June 4, 2004 | By Fred von Lohmann

Tori Amos and the DMCA

I'm a big Tori Amos fan. This week she released a new live concert DVD, entitled Welcome to Sunny Florida. It's fantastic. Tori has always been one of those "you really don't know till you've heard her live" artists.

So, naturally, I want to get the audio onto my iPod. No copyright problem there. After all, the existence of the iPod presupposes that it's fair use to rip music you own to fill it with.

But because this is a DVD, in steps the DMCA. Like virtually all commercially released titles, this DVD is "protected" by a "technological measure" called CSS. So according to the MPAA, ripping this disk, even just the audio tracks, would violate the DMCA's ban on circumvention. So, despite the fact that I own the DVD, own the DVD drive in my computer, and own my iPod, I'd break the law if I tried to rip the audio to mp3 to play on my iPod. Doesn't matter whether it's a fair use for copyright purposes.

The really galling thing is that the DRM here is not even intended to protect the audio. In fact, the digital audio outputs on DVD players are unencrypted. So I could get a bit-perfect copy by hooking the digital audio output from my DVD player to a soundcard with a digital input (if I had one, which I don't). Or I could use a CD recorder (don't have that either), then rip the CD-R. Neither of these activities would violate the DMCA, because I wouldn't be "circumventing" anything.

Sure, I could do that instead. But why? Why does the DMCA make me invest in additional hardware when I already have a device that can do this for me? When there are great free applications available at Doom9.net (like DVD Decryptor and BeSure) that will do this?

Another example of DRM and the DMCA not "keeping honest people honest," but instead frustrating their ability to make noninfringing uses of things they own. Yet another reason that we need to urge Congress to pass the DMCRA -- to protect our real property rights from the entertainment industry.


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