Although the majority of the music industry signed on to sell Digital Rights Management (DRM) free music through Amazon, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is still promoting DRM control over most music releases. A new House Bill seems to add more credibility to this opinion.
DRM is not just for music. When ever you have to enter a “code” or “activate” a piece of software, that is DRM at work. DRM is designed to prevent pirating of software, music, videos, and any other copyrighted piece of work that can be used on a computer, smartphone, music player, or PMP.
Most people find DRM to be a nuisance. Because DRM controls how and where you can use the copyrighted piece of media, it limits users choices. For instance, when you have one of the many Windows operating systems on your computer, you have to enter a code. Then should you decide to download updates, the Windows website checks to make sure your copy is “valid”. Now suppose your hard drive crashes and you have to install a new hard drive. Try loading your already owned Windows operating system and you will find it is now considered “pirated”. You may have the disk, but you have to buy a new code in order for it to work properly.
Similarly if you have a subscription to an online music service like eMusic, you might not realize that you don’t really own the music you are downloading until you decide to stop your subscription. Once that happens, all of the music that you downloaded from eMusic, ceases to play. DRM at work.
The RIAA has sued couples, single mothers, and college students for having “pirated” music. To the RIAA that means that you have either downloaded DRM controlled media usually through a peer to peer service, or have placed media in a location on your computer (Public Folder for example) where other people can upload it to their computers without purchasing it first.
Lately, many music companies have agreed to sell music DRM free through Amazon. Even iTunes offers some of its media purchases DRM free but not all. Many media pirate services, such as Pirate Bay, have developed as a direct challenge to DRM. Kazaa was initially created as a peer to peer sharing network and was shut down in the early part of this decade because it provided a way for people to share music, videos and other DRM works directly without purchasing.
Copyright law is behind this entire issue. When someone creates software, writes a song, a book, a manual, a webpage, or makes a movie to name but a few examples, they have the right to copyright that creation. Before someone else can use what they have created, permission must be granted and frequently payment must be made.
The whole issue got even more complicated with the introduction of the Digital Rights Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DRMCA). This piece of legislation was created primarily with the input of media companies intent on maintaining their hold on the music, software, and movie industries. The DRMCA broadened the scope of copyright infringement from simply acquiring or using a copyrighted work without permission or payment, to creating a method of allowing copyrighted work to be acquired or used without permission or payment.
The latter provision of the act has created broad new areas of copyright infringement legislation and it is that portion of the DRMCA that allows the RIAA to sue people for “making available” music or videos that others could illegally upload.
Now the House has stepped in it again with the passage of the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2007 or PRO-IP Act, H.R. 4279. This bill increases the penalty for copyright infringement and creates a new section in the Justice Department called the Copyright Enforcement Division, with its own enforcement czar. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has touted the bill as “a comprehensive, bipartisan measure that will strengthen our nation’s economy and generate more jobs for American workers by bolstering protections for intellectual property.” Of course, most of those new jobs will be in the enforcement arena.
Tomorrow will be Part II A discussion of the current attempts by the RIAA to enforce copy right law and how this new bill will change it.