Over the last week stories have starting to appear about farmers unable to repair tractors and working Americans unable to repair their cars because of copyright legislation.
It's not a side effect. It was the whole idea of the law.
It emerged last week that many farmers are no longer able to legally repair their John Deere tractors, as copyright legislation prohibits tampering with computer code in something you, allegedly, own.
The line from the copyright lobby is that is an “unexpected side effect” of the copyright monopoly legislation in general and the DMCA/EUCD in particular.
That’s patently untrue. It is neither a side effect nor unexpected. It is precisely what those laws intended to accomplish. Being locked out of the possessions you own is not a side effect – it was the main point of the legislation and was its core purpose.
As usual, the geeks who understood the repercussions of these new laws screamed murder over the legislation at the time, and were summarily ignored by the media and policymakers. Both of whom are highly co-opted by Hollywood, software companies and vehicle manufacturers who backed the bills.
Only now, when it becomes clear that it’s not just geek toys that are impated but everything in our everyday life, will more people become aware of how the copyright monopoly limits property rights.
This troubling development, eroding property rights of everything who thought we owned, has been driven by the cartoon industry – by which I mean the copyright industry in general and Disney Corporation in particular. Hollywood and big software companies are equally guilty, as are vehicles manufacturers like Deere & Co., Ford and General Motors. In short, corporate America has banded together to strip you of your rights.
But it didn't start with tractors and cars.
It started with DRM, Digital Restriction Measures. Somebody thought it was both possible and a good idea to control how playback of video and audio could take place at people’s homes after they bought music and movies.
Imagine, for a moment, this idea was applied to books. Imagine that publishers thought it possible to control how a book would be read – where, when and how. The insanity and massive land grab perpetrated on the American people start to become more clear.
Digital Restriction Measures (DRM) were never about preventing copying, even though they were frequently presented as “copy protection”, for PR purposes.
They did absolutely nothing to stop copying.
They stopped playback. They controlled playback. They permitted or didn't permit playback.
However, the technology never worked. The technology was never able to work. It wasn't broken at the technical level, or needed a slight bit of improvement: it was broken at the conceptual level.
It relied on the cartoon industry’s ability to prevent the owner of an object to tinker with their own property. This where tractors and cars come in.
If a computer is able to decode and decrypt a cartoon, then the owner of that computer is also able to instruct their own computer to decode and decrypt it (presumably a copy they bought and therefore also own but maybe not), even against the cartoon industry’s desire for that possibility.
This is why DRM is flawed at the conceptual level.
With this conceptual framework there is no difference between a copy of a car or tractor or a CD or DVD. You hold the bought it, you own it. The manufacturer doesn’t get to say how, when and what you do with your own property.
Or didn’t, at least.
The cartoon industry – copyright lobby – was keenly aware that they needed to attack the core concept of property ownership in order to prop up their crumbling copyright monopoly, and pushed for legislation that turned out as something called the DMCA in our country and the EUCD/InfoSoc in Europe.
The laws “fix” the conceptual problem with DRM by making it illegal to tinker with your own property when the original manufacturer, who "sold" you the object, doesn't want it tinkered with even after it’s been sold to you.
It is a very blatant intrusion into the core concept of property rights.
It also shows how the copyright monopoly, a government-granted private monopoly, was always firmly in opposition to property rights. They have never wanted anyone to own anything, aside from themselves.
But as computers are spreading through society, into every piece of our lives, so are the effects of the law that the copyright industry lobbied through legislative hallways fifteen years ago.
John Deere claiming that farmers aren't allowed to fix their tractors and other farming equipment is not an “unfortunate side effect” of copyright monopoly legislation.
It was always the express purpose to prevent owners of property to exercise their normal property rights. This was the only possible way the copyright monopoly could be even slightly maintained into a digital environment.
One has to ask, a farmer or a mechanic perhaps, whether it was, and continues to be, worth that price.
The terrible laws forced through by the copyright lobby for their own greed are now starting to impact everyday working Americans.
Car owners and farmers and most ordinary people are now understanding the fundamental idiocy of these laws and will hopefully become more vocal about just how damaging they are to our livelihoods and everything that makes us Americans.