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Would you like a copyright law that said “if Hollywood doesn’t like this law, they can use their own”? Well, you see…

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Imagine if copyright law listed tons of exceptions for free use that all publishers were required to respect. Well, it does, kind of, even if the list in question is horribly deficient. But then, imagine that somewhere in this law, there’s also the line “if a publisher doesn’t like the wording of this law, they can set their own terms entirely instead, and it will be illegal to circumvent those terms that don’t even provide minimally mandated exceptions”. This is the sickening reality today, and it’s because of DRM.

Around the turn of the century, when legislators had the hubris of deciding what copyright monopoly law should look like in the entire next thousand-year reign, enshrined in fancy bill names like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the European Union Copyright Directive, they intended to set terms in absolute Roman concrete. Do note that this was before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube had even been founded, and lawmakers included a very nasty and small nasty poison pill in their own code of law, cheered on heartily by the Music And Film Industry Association of America.

The poison pill in question said that if something is published digitally, then the publisher has the right to strip the buyer (buyer!) of all their statutory property rights and usage rights, and it will be criminal for the buyer to exercise their minimal statutory rights against the publisher’s wishes. This was done through Digital Restriction Measures (DRM) — that if a publisher introduced technical usage restrictions by means of DRM into a digital work, it became criminal to even attempt a circumvention of those measures, even when doing so would just invoke your statutory property and usage rights.

The net effect of this is that the entire code of the copyright monopoly, except for this

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