Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Public comments on proposed DMCA classes

Public comments on the proposed DMCA classes are up. I had the great privilege of working with EFF’s Corynne McSherry on the noncommercial remix exemption.  The comment of EFF and the Organization for Transformative works is here.  I believe we put forward a strong case to continue the protection of political and artistic speech.
Special thanks to Jeremy Sheff for contributing a comment in support of the academic use exemption, and to the National Congress of American Indians for supporting the remix exemption.  The EFF also provided petition-like language for individuals to use to support the exemptions, and many did.  Most simply signed on to the suggested language (with a few specifically noting that they did so because it accurately reflected their views), but I noticed some interesting patterns in the comments nonetheless.
First of all, except for the vidders, the commenters overwhelmingly use male names.  Perhaps more interesting is what people add to the proposed text: there’s a lot of work to be done here about the lay concept of ownership, often claimed as a trump to both contract and law. Another common theme is the importance of tinkering to learning and innovation. I picked Ryan Crabtree’s additional comments as representative:
Suggested text:
Copyright was designed to encourage creativity and fuel innovation. But it's being abused to do exactly the opposite. Every single day, copyright law is twisted to stifle creativity, limit consumer choice, dismantle property rights, and chip away at our digital freedoms. I should have the right to remix, modify, and repair the things that I own. As electronics are integrated into every kind of product, please consider the needs of consumers as well as rights holders.
Added by Crabtree:
Think of it in terms of educational evolution. I didn't discover or develop Algebra; I had to learn from the building blocks of those ahead of me. The same is true for anything else. Having just registered for the first classes of my MBA, I can assure you that I have not discovered much of anything! I've held onto the coattails of many amazing minds before me. My point is this: if I am to learn about the operating systems of my phone or video game system (for example), I will be greatly hindered without access to said operating system software. Perhaps I am developing security software as a small startup or research outfit, criminalizing tinkering will only hinder progress and advancement. We need to have access and freedom to not only learn, but also to fix our own items. If I have paid for something and own it completely, I cannot fathom how I should be limited to what I can do with it. This kind of stranglehold on freedom goes against the very idea of American ingenuity and exceptionalism. Let us become more and more exceptional as time moves forward.
Finally, I wanted to single out the comments of vidder Laura Shapiro, so they don’t become lost in the crowd:
People watch remix videos the way they watch television now: on a big screen far away, or on a small screen close-up. Either way, low-resolution footage is noticeable and undesirable. I don't want audiences to be seeing pixels, I want them to be seeing what I'm saying. My message can't come through in a clear, engaging manner when viewers are struggling to read it around video artifacts in low-resolution shots. Give me high-quality, high-resolution footage for my remixes to ensure my audiences see and understand what I'm saying.

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