Friday, May 04, 2007

Anyone for tennis?

I'm not certain why this is a big story now. There seems to be a game on wherein someone tries to figure out the smallest program required to defeat the encryption DVD makers are putting on their DVDs. Near as I can remember, the one for HD DVD came out the week before the DVDs. Maybe that was a different encryption. Even then it was just one more piece of a very old story.

So someone at Digg started taking down the links to the actual code and users reacted by making sure everything was about a small bit of hex code. In the current round, the users have won over the threatened lawsuits.

And now for the bit of the LA Times story (User rebellion at unearths a can of worms, May 3, 2007) that sets me off:

That stance perplexed movie studio executives, who wondered how Rose could allow the code to be posted but block links to pirated versions of Photoshop.
"What the heck is the difference?" said Alan E. Bell, executive vice president and chief technical officer for Paramount Pictures. "These are the very profound issues that are just as important as the ones the users of voiced in their e-mails."

I really couldn't say how profound those emails were, but I know how profound this isn't. What is the difference? Well, let's say I plop down on the couch to watch a legal (and usually encrypted) DVD on my TV. There doesn't seem to be anything anyone could complain about in that, right?

But you don't see what went into being able to watch that movie. You see, the TV is a computer with an All-in-Wonder card and it runs Linux. Sure, it gets ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, 3 PBS stations, and a UHF station that plays lots of great old series. It has all the hardware and software to play a DVD except for one thing. The encryption.

In order to sit on my couch and watch a DVD on my TV I had to download software from something called the Penguin Liberation Front. They host software that contains yesterday's bad word in this whole discussion, "DeCSS" and they don't do it in the USA. Its uses include pirating DVDs. Its usual use is individual people watching legal DVDs.

So what's the difference? With a link to pirated Photoshop, I can illegally use Photoshop. With a link to encryption circumventing software, I can watch a legal DVD on my TV. One is not fair use, the other is. That's a big difference.

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