There’s a whole catalog of devices that are missing from our world. Things we’d pay money for — things you could earn money with — don’t exist thanks to the chilling effects of an obscure copyright law: Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA 1201). That law makes selling a device that bypasses access controls on copyrighted works illegal, with criminal penalties of 5 years in prison (for a first offense!), and potential civil penalties in the millions.
It’s hard to notice what isn’t there. We’re aiming to fix that, with this work of “design fiction” — a collection of devices, services, products, and tools. These things could have been, and should have been, but never were.
Thanks to DMCA 1201, manufacturers of products as varied as phones, game consoles, insulin pumps, and cars have locked down the software in those products — all in order to control you and the gadgets you own. They can threaten you with lawsuits and felony prosecution for ordinary things like using your own mechanic instead of the one with the company's official, $70,000 tool. They force you to buy additional copies of movies you want to watch on your phone, instead of just allowing you to rip the DVD you already own. And they block your printer from using anything but their official ink cartridges, conning you into spending more on ink than you would on vintage champagne.
If this sparked your interest in the possibilities of a contrafactual present day, where laws like the DMCA were stillborn and the freedom to use your property the way you saw fit was preserved by Congress, feel free to email your ideas for new missing devices to Cory Doctorow, firstname.lastname@example.org. We're happy to talk them through with you and if they suit our needs, to develop them for inclusion in the catalog.
Read the Catalog of Missing Devices press release.