Friday, August 04, 2006

Interview with my legal expert friend

In the previous blog entry, I shared an article about Circuit City now offering to burn your legal DVDs onto digital mediums. I shared this article with my friend LawDude and asked for his opinions on it. I have included the resulting interview. Remember, this "interview" was a chat session and not originally intended as an interview. As such, I have edited the spelling and grammar of the original chat and eliminated some of the irrelevant comments. I have also highlighted some of the more interesting points. I learned some very interesting points about copyright law. I highly recommend reading the entire post. :)

BigRed: Hey, I have a question for you.

LawDude: Fridays after 2PM. But not on the third Friday of the month.

BigRed: Dang it. My plans are ruined.

LawDude: Yeah, sorry.

BigRed: So I just read a short blurb of an article about an article. And I wanted your professional opinion as to whether this will stand or fall.

LawDude: the ripping of DVDs? Well, it would have to come before the court before a decision is likely and it would likely make it at least to a circuit court.

BigRed: No pun intended.

LawDude: ?

BigRed: Circuit city... circuit court

BigRed: It wasn't funny.

LawDude: Ah...

BigRed: lol

BigRed: Anyway, it's interesting that Circuit City would make such a bold move.

LawDude: Anyway, I would imagine it would be allowed since the standard has been set with CDs and MP3s.

BigRed: Why does the guy who wrote about it feel that it will be shut down?

LawDude: The one major reason is that the MPAA doesn't like it, long story short. However, he is at least partially right in that the service will likely be forced to shut down during the pending legal battle. I was actually surprised that the courts decided in favor of Hollywood on the whole editing of DVDs. It's a very European way of taking copyrights--and technically, we have signed a treaty saying we would follow that sort of standard, but up until this point we haven't really.

BigRed: With CleanFlicks and all?

LawDude: Yup

BigRed: I have some questions on that one too.

LawDude: Okay?

BigRed: Okay, an example: My old roomie Daniel edited Matrix 2 for me and put it on DVD. So I own the original disc and the edited one. That's legal right?

LawDude: Nope. In two different ways it is not. First, you own a copy on another disc--that isn't so legal. Second, you edited the movie, which is illegal as well.

BigRed: Hm. I didn't know the second one at all. Even though it's for personal use? There are no other copies of my edit.

LawDude: Yeah, that's the one that the US just "adopted" as such. It's called author's rights

BigRed: Which supersedes owner's rights apparently.

LawDude: Artists rights. I can't remember the first word. Something like that.

BigRed: Okay.

LawDude: And yes they do, according to the courts now and according to European courts for a while. The problem is this…

BigRed: So, for example, if I bought a painting of yours... and then I decided to add a moustache to the picture... that would be breaking the law?

LawDude: Yes.

BigRed: That's a really strict law.

LawDude: Most of the time, the US hasn't been a big fan of them. We usually like individual rights more. That is why it is surprising that the courts came down this way.

BigRed: Politics.

LawDude: The argument is this: Let's say you buy the Mona Lisa and put a mustache on her… him. lol

BigRed: Right. lol

LawDude: And say, look at my ‘Da Vinci’ and Da Vinci assuming he was alive… Moral Rights! (that's what it is I think) …comes along and says, “I DIDN'T PAINT THAT!” and is furious that you added such disdain to his beautiful masterpiece and goes to the court for you to either remove the mustache and/or repair the "loss" to his reputation.

BigRed: Okay. So I was totally wrong about the reasoning behind the CleanFlicks case.

LawDude: I dunno, depends on what your reasoning was

BigRed: I thought Hollywood was upset with CF because they edited movies and by doing so made many copies of the edit and then was making money off those. Many rentals from one DVD.

LawDude: Nope. All the movies were legit.

BigRed: Well, I'm pretty sure that they bought one DVD... edited it, and then rented many copies of the one. I would guess that's illegal.

LawDude: No, they did not. They bought one DVD, found the offensive scenes, wrote a program to edit the DVD and then applied the program to future DVDs. St least...that is the only way they could do it legally.

BigRed: Okay.

LawDude: Although you might be right and if you are they had two problems. Now one company has worked their way around it. They don't edit the DVD itself, you just put the DVD in, and apply a program that only shows the amount of violence / sex / profanity that you set the machine to or something like that.

BigRed: That's what was promised when DVDs were first coming out.

LawDude: I'm not sure if they have been taken to court...but they aren't actually editing the work. They are simply editing what the TV is showing.

BigRed: There are little boxes out there that you can buy that will edit television and movies. That's the same result as editing the DVD, but not the means.

LawDude: Correct.

BigRed: So another question: If I destroyed the original DVD of my Matrix 2 and only had the edit, would that still be illegal?

LawDude: Yup.

BigRed: I would have no proof that I owned the original.

LawDude: In fact there is a case about just that when the Church did that. The Church bought some genealogical program.

BigRed: BYU used to show edited movies.

LawDude: And made lots of copies and then gave them to all the Family History centers. The owner sued and won.

BigRed: Of course.

LawDude: The Church recalled all copies.

BigRed: You have to buy multiple licenses.

LawDude: They destroyed them. But oops, they destroyed the original and so they just kept a copy. The owner sued again and won again.

BigRed: Wow.

LawDude: Yeah, kind of silly...but that's how it is.

BigRed: So basically, to stay legal you buy one copy, make no changes to it and make no copies. If you want multiple copies, then you buy more.

LawDude: Yup.

BigRed: What about Fair Use?

LawDude: Fair use is a whole different situation. Fair use would be like showing a short clip in a commercial for something else or showing a short clip as part of a presentation.

BigRed: Doesn't Fair Use include something about making backups?

LawDude: That would apply to software only really and isn't Fair Use.

BigRed: Hm. Interesting.

LawDude: It will be interesting to see what the courts do with this movie thing.

BigRed: Very much so.

LawDude: Because movies are different than music. So they could apply the music standard or they could say, no this doesn't qualify and shut Circuit City down. Although, ultimately it will likely work out with something. Just like iTunes in some ways replaced Napster.

BigRed: Legitimate and legal replacing the illegal.

LawDude: Yup. The public demands an outlet and someone fills the outlet legally. Apple is already trying to get movies on their iTunes store. Kind of going through a series of long talks with Hollywood.

BigRed: Which just means they cost more. The outlet has to pay the owners and make a profit.

LawDude: lol Legal things always do cost more. If they didn't, there would be no need for a black market.

BigRed: Rather than letting the consumer do it themselves. A company is much easier to keep in your grip then millions of people doing stuff of their own free will.

LawDude: Well, pretty hard to keep track of payments when it is person to person.

BigRed: For example, the MPAA stopped a program from distributing that could get past their encoding to make copies of movies. The program was completely legal and sold legally, but it put the power in the hands of the people.

LawDude: Well, the only use for the program would be to break a copyright.

BigRed: The only good reason.

LawDude: ?

LawDude: Name another reason to use the program.

BigRed: If someone made a movie and gave me one and said I could make copies to give to friends. A movie they created and owned.

LawDude: But isn't the program to get beyond the anti-copy code? Since your friend wouldn't have that code on his DVD...

BigRed: He might. It would depend. I'm just saying there can be legit reasons to have such a program.

LawDude: lol, I’m not convinced. But that's okay.

BigRed: I don't like these pre-emptive laws. We catch you for having something that *could* allow you to break the law if you use it a certain way.

LawDude: lol

BigRed: We should arrest people for owning guns. They *could* use it to break the law.

At this point, LawDude needed to leave.

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