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July 22nd, 2016

EFF to DMCA: ‘Drop Dead’ & More…

Also included: Japanese company reportedly buying ARM, Flash is on it’s way out the door and Toyota joins the Open Invention Network

FOSS Week in Review

Here in the U.S., the big news this week came not from the world of FOSS, but from the Republican National Convention where we learned to be careful when cribbing someone else’s words. This gives me the chance to remind you of the Week-in-Review pledge to you: absolutely no plagiarizing. You won’t find me cutting and pasting words from other journalists, news organizations or writers in this column. All you’ll find here is all the news that’s fit to print.

EFF’s sue you sue me blues: On Thursday the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced that it has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against several U.S. government agencies to address First Amendment issues around the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Being questioned is Section 1201 which contains the so-called “anti-circumvention” clause that makes it a crime to circumvent DRM.

One of the major points the organization will make is that the section is a road block to “fair use,” which the Supreme Court has ruled is necessary for copyright protections to be constitutional.

With a tip of the Hatlo Hat to the EFF website for explaining:

“After the DMCA was passed, the Supreme Court was asked to evaluate other overreaching copyright laws, and offered new guidance on the balance between copyright protections and free speech. It found that copyright rules can be consistent with the First Amendment so long as they adhere to copyright’s “traditional contours.” These contours include fair use and the idea/expression dichotomy.”

The trouble is, fair use isn’t an allowed defense of Section 1201. Stay tuned, we’ll keep an eye on this.

SoftBank to buy ARM: This story supplies the answer to the question, where have all the companies gone? They’ve gone to Asia every one. The Norwegian born Opera browser was recently sold to a Chinese consortium for a reported $600 million. Now comes news that the Japanese company SoftBank has all but reached a deal to purchase the British firm ARM Holdings, and for considerably more money. Although no dollar amount has been announced that we can find, we’ve heard the figure $31 billion bandied about — for a company with a market cap of about $22 million. ARM Holdings, of course, is the company behind the ARM processor, which has all but driven Intel out of the mobile marketplace and is the technology behind the Raspberry Pi fueled SBC revolution.

Saying in a sentence or two what others say in a whole book: Flash is on it’s way to Hospice. Firefox will begin phasing out Adobe Flash with the release of Firefox 48 on August 2…. On Monday we learned that Toyota has joined the Open Invention Network and thrown some patents into the kitty. Other car companies are expected to follow suit soon.

You say goodbye, I say hello: In case you haven’t noticed, our Robin Miller interviewed the hardest working man in the tech journalism business this week, that being Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. In the interview, SJVN talks about FOSS, Linux, Chromebooks — and even has some nice things to say about Microsoft (though he does throw in a zinger or two for good measure). Check it out.

That does it for this week. One to beam up. That’s Earl, brother.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

6 comments to EFF to DMCA: ‘Drop Dead’ & More…

  • Mike

    I can’t believe any rational human would support the DMCA. Oh, that’s right, they don’t. Only greedy rent-seeking companies do, but hey, that’s all it takes to make laws these days.

    The DMCA is an abomination and should be deliberately disobeyed by everyone.

    Copy media you have purchased. Seek out weaknesses in DRM and share the results. Fight back.

  • > The DMCA is an abomination and should be deliberately disobeyed by everyone.

    It’s called civil disobedience, and it has a long and respected tradition.

  • tracyanne

    The problem with the DMCA is there is no downside for those making DMCA claims, they can be wrong, they can even be criminally wrong and face no sanctions. The DMCA was written by the Copyright Industries for the copyright industries. There is nothing in it that was intended to recognise Fair Use or the Public Domain (although some courts have interpreted certain parts as beneficial to both). It is in fact a law simply begging to be abused.

  • CFWhitman

    The thing that these large publishers can’t seem to grasp is that copyright law garners much more respect when it’s reasonable. They’ve made it so ridiculous that people feel justified in ignoring it. That certainly does not benefit them.

  • It’s a bit of an oversimplification to imply that the DMCA is all bad. The anti-circumvention clause is certainly bad, and the takedown process is a joke that seems to be designed for the explicit purpose of being abused. But there are portions of the law that do some good, too: section 1202, for example, allows rightsholders to seek damages against entities that falsely claim copyright over their work, and that’s not a bad thing (even if the damages themselves are hugely excessive). A recent example is Carol Highsmith’s suit against Getty Images for charging for her royalty-free photos:

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160727/11243335088/photographer-sues-getty-images-1-billion-claiming-copyright-photos-she-donated-to-public.shtml

    The DMCA does have some redeeming, pro-creator qualities. It’s just very, very easy to lose sight of them given how consistently and how badly it’s been abused by corporate interests.

    Best of luck to the EFF. I’m hoping this suit goes there way — or that, at the very least, it results in a ruling that companies can’t threaten to sue researchers for publishing security vulnerabilities.

    I should probably make a donation to the EFF. They’re fighting the good fight once again.

  • Mike

    “They’ve made it so ridiculous that people feel justified in ignoring it.”

    Correction:

    They’ve made it so ridiculous that people ARE COMPLETELY justified in ignoring it.