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Old 05-09-2013, 11:14 PM   #1
Ninjalawyer
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Proposed Legislation Would Legalize Removal of eBook DRM in U.S.

There's an interesting story here at Ars Technica about a proposal to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the "DMCA") in the U.S. to allow a person to break a digital lock on a piece of media if they're not doing so to facilitate copyright infringement. The example in the article of something that this amendment would make legal is ripping DVDs for personal use, but another obvious example is removing DRM from an eBook for personal use.

For those unaware of the issue, the DMCA provides that:

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No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title...
The effect of the above is to make it illegal to remove DRM from a movie, eBook or piece of software that a person has legally bought, whether or not they would otherwise be permitted to do so under copyright law. The provision has been used in a lawsuit against a magazine, to make threats against Princeton Professor Edward Felten's team of researchers, and as part of a prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov.

I'm not American, but I find the proposed amendment very interesting as Canada adopted somewhat similar anti-circumvention rules in its Copyright Act due to pressure from the U.S.
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Old 05-10-2013, 12:17 AM   #2
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I really don't mind DRM. I personally this will do more damage than help. People are going to start pulling DRM off things they really shouldn't be. It's good for those who want to read material on different readers, but not for those that enjoy Whispersync and actively use it for example.
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Old 05-10-2013, 12:27 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Jessica Lares View Post
I really don't mind DRM. I personally this will do more damage than help. People are going to start pulling DRM off things they really shouldn't be. It's good for those who want to read material on different readers, but not for those that enjoy Whispersync and actively use it for example.
I'm pretty sure that most people who follow the ins and outs of copyright law will be aware not to fiddle too much with books they're trying to sync through proprietary systems. And if they're not, they can always re-download any books they've deDRMed if they run into problems. I really don't get why you think this is a dealbreaker.
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Old 05-10-2013, 03:04 AM   #4
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Unless i'm stupid enough to put the books where i removed DRM on the internet for everyone to download, how's gonna sue me for this anyway ?

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I really don't mind DRM. I personally this will do more damage than help. People are going to start pulling DRM off things they really shouldn't be. It's good for those who want to read material on different readers, but not for those that enjoy Whispersync and actively use it for example.
Whispersync can work without drm, no problem there.
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Old 05-10-2013, 03:12 AM   #5
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I think the end result, if this passes, would more likely be the end of DRM...why would publishers spend all that money on a "protection" system, when it is super easy, free, and LEGAL to remove it?
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Old 05-10-2013, 05:49 AM   #6
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Unless i'm stupid enough to put the books where i removed DRM on the internet for everyone to download, how's gonna sue me for this anyway ?
It's not just a matter of being sued. Whilst it remains covered by the DMCA it means we can't help you/others remove DRM to make use of books/films you legally purchased but for whatever reason cannot use on the same device anymore (or the company running DRM servers no longer activates new devices for you).

You see that effect on here every time there's a nudge nudge Alf wink wink comment. Making it legal to remove DRM but keeping copyright infringement illegal would likely (depending how they word things) mean help/discussions were no longer dodgy. It may even make removal tools legal and only the usage of those tools determining whether something is legal/illegal, which imo is how it should be. Perhaps even making it legal for commercial apps to support ripping/removal/conversion just as apps do for CD to MP3/AAC.

Maybe it won't, but a step in the right direction is still a step :P

I agree that for you and many others already in the know about DRM/Removal, nothing much would change. Unless you broadcast it on the net for all to hear about it's unlikely anyone would ever know or care anyway. However, for others, I think it would change things for the better.

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Whispersync can work without drm, no problem there.
I'll also confirm that. I use it with all the Baen books I've bought and read via my kindle/iphone/ipad. I believe it also works if you free an amazon book, but as mentioned below, I see no reason to bother doing that as long as the DRM version still works.

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I'm pretty sure that most people who follow the ins and outs of copyright law will be aware not to fiddle too much with books they're trying to sync through proprietary systems. And if they're not, they can always re-download any books they've deDRMed if they run into problems. I really don't get why you think this is a dealbreaker.
I agree. Just because you're given a rope doesn't mean you have to make a noose.

I free all my purchases and keep a backup for future use. However, unless I need that backup for a particular reason such as conversion to a new format for an incompatible device, I just stick to using the official Amazon version, protection and all, for day to day use. While it doesn't get in the way of my use, I ignore it. When it does get in the way, I've got my backup.

If it's legal to remove DRM then guides will appear informing people how to do it, what the implications are and how to have the best of both worlds. If people still want to hang themselves and complain after the fact, well they can always go back to never removing DRM and nothing changes for them.

Edit: The skeptic in me feels that this won't go beyond the proposal stages though. Wasn't jailbreaking recently removed as an exception?

Last edited by JoeD; 05-10-2013 at 05:59 AM.
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Old 05-10-2013, 05:51 AM   #7
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I think the end result, if this passes, would more likely be the end of DRM...why would publishers spend all that money on a "protection" system, when it is super easy, free, and LEGAL to remove it?
How many people are not de-drming their stuff simply because it's illegal? Nothing would change in my opinion.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:03 AM   #8
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How many people are not de-drming their stuff simply because it's illegal? Nothing would change in my opinion.
Unless it became legal for applications to now include the tools built in.

I'm not so much thinking about Calibre here, as anyone who downloads that doesn't need to do much more to get the plugin too. Although it would mean it could be officially bundled with Calibre or available on their site and that would allow the Calibre author to vet plugins for malware before making a build and uploading. For plugins he wants to do that for anyway.

I'm thinking more along the lines of that movie ripping app that lost a case fairly recently for allowing users to convert DVDs to a digital library and stream across their home network. If that kind of use was included in the amendment, a lot would change for the better.

If however the wording ends up only allowing the kind of use that is already going on via Alf. Perhaps it'd have minimal impact, but it'd still be nice to know everyone doing it isn't breaking the law anymore
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:14 AM   #9
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Unless it became legal for applications to now include the tools built in.
I still don't foresee much changing. You can already download applications that remove or bypass DRM, for everything from ebooks to movies. It is just that the sites to download those files are hosted in jurisdictions where it is legal to host such files. A great many of these applications are quite legitimate because of their legality in other nations, and because there is a lot of incentive for users of alternative operating systems (e.g. Linux) to develop them in order to access those media files.

Besides, most people aren't going to obtain DRM cracking software unless they feel inconvenienced by DRM. A lot of people are happy with buying media through one vendor. Relatively few people are going to bump into the device restrictions in modern DRM models. I doubt that many people will even think about sharing books with their friends, selling books that they've read, or donating them to charity simply because they wouldn't be able to figure out how to transfer that book even if it was DRM free.

The only thing that I can foresee changing: we'll have fewer criminals running around the streets of our cities simply because the activity of removing DRM for perfectly legitimate uses won't be criminal.
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:01 AM   #10
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It's not DRM removal software I was thinking of though. Since just removing DRM isn't always an attractive enough feature for some people (and others don't trust the download site).

I was thinking more of apps that add features users really do want, but in order to add those features they have to remove the DRM. An example would be if CDs had included DRM, then we wouldn't have iTunes offering to convert your music to a format that will play on an iPod unless DRM removal was legal. Or we'd have Apple making an agreement with content holders to allow them to play the DRM'd content, but then other mp3 hardware makers would be in the same predicament.

Sure others would develop apps that allowed it, as has occurred with DVD/BR ripping. But the big changes in how we use things and new devices to support that are more likely to come through commercially backed apps (or community based like linux, but even that needs legality to really take hold, otherwise official distributions cannot include the app). For example, many more people may potentially store all their movies on a computer to stream around their home and play on their tablets if it was as simple as popping the DVD/BR in a drive and letting iTunes do the conversion. There's likely other options/features I've not considered that may help or change the way we use content that are not viable whilst DRM removal is illegal.

Will it change something for everyone, no. Will it change anything for most of this forums users, again probably not. But it will change things for some and it may open up new commercial opportunities for others.

At the moment it can be hard to play content on a device on your TV if the content is DRM'd and you don't have the correct apps on both sides. Even though your TV may accept streaming of the underlying format. At the moment you have to remove the DRM and use a 3rd party app to send the content. Apps that wouldn't be allowed on any of the app stores due to including DRM removal. If DRM removal was legal however, those apps might be allowed in the stores (plenty of other reasons they could be denied of course) making it easy for anyone to stream their legally bought content to their TV and/or rip it to their digital library.

When it comes to Linux, even those users would benefit. There'd be no need to jump through hoops to get an application that can playback the format of DVD or Bluray content but needs extra plugins to do so due to DRM. Plugins which come from outside the official repos and could be considered more of a security issue because of it.

Of course the reason I can't really see this happening, is if apps can legally remove DRM, there's really no point in there being any DRM to begin with. No way I can see that going through.

A very restrictively worded version maybe, then as you say nothing would change other than a few less people been criminalised. It depends on the wording (assuming it ever goes beyond the proposal stage) and how much scope for legal usage there is.

Last edited by JoeD; 05-10-2013 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:29 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Jessica Lares View Post
I really don't mind DRM. I personally this will do more damage than help. People are going to start pulling DRM off things they really shouldn't be. It's good for those who want to read material on different readers, but not for those that enjoy Whispersync and actively use it for example.
How would this do more damage? A person still would still not be legally permitted to strip DRM to infringe copyright. Why does it matter if people start pulling DRM off files they legally purchased? Shouldn't it be their choice to deal with their files as they see fit, provided that they're not otherwise infringing copyright?

As some have said, the legal consequence of this for most people will be minimal. However, it would allow DRM removal tools to be more openly available (as JoeD already said). This would also help to prevent content owners from cracking down on services that they don't like (cellphone unlockers).

As a general principle, I also don't think it's right to criminalize behaviour that most people would not see as necessitating a criminal sanction, even if that sanction is rarely imposed; just the fact that it exists can have unexpected chilling effects.
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Old 05-10-2013, 09:37 AM   #12
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The provision has been used in a lawsuit against a magazine, to make threats against Princeton Professor Edward Felten's team of researchers, and as part of a prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov.
It'd be nice to clear things up but I doubt it'll have very much effect. All of the lawsuits based solely on this provision have failed. Basically the provision is illegal *provided the stripping is for personal use*.
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Old 05-10-2013, 10:11 AM   #13
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So the US is going to imprison people for removing DRM from their ebooks?....Yes...I am sure most of it is only fines...etc... but seems a bit of a non-issue to me. The ones that do for personal use already do it....and most do not even know what DRM is....
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Old 05-10-2013, 10:51 AM   #14
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Whispersync can work without drm, no problem there.
Very true. I routinely strip the DRM on my PURCHASED books to correct and/or improve the formatting so they are easier on my eyes. I then use KindlePreviewer and SendToKindle to put the modified version in my Amazon Cloud so I can use Whispersync with them. Since I keep the books in my library only, and never give them to others, I don't have a guilty conscious at all.
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Old 05-10-2013, 11:01 AM   #15
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So the US is going to imprison people for removing DRM from their ebooks?....Yes...I am sure most of it is only fines...etc... but seems a bit of a non-issue to me. The ones that do for personal use already do it....and most do not even know what DRM is....
Its very unlikely they would go after small time infringement. People like me don't really need to worry. They will go after those who strip the DRM to redistribute it to others. And even then they probably wouldn't bother with someone who gave away three copies of an eBook, they would go after those who give away or sell hundreds or thousands of copies by making them readily available for internet downloading.

When they cracked down on pirated music they rarely went after the person who had illegally downloaded a few dozen songs. They went after the big offenders like Napster who illegally made the songs available. Occasionally they went after someone who downloaded thousands of song, but that was rare and usually just to make a point.
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