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As and IFPI lobbyist, Maria Martin-Prat looked to outlaw DRM cracking and making backup copies. Now she's Europe's "copyright queen" (or more precisely the "Head of Unit Services I, Directorate General Internal Market, European Commission").   (Source: European Commission)

EU legislators Christian Engström (Sweden, top) and Marietje Schaake (Netherlands, bottom) are fighting the appointment.  (Source: Wired (top)/LGEO Online (bottom))
EU hires a head lobbyist from RIAA parent org. IFPI to steer its copyright policy

While most agree that piracy is illegal and wrong to some extent, many feel the media industry is behind the times when it comes to digital distribution.  They argue that media companies fail to provide consumers with appealing options hence consumers take matters into their own hands and resort to piracy.  They also complain that the piracy punishment resembles mob tactics more than a fair legal process, with million dollar verdicts against everyday citizensthreats, and off-the-record settlements.

Unfortunately for those unhappy with the situation, it may be about to get worse.  

I.  The EC's New Copyright Chief -- A History of Working to Cut Owner Rights

The European Union has been appointed Maria Martin-Prat to head their copyright commission.  The copyright commission is part of the EU's business regulatory body, the European Commission (EC).  Ms. Martin-Prat will be replacing former chief Tilman Lueder, who is heading to a new position in China.

Ms. Martin-Prat had formerly left the EC and enjoyed employment working at International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the parent organization of the U.S.'s RIAA, Canada's CRIA, and Britain's BPI.

During her stint at the IFPI, Ms. Martin-Prat worked to try to outlaw backup copies of media.  The EC provides a private copying exemption, dubbed the European Fair Dealing.  The U.S. enjoys similar exemptions, which the RIAA/IFPI have contended in the past are illegal.  They argue that making backups is "stealing" and you should just repurchase damaged/lost content.  Ms. Martin-Prat argued [PDF] that backups have "no reason to exist".

She contends that backup exemptions violate the three-step test first written into the Berne copyright convention 50 years ago.  Those steps state that exemptions are only fair if they:

  1. Apply to a "special" case. 
  2. Don’t interfere with the "normal exploitation of the work."
  3. Don't "unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder." 
She reiterated her stance in a conference paper [PDF].

Similarly, Ms. Martin-Prat looked to rob consumers of the ability to crack DRM.  DRM cracking in the U.S. and Europe is prohibited, but not typically prosecuted unless you distribute the cracked files.  Ms. Martin-Prat sought to make the very act of DRM cracking a prosecutable felony.

In her IFPI work said that she and the industry were "pleading for strong copyright protection".  Well apparently those pleas for stronger "protection" have been answered.

II. Growing Opposition to Appointment

Two EU legislators -- Liberal Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake and Swedish Pirate Party MEP Christian Engström -- have openly blasted the appointment.  They write [PDF] the EC asking:

 

Does the Commission not see any problems in recruiting top civil servants from special interest organisations, especially when being put in charge of dossiers directly related to their former employers? If not, why not?

Does the Commission feel that such an appointment would help to build confidence with the European Parliament and the general public that the Commission can be trusted to handle copyright-related issues in a fair and balanced manner?

Mr. Engström was even more emphatic in his own blog, slamming the EU for supporting what he sees as corrupt cronyism.  He writes:

Welcome to the European Union, where the big business lobby organizations are calling most of the shots at the Commission, and where citizens are just seen as a nuisance to be ignored. I guess the only real news is that they don’t even bother to try to hide it any more.

Given existing EC rules and policies, the organization now has to respond to the criticism pertaining to the appointment, justifying its controversial decision.

This is not the first time that the issues of corruption, favoritism, and bias have been raised in Europe.  During the iconic trial of the Pirate Bay, the judge in the trial was found to have formerly worked for a copyright protection organization.  

He provided jurors with information that the Pirate Bay admins' legal team felt was inaccurate and misleading.  The trial resulted in a conviction, a sentence of prison time, and a massive fine for the admins.

The legal team tried to appeal the verdict and sentence, but ended up losing before an unsympathetic higher court.



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By MrBlastman on 4/6/2011 1:21:12 PM , Rating: 5
If I buy a piece of software, music, video or whatever, I should not be subject to draconian copy-protection or drm measures. It makes me, the consumer, feel dirty to be treated so poorly.

It is also the reason why _many_ honest consumers go out of their way to remove the invasive, intrusive or annoying measures put into the software so they can have a more enjoyable experience with it. I've even had copy protection make a game's framerate be cut in half or worse! A game I paid money for.

So now, this nutcase wants to criminalize us for wanting to use what we rightfully paid for in a usable manner? This is disgusting.




By darckhart on 4/6/2011 1:46:11 PM , Rating: 5
That's what happens when you let lawyers and politicians rule.

Take a moment to read the license agreements on whatever you purchase. You'll find that in most cases: 1) everything is provided as-is with no guarantee it works, 2) you didn't buy anything except an agreement to rent it for a certain time and use it during said time in a manner they say is allowable, 3) they reserve the right to change anything whenever they feel like it.

I guess they must all live in a little bubble.


By mephit13 on 4/6/2011 3:02:22 PM , Rating: 5
Correction, this is what when you let corporations rule. The lawyers and the politicians are only doing what the corporations pay them to do.


By Dailyrant on 4/6/2011 3:53:28 PM , Rating: 3
Lawyers and politicians are large organizations in themselves. They in fact work for corporations, not the people. Status quo is the goal. The larger you are the more influential you are.


By Solandri on 4/6/2011 6:18:52 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Correction, this is what when you let corporations rule. The lawyers and the politicians are only doing what the corporations pay them to do.

Hate to break it to you, but a corporation is just a group of lawyers and would-be politicians (managers) running an organization. A corporation does not think or make decisions by itself. The lawyers and managers running the corporations are the ones who are deciding to pay the lawyers and politicians running government. Government, political parties, corporations, unions. There's not much difference between them - they're all just organizations of people.

The first step in a war is to dehumanize the opposition, which is what you're doing by making people think the battle is against corporations. But that just detracts from the real problem, which is actually has nothing to do with corporations - people doing screwy things with our laws which benefit them to the detriment of everyone else.

If you clamp down on corporations and neuter their power, that doesn't make these people go away. They'll just quit their company jobs and flee to a different sector where it's easier for them to amass power, money, and influence. Some will go into politics. Others will head unions and social organizations.

Then after a couple decades, we'll decide those have gotten too powerful and that we're being unnecessarily harsh on weak corporations. So we'll do a bunch of deregulation, resulting in those people fleeing government and unions to go back to corporations, like cockroaches scurrying every time their hiding place is overturned. And the cycle will begin all over again.

In a way it's a lot like economics. My phone has more computing power than a supercomputer in 1980. We have particle accelerators capable of producing and analyzing the smallest pieces of matter. We've been able to peer at light from the very beginning of the universe. Yet we still haven't figured out how to stabilize the boom/bust economic cycle to achieve uniform growth.


By Iaiken on 4/7/2011 5:05:10 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
they're all just organizations of people.


Except labour groups, which are bad, evil things that must die.

quote:
If you clamp down on corporations and neuter their power, that doesn't make these people go away. Some will go into politics.


Where they will work to change things back or open different avenues to power and wealth, exclusively for their own personal benefit.

quote:
Yet we still haven't figured out how to stabilize the boom/bust economic cycle to achieve uniform growth.


The problem is that we worship growth. Anyone that expects anything to grow 10-20% year over year for any appreciable length of time is guaranteed to be disappointed. Yet a 10% gain (the typically expected rate of return) is indicative of a 7 year doubling time.

We have unrealistic growth expectations and when those expectations outstrip the reality for a sufficient length of time, the market retracts back to the more realistic figures while everybody panics.

I heard one oil exec say "We would define anything less than a 50% growth year over year for the next 10 years to be a disappointment". This is the exact same as stating "If we aren't 128 times our current size in 10 years, we're going to be disappointed." This guy was going to be disappointed if his company wasn't bigger than all of the worlds oil companies combined in 10 years. Who are these people?


By nikon133 on 4/6/2011 9:40:15 PM , Rating: 2
No... they all live in huge, beautifully presented bubles (also known as villas, penthouses etc), sponsored by their real bosses and masters...


By PrinceGaz on 4/6/2011 1:58:52 PM , Rating: 3
The DRM is only there to help ensure you do not accidentally break the law by making unauthorised copies of it, and also ensures you get the best possible experience with all the media you have purchased.

So if in the past you have bought a DVD of a movie, you are free to watch that DVD in any DVD player you own, but if you want to watch it on something like an iPhone, the correct way to do so is to buy a copy from iTunes which has been optimised to provide the best experience on that device, and if you want to watch it in high-definition, you can buy a Blu-Ray copy for use in a Blu-Ray player. You haven't actually bought the same thing three times, rather you are paying to get three times the value out of the movie.

As for games, there is no reason to make a backup copy of a disc as most publishers will be willing to mail you a new disc in exchange for your original one, at a cost which covers their expense for providing this service (which will normally be less than the original cost of the game).

Piracy is a serious problem as every time a music track, movie, game, or anything else is pirated; it is the same as stealing the money for it from the talented people who created it. Rather than robbing the musicians and other artists you enjoy, you should pay for their work. Downloading one music track illegally might seem like nothing to you, but that is one dollar or so lost to those who helped create it. Upload the same track to a hundred other people and that could be a hundred dollars lost. That is why piracy must be clamped down on as those responsible for it are often responsible for stealing and distributing many tracks and movies, adding up to hundreds of thousands, sometimes many millions of dollars. If they cannot pay for everything they have stolen, a lengthy jail term must be considered.

DRM exists only to help you avoid breaking the law and doing the wrong thing. Why would anyone not be in favour of it?

;)


By icemansims on 4/6/2011 2:07:55 PM , Rating: 5
For the record, I think (at least I hope) Gaz just forgot the /sarcasm.


By Denigrate on 4/6/2011 2:22:21 PM , Rating: 2
I guess you missed the ;).


By Ristogod on 4/6/2011 2:13:01 PM , Rating: 2
Except that DRM rarely works in a way beneficial to the consumer. How does DRM that routinely malfunctions causing the paid for product to be useless help anyone? Your interpretation is a twisted delusion of unrealistic improbabilities that does not represent actual concerns. DRM helps no one, including those selling the product. I doubt anyone looks to insure DRM is present before purchasing, yet I would imagine a great deal avoid purchasing something with DRM embedded. So how does that help anyone?


By bigboxes on 4/6/2011 2:40:50 PM , Rating: 3
+6

At first I was like wtf then I started laughing at it's absurdity then I saw the ;). Well played, sir!


By Johnmcl7 on 4/6/2011 4:07:38 PM , Rating: 2
How could you miss that the entire reply is written tongue in cheek? They even added a winking smiley at the end...

John


By spamreader1 on 4/7/2011 9:48:56 AM , Rating: 2
Probably lack of caffeine, it's early here, I almost missed the irony.


By mathew7 on 4/8/2011 5:25:33 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Downloading one music track illegally might seem like nothing to you, but that is one dollar or so lost to those who helped create it. Upload the same track to a hundred other people and that could be a hundred dollars lost.


You said it yourself: "could".... You are using the industries arguments, but forget that a person does NOT have infinite money. One download does not mean lost money. There is so much content that as a non-multi-million individual, you cannot decide which content you should buy.
There are 3 ways to take it:
1. buy the content legaly
2. download, watch and buy it afterwards
3. download, watch and forget it

My point is that option 2 exists, and I personally use it. This can also be viewed as free advertising.

Also, option 3 can be for different reasons:
- a student may have lots of free time, but not enough money, so he engages in a lot of entertainment, but he would NEVER HAVE MONEY to buy it.
- he CANNOT BUY the content even if he wants it, because it's not sold in his area (disc regions, lack of distribution in highly-pirated countries)

Nobody can prove what is the distribution of these parts, most agree on part 3 being the biggest.

Most indie developers look pretty good at piracy as advertising and a sign that they did a "wanted" work. Only the big houses want the last cent of the distribution, but forget that customers want also quality, not only quantity. Their dollars ARE HELPED by piracy. Without piracy they would not have a part of their money. Piracy also could give them an indication of how the content is seen by NON-PAID reviewers.

But do remember that copyright appeared as a civil law. When it first appeared (in U.S.??) it was to stop mass book-copiers from profiting. Not from a neighbor copying the book for his own use (because that could never be checked anyway).


By Miqunator on 4/8/2011 8:38:57 AM , Rating: 2
The sarcasm is strong with this one


By marvdmartian on 4/7/2011 9:11:38 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
They argue that making backups is "stealing" and you should just repurchase damaged/lost content.


I would counter-argue that since the product these companies put out is obviously flawed, as it can easily be damaged to the point of unusability, then they ought to provide free replacement of damaged media.

Since they refuse, and instead demand we pay full price, again, for what we've already purchased once, then we should (and do) have the right to copy it.

Of course, since that uses common sense, it will make NO sense to lawyers! ;)


By Invane on 4/7/2011 12:15:17 PM , Rating: 3
Even further, they are trying to claim we only get a license to use the purchased product. If this is the case, how are they trying to claim we should repurchase it if the physical media is lost or damaged? It is easily proven that we have a valid purchased license.

They want to have their cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, with the amount of money and influence behind them they are largely succeeding.


By marvdmartian on 4/7/2011 3:19:43 PM , Rating: 1
Absolutely right. Then again, have you ever priced out a recovery disk for a computer? In the old days, when you bought a computer system, you received a disk (or disks) that would allow you to recover the operating system, back to factory fresh specs, if your hard drive died, or your OS was messed up.

Nowadays, a lot of these companies are just putting recovery partitions (which can be corrupted by nasty viruses) on the hard drive, but giving you the opportunity to burn your own recovery disk, either with dvd(s) or cd's.

It amazes me, all the people that will put off burning their own recovery disk, until their OS is crapped up with a virus, and they go to their favorite computer geek to ask for help. Ask them for their recovery disk, and you get the "deer in the headlights" look. **SIGH**

I know that HP will sell you a recovery disk for any system made in (I believe) the last 5 years or so......for the mere price of ONLY $16, postage paid. Probably costs them $1 to make the disk, and $2 to $3 to mail it (if that).

Now how messed up is that??


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