[Fsfe-ie] Copyright consultation

Ben North ben at redfrontdoor.org
Mon Jul 11 23:34:46 CEST 2011


Thanks to Malcolm and Glenn for feedback.  A couple of days
left, so any thoughts on the below?  It does bang on about the
DMCA in the USA quite a bit, but it does give good illustrations
of the sorts of Bad Things that might happen here.


Dear NNN,

We would like to respond to the minister's invitation for submissions
regarding a review of copyright and related rights.

The Irish Free Software Organisation represents the interests of Free
Software in Ireland.  Here, 'Free' refers to freedom rather than price
--- Free Software confers on its users the right to run, study, change
and distribute it.  A great deal of innovation and technological
progress has been made possible by Free Software.

We welcome the minister's reference to a US-style 'fair use' doctrine,
and we urge him to learn from the unintended consequences of their DMCA
legislation.  Purchasers of, for example, DVDs have fair use rights, but
cannot enjoy them because of the encryption on DVDs.  Creators of tools
for unlocking DVDs, restoring consumers' ability to exercise their
fair-use rights, have been sued, and products withdrawn, thereby harming
innovation and competition.

IFSO acknowledges the need to prevent commercial-scale copyright
infringement.  At the same time, the public's rights must be protected.
The 'anti-circumvention' measures in the current law strike the wrong
balance, and we urge the minister to reinstate the principle of s.374 of
the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000, whereby 'rights protection
measures' could not interfere with 'permitted acts'.

The public must also have the right to use their own electronic devices
as they wish.  Often this means using different software to that which
the manufacturer supplied, but doing so in the USA has proved legally
risky, because of abuse of the DMCA.  For example, Texas Instruments
threatened people who described how to write and use new software for
its calculators.

Computer software is playing an increasingly important role in many
products.  In the US, this has opened the door to abuses of the DMCA,
with the result that beneficial innovation and competition is hindered.
The printer manufacturer Lexmark, aiming to maintain its monopoly
position in the lucrative market for refills, sued under the DMCA to
prevent a company distributing a component which would have enabled
other manufacturers to create compatible refills.  As another example,
Microsoft is currently trying to use the DMCA to stifle the market for
accessories for its Xbox, to give itself a monopoly.  These cases, and
other similar ones, illustrate how copyright law is being abused to
prevent competition and innovation.

Although some such cases were ultimately resolved in favour of the
innovator, the fear of being drawn into a very costly legal battle has a
chilling effect.  We urge the minister to ensure that legitimate
competition in all markets is encouraged.

Finally, in the area of computer security, high-quality academic
research in the USA has often been suppressed because it exposes flaws
in a product.  It is generally accepted that computer security, vital in
this age where more and more business is conducted online, is best
advanced by full and open discussions.  We urge the minister to ensure
that the carrying out, publication and discussion of security research
is permitted.

In summary, we hope the minister will seize this opportunity to restore
balance to copyright law, allowing the public to enjoy their rights, and
fostering innovation and competition.

Thank you for your consideration of this submission.

Yours faithfully,


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