. . . Feinstein

. . .

I sent this letter before I read about the increasing use of the DMCA as a convenient way to suppress web sites (link via BookNotes) without the bother of legal justification: a particularly clear example of the DMCA stripping rights away from US citizens and draping them around well-padded corporate shoulders.

Dear Senator Feinstein:

In recent news coverage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, I read the following quote from "Howard Gantman, a spokesman for Feinstein": "We need to protect copyrights and this law was designed to do that."

I find this attitude deeply troubling. Copyright was already well-established law, and laws are meant to be enforced, not protected. Human beings need to be defended and protected; laws do not, except in so far as legislators may try to defend a particular law against other legislators in debate.

If there's one common theme to the Bill of Rights, it's the need to protect American citizens from such "preventative" legislation. There's no doubt that police officers and public prosecutors would sometimes more easily enforce the law if those amendments, and other troublesome parts of the Constitution, could be conveniently dropped. But if those provisions did not exist, much too much added power would be gained by the wealthy and politically powerful at the expense of the relatively powerless. Our Constitutional protections help level the legal playing field.

The DMCA is a classic example of the kind of legislation that citizens need protection from:

  • It is based on a presumption by the powerful (large corporations) that the relatively powerless (the individual purchaser) is the guilty party in any dispute.

  • It specially privileges the rights of the wealthy (who can buy into patented encryption and distribution methods) over the rights of the less wealthy human beings who actually do the work of creating what corporate lawyers like to call "intellectual property" but who are unlikely to be able to afford the extra layer of protection.

  • In the name of protecting copyright and preventing piracy, it criminalizes human beings who have never themselves violated copyright or committed piracy.

Public domain and fair use are always under attack by large media companies, but defense of those concepts is absolutely essential to the cultural health and heritage of a nation. Profitability is the only rule that can be followed by a publicly-held corporation, but there are reasons besides profitability for making our culture and history available. (To take an example of special interest to California, much American film history will be forever lost over the next few decades: films deteriorate, inaccessible, in vaults because the multinational corporations which own them do not see sufficient profitability in making them accessible to the public.) Those non-profit-oriented reasons don't have a chance without public domain and fair use.

But the DMCA assumes that the best way to avoid disputes over public domain and fair use is to guarantee absolute power to the large media companies.

There is no requirement that a digitally protected work automatically unprotect itself once its content enters into the public domain.

There is no requirement for fair use workarounds to digital protection. On the contrary, even investigating such a workaround is criminalized.

There is no way for the consumer and scholar to protect themselves against the industry-driven shifts in media technology fashion which seem to take place every decade or so. To take another example from American film history, several of the great early sound movies of Ernst Lubitsch have never been released on VHS tape or on DVD, due to lack of anticipated profitability. They were, however, released briefly in the now-obsolete laserdisk format. Laserdisk players are getting rarer and more expensive, and will someday will be virtually unattainable. Purchasers of the Lubitsch laserdisks -- film schools, for example -- are able to preserve their investment by backing them up to another media format. If those disks had been copy-protected, the movies contained on them would effectively be lost to the public. Similarly, if 78 RPM records could have been copy-protected, there would be little left of the early history of jazz or blues by the time copyright restrictions ran out. Only the most consistently profitable works can survive such technological shifts.

There is no consumer protection against profit-gouging deals between large corporations. An early target of DMCA enforcers was software that allows DVDs to be played on the Linux operating system. Microsoft was able to cut a deal with the relevant media corporations, and thus gain extra leverage against any competitor; Linux, as a free operating system, could not. Should the manufacturer of a copy of a fifty-year-old movie really be given so much influence over the purchaser's home computer setup? Again, the DMCA criminalizes consumer protection.

Defense of our legal rights against the arbitrary rule of the powerful is what we look to our senators and representatives for. I believe that history will judge the DMCA as harshly as McCarthyism and the Alien and Sedition Acts. I urge the Senator to reconsider her support of this unjust and destructive legislation.

Ray Davis

. . .

Hungover by the chimney with care

Unlike myself, boing boing sobered up long enough to point to this interview-as-philippic from Lawrence Lessig:

"Copyright law silences speech. If the government wants to silence speech, it needs a very good reason. And if it doesn't have that reason, it should not silence my speech."
Incidentally (insignificantly, in fact), Dianne Feinstein's office finally sent a form letter response to my citizenly concerns about the DMCA and copyright extension; it turns out that I didn't realize the importance of intellectual property rights. Ho-K, Senator Feinstein!

I guess I should be grateful that they hadn't prefixed something about September 11 making Disney's and Universal's profits more imperative than ever....

. . .

Remember these names

The Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA) prohibits the sale or distribution of nearly any kind of electronic device -- unless that device includes copy-protection standards to be set by the federal government.... Joining [Fritz Hollings (D-South Carolina)] as co-sponsors of the CBDTPA are one Republican and four Democrats: Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), John Breaux (D-Louisana) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California). At a hearing last week, Feinstein showed her colleagues a pirated movie that she said an aide had downloaded from a file-trading service.
One of them sort of springs out, doesn't it? Few South Carolinians outside Senator Hollings himself are likely to feel particularly tied to either movie-corporation or software-corporation money. But Senator Feinstein continues to betray the commercial interests of her Bay Area home base (not to mention such non-bottom-line interests as intellectual freedom, consumer rights, and cultural history) in favor of entertainment moguls. Isn't it about time for the computer and networking industries to start supporting legislators who'll protect their rights and the rights of their customers?

Then there's Feinstein's tired dog-and-my-little-nightmare-pony show, the exact equivalent of saying "I recorded a movie from cable on my VCR last night, and therefore VCRs should be illegal," probably because the RIAA used exactly that argument back when they wanted to ban VCRs.

God, I'm sick of Feinstein and her RIAA friends flaunting their lives of crime. She might just as well brag about parking in a disabled-only space before insisting that all car engines be stoppable by remote control, or about shoplifting from a used book store before insisting that no bookstores be allowed to operate without strip searches, or about stealing candy from a baby before insisting that babies not be allowed candy, or about letting her vicious untrained dog bite a caterer before insisting that caterers buy and wear padded clothing at all times. (Actually, according to a caterer friend, that last one is true, except that Feinstein didn't suggest the padded clothing, just told the caterer to get back to work. Actually, from what I've heard of Feinstein, she's probably done all those other things too.)

Earlier in the month, I wrote to California's other senatorial product of the Bay Area Democratic political machine, Barbara Boxer:

I have been a lifelong Democratic voter. But as a writer, an engineer, and an American citizen, I am concerned enough by this issue for it to decide my vote in future California elections.
Boxer is a liberal on other issues, so I wouldn't enjoy voting against her. Feinstein's a different kettle of day-old fish: she would be a Republican if she'd started from anyplace other than San Francisco, where her initial power-grab was only made possible by the assassination of Mayor Moscone. She's propped by corporate funds, and some of the funding should migrate.

United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary "User Comments":
0 arguments for; 186 arguments against

. . .

The Mouse That Cleared

Only after I watched Michael Eisner chattering with John Travolta at last night's World Series game did it strike me that Scientology Inc. gains fully as much from copyright extension as Disney Corp. does, corporate copyright having provided its main legal recourse against its critics. Dianne Feinstein's Hollywood constituency includes churches as well as studios. Perhaps it's not mere unfortunate happenstance that Scientology has been such an early and extended applier of the DMCA?

Coming up next: applications of cyber-terrorism law!

Fun facts to know & tell: How dumb is Ray? For years, he vaguely believed that Michael Eisner had some connection with the Disney family. On closer analysis, this assumption proved to be based on associating the Disney logo with the signature of Will Eisner. And that's pretty dumb!

. . .

Ba-lue Mun-deii Ba-lues-Are

Steel smooths the ride

"Someone Wants You Dead"
World of Pooh

According to the wall clock, it was done at half-past five.
She must have pulled the cord out right before she died.
The gun was resting in her hand, suggesting suicide.
That would not account for the note left at her side
Which read:
Someone wants you dead.

It wasn't a big mansion with a garden in the back.
It was more an abandoned basement made into a flat.
She didn't have a Doberman; she didn't have a phone.
It was not the kind of place you want to live alone.
Not if
Someone wants you dead.

Bury the axe and clear the air.
There's always someone who hates you somewhere.
There'll always be someone who hates you somewhere.

I wish I could solve this crime, but nobody was there.
She was hit by accident by a bullet in the air.
It kind of goes to show you how you ought to keep aware.
You can never trust a bullet hanging in the air.
Not when
Someone wants you dead.

Bury the axe and clear the air.
There's always someone who hates you somewhere.
There'll always be someone who hates you somewhere.

On any serious political issue, at least half of American voters don't agree with you and a significant minority would like you to drop dead. With each strong opinion you hold, the number of voters who disagree with you and the number of voters who would like you dead grows. If you hold three or more strong opinions, no one you agree with will ever win a nationwide election. (Unless they've successfully hidden their intent.)

Since I hold at least three strong opinions, my vote is usually decided by who'd like me dead less. In a race between Dianne Feinstein and John McCain, say, I'd vote Republican, since they'd both like me dead but Feinstein works harder at it. Ralph Nader, too, would shuffle a grim pavan upon my grave.

On the other hand, although John Kerry isn't fond of me, he wouldn't go out of his way to do anything about it. Kerry for President!


On ya, Ray. Course, I'd always thought of voting in terms of who I'd like to see dead the least. In which case, yeah, yeah, whatever: Kerry for President.

A nobler algorithm, but I'm old enough to remember that voting for a presidential candidate doesn't necessarily lengthen their lifespan.

are you the ray davis-- who makes the manoala's???????????
be well
walk softly


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.