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RE: [dvd-discuss] Movie Downloads, automatically illegal?

On Wed, 31 Jul 2002, Richard Hartman wrote:

> > Converting
> > the video myself would be decidedly inconvenient, since the movie is
> > nearly 8 hours long.
> Inconvenient or not, that is the fair use right you
> actually have.

True, but given that I have the legal right to view the film (obtained
when I bought the copy), plus the fact that I have the legal right to
transfer it to any medium I choose, why couldn't I view the movie in a
format that someone else (instead of me) did the conversion?

Obviously, I could pay someone to convert the video for me.   In this
case, someone else has converted it for me free of charge.   Where is the
copyright violation?

> > Is it illegal for me to download the movie from the internet
> > and burn it
> > to VCD so that I can watch the movie when I take my laptop camping?
> > (assuming the video is viewed in private and is not publicly
> > performed)
> That depends upon the service ...


The fair uses exist without the authority of a copyright holder.  Why
should someone need the copyright holders permission?  Someone with more
legal background could probably cite some cases here, but the courts have
said that copyright is only constitutional with the safety valve of fair
use intact.   Otherwise, what could compel (for example) the church of
scientology to grant permission for people to criticize their teachings?

> Well, if a service run by the studio can allow you do download
> the digital version after somehow verifying that you own it on
> another media ... that's up to them.  It was the concept behind

You're talking about technical means of verifying ownership.  I'm talking
about the legal process of purchasing something, which grants you the
right to use it irregardless of technical means.

As another example (pre-DMCA), someone was free to hack the copy
protection out of a product to make installing it more convenient - as
long as they owned a copy of the product.

> one of the online music services (I forget which one) ... they
> would allow you to download the MP3'd content of a CD once they'd
> verified that you had access to the CD yourself, so in theory they
> weren't providing you with something you didn't already have access
> to, they were merely providing a convenience service.  (IIRC they
> eventually got shot down ... but that argument _does_ sound like
> a good place to start if handled correctly.)

That was MP3.com's musicplay system I think.

My point is that the authentication "stuff", whatever its form, does not
alter the legal fact that you own a copy of something or you don't.

An example in software:  I own a copy of MS-DOS 5.0.  It's on a 5.25
floppy, which I can no longer read in my computer.  Just because my
computer can't technically verify my ownership, does NOT mean that I am
any less an owner.

> Otoh, most pirate servers these days make no effort to control
> access to the digitized movies by first checking to see if you
> have a copy ...

If there was some sort of click through arrangement which required the
user to assert their ownership of a copy of the downloaded work, would
that change anything?

> therefore _they_ are violating copyright by
> distributing something which they have no right to distribute
> to people who quite likely don't have the space-shifting argument
> on their side.  Hence: illegal.

Ok.   Now, at what point does it become "legal"?  When 30% are space
shifting?  50%?  90%?

My point is that regardless of the legal to illegal ratio, using sony vs
betamax as a guide, the technology is not illegal if there is any legal
use for it.

> > Does the legal status change if I have a DVD drive in the laptop?
> Mebbe.  (see above)

Why?   Technically, things are different in that I'm living my life the
way the MPAA would prefer, but legally - nothing has changed!

> >At
> > home?  What if I just don't want to bring my valuable DVDs
> > with me to a
> > public campground?
> Then you don't watch them at the campground?

:-)  Or just do what everyone else does and ignore stupid laws.

In Minnesota, unmarried and oral sex are both illegal.

Imagine if they tried to enforce those.   Prison for a year and 3,000
fine for what is essentially nobodys business.  Imagine if the state
wanted to "hack into people's houses" to make sure couples weren't
committing this horrible crime.   Why should the MPAA & RIAA be any

> > What if I already wrecked a DVD of mine (leaving it in a hot tent,
> > probably), and just want to obtain a replacement copy of a
> > movie I already
> > own?
> What about that book you dropped in the bathtub?
> What about that car that you drove into a ditch?
> Replacement costs are on the consumer.

The book I dropped in the bathtub, whatever condition it is in, did convey
to me the right to read the story.  So, I should be legally able to copy
the book from someone else who has it.   The economics of the situation
would probably not favor this outcome, but I can see nothing legally wrong
with doing so, if I choose to.

A car is a completely different situation because it cannot be copied.
If I were to invent a machine capable of copying a car, then my argument
would still apply.  I broke my car, I had the right to use that model of
car, so if I copy someone else's car that is the same model, paying the
cost of dupication, I should be free to create and use a copy of the car.

It's not that far fetched.  There are already high-tech printers which can
create a colored plastic object directly from an autocad file.

> > It seems a little less black and white to me.
> There are definately some _consumer_ issues to be dealt
> with ... but as for the people currently _distributing_
> the movies over the internet, it is black and white.  _They_
> don't have the right to do that, regardless of whether we
> can argue that you have the right to have it.

Again, what percentage of people must be legitimate to allow the
process to go forward?  Even if 99% of people are verified owners of
copyrighted works, there are still 1% who are not.

> everyone believes > them without even considerting the situation.

> Unless you are dealing with somebody who has the right
> to give you a copy, then the copying _is_ illegal.

So how does a used bookseller gain the rights to distribute their books?
They certainly don't have permission from the publishers!

> Right.  That's why we want to be able to bypass
> "technological protection measures" w/o being tossed
> in the can ... because there _are_ legitimate reasons
> for doing so.  Ripping your own DVD for space shifting
> is one of them.
> However, _distributing_ material that you do not own
> the rights to is _not_ one of those legitimate uses.

But, I do own my copy of the work, and I have no way of knowing that the
downloader is not also a legitimate owner of a copy of the work.  The
music has already been "distributed" - via sale of the CD at a store via
normal channels.

If I required a signed affidavit from each downloader, stating that they
owned (for example) a CD title prior to downloading, in theory, I would
only be operating a space-shifting service which just happens to be free.

The music was distributed by the sale of the media, by the copyright
holder - not me.

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