying big bucks for the same old shows on cable?

Most people think artists benefit from the copyright extensions. Did you know the typical musician gets only a few cents a Compact Disc, and they only cost a few cents to make? Sure, Billy Joel or Madonna get a few dollars per CD, they are held up as examples of success. Such examples are rare. If copyright were reduced back down to 14 years, Record companies, Movie studios, publishers and every other kind of distributor would have to compete with the prospect that in 14 years anyone could compete with them, selling the exact same thing. Not so novel ideas look a lot less appealing, and unfair contracts not so binding.

Copyright's purpose used to be to protect the time and money of writers and the owners of the printing presses. Inevitably middlemen and distributors did get involved, but had to work against the clock. Now those same middlemen name whatever terms they want because they know that they will be dead before you can get their product through anyone else. The power that companies wield over artists seeking distribution and consumers who want to hear what the artist has to say is absolute. What better way to silence voices than to own the microphone wire through which they speak.

In a world of the 14 year copyright the MPAA would be far less likely to try to force you to adhere to their latest copyright license money grab. Policies like "You can't fast forward through the commercials", and "charge them as much as they can afford according to where they live." Would result in boycotts rather than complacency. This is what they are trying to do with DVDs, and any group of consumers could protest until they died and see no end to it. What recourse does a consumer have but civil disobedience? Perhaps if humans were immortal there would be no such dilemma.

Contract law

Are shrink wrap licenses legal? The question of the legal status remains unanswered. That unanswered question seems to have inspired to use contract lawyers and copyright lawyers to attempt unprecedented control not only over how copyrighted work is distributed but viewed. Some clear legal defense is needed here, the bad guys are getting meaner and the "Accepted Practice" for license and contract law just don't cut it.

The typically unviewed licenses that accompanies DVDs and DVD Players are setting an terrible precedent.

As an example, shrink wrap licenses are the cause of much pain to the typical computer professional. The business that uses software with such a license may actually have to adhere to it's absurd terms or face prosicution. In contrast, most consumers are rarely prosecuted, unless they are a political target like 2600 magazine. Isn't that one of the constitutions main themes, protecting potential political targets against things like torture, high bail or soldiers in their house?? A new article to Uniform Commercial Code could do the job, but if UTICA continues on the path to acceptance we may need constitutional power to threaten those who would strip us of our right examine a contract before entering into it.

Here's what an amendment might look like.


Article XXVII

Section 1.

A contract or license can not be binding until after the full text of said contract or license has been made available to all parties prior to any otherwise binding agreement. The availability of the contract or license text is the full responsibility any and all who are offering a good or service that are part of the exchange in the contract or license.

Section 2.

Failure to make the full text of a contract or license available prior to agreement of all parties on it's terms will void all terms of said license or contract.

Section 3.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Sorry if the legalize isn't thick enough, I wanted it to be clear. Comments are welcome.

It's to bad they didn't think of adding this in amendment XIII (Ending slavery.)

Some internet advocites have displayed a lack of understanding of how to lobby, or how to work the legal system. This paper is my attempt to mend this lack of solidarity. When a party decides to push some legislation through Congress, do you think they propose the law they would like to see passed, or do they create an extreme law and prepare to bargin down. Democrats, Republicans, the MPAA, the RIAA, even the AARP hit the ground running on one platform one view and one extreme draft of how the law should be. Most lobbiest groups overstep their bounds and then perform a backstep or two in the name of `comprimise'. It's time we did the same.

A republic is all about what people think is OK. That's why it is IMPORTANT we change peoples minds. But if we are even the slightest bit wishy-washy even five minutes to midnight, when we finally do bargan, the bill will be passed with 10 rider bills and no teeth. We need teeth and we need to bite them where it hurts! Only when the internet community rips some aggressors antique business model to shreads for trying to cage it, will the status quo leave the internet alone.

We should remember the DMCA is not our only source of trouble. You might even find like I did that the evils we have long known are far more dangerous and a firm foundation for the DMCA and UTICA. Without the legs of absurd copyright stay and the post purchase contract/license agreement, this insidious empire would not have the strength to declare war on the American people. We need to acknowledge what laws gave these middlemen strength and attack them there. We will regain choice back only after we change our legal landscape. When we return copyright to its original state, the artists and world will thank us for it.

If you understand this, and you understand why the cost of digital data transfer and storage is growing neglegable, you understand why they look at the Internet and it's spawn Linux with mortal fear.

Matthew Newhall