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The Digital Rights Movement

The Digital Rights Movement: The Role of Technology in Subverting Digital Copyright

Hector Postigo
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Digital Rights Movement
    Book Description:

    The movement against restrictive digital copyright protection arose largely in response to the excesses of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. In The Digital Rights Movement, Hector Postigo shows that what began as an assertion of consumer rights to digital content has become something broader: a movement concerned not just with consumers and gadgets but with cultural ownership. Increasingly stringent laws and technological measures are more than incoveniences; they lock up access to our "cultural commons." Postigo describes the legislative history of the DMCA and how policy "blind spots" produced a law at odds with existing and emerging consumer practices. Yet the DMCA established a political and legal rationale brought to bear on digital media, the Internet, and other new technologies. Drawing on social movement theory and science and technology studies, Postigo presents case studies of resistance to increased control over digital media, describing a host of tactics that range from hacking to lobbying. Postigo discusses the movement's new, user-centered conception of "fair use" that seeks to legitimize noncommercial personal and creative uses such as copying legitimately purchased content and remixing music and video tracks. He introduces the concept of technological resistance--when hackers and users design and deploy technologies that allows access to digital content despite technological protection mechanisms--as the flip side to the technological enforcement represented by digital copy protection and a crucial tactic for the movement.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30533-4
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Part I

    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-16)

      In October 1999, a small group of hackers¹ developed the program DeCSS (for “Decrypt Content Scrambling System”) to crack the encryption system on commercial DVDs and posted the software and its code on the Internet, distributing it worldwide. The DeCSS source code and the DeCSS application served as tools for those individuals designing DVD players for computers running on the Linux operating system. Because all DVD players must have a way of decrypting the information on a DVD before they can play the movie, DeCSS was invaluable in developing early DVD player technology for computers using operating systems other than...

    • 2 The National Information Infrastructure and the Policymaking Process
      (pp. 17-40)

      Who are the users of today’s digital technologies? What are their expectations, and how are they effectively cocreated alongside the digital technologies that more and more are ubiquitously mediating culture? In an age where new technologies emerge into the consumer market at a blistering pace, it should strike no one as surprising that consumer expectations are created by the hype and realities of “ease of use,” “portability,” productivity, and connectivity. In other words, we are often sold gizmos and gadgetry imagined for us but not yet defined by us and our unique uses. So when technologies of this sort come...

    • 3 Origins of the Digital Rights Movement: The White Paper and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
      (pp. 41-60)

      A comparison of the initial recommendations in the WGIP’s Green Paper to the final recommendations in what came to be called the “White Paper” and ultimately the DMCA suggests some important outcomes from the policymaking processes for the DMCA. First, it shows the emergence of a number of visions of what the NII would become. During the comment period prior to the release of the White Paper, a number of citizens voiced concern over the possible excess of the proposed policy and suggested that the NII might be a place where copyright and intellectual property can be reimagined rather than...

  4. Part II

    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 61-62)

      In this part, I leave the legislative history and analysis of the DMCA for an analysis of important cases in the development of the digital rights movement and a description of its dynamics and structure. The cases are meant to illustrate examples of repression and activism that have come to define the movement and to show how the movement actors coordinated with each other. A few important points emerge.

      First, significant arguments about the movement’s legitimacy can be seen in the cases presented. Fair use is a powerful theme for the movement, and it is deployed in a user-centered manner,...

    • 4 Dmitry Sklyarov and the Advanced eBook Processor
      (pp. 63-84)

      The DMCA became law in 1998, and in the ensuing years a number of prosecutions mobilized activists to coalesce against it. This chapter discusses one such case, that of Dmitry Sklyarov and his crack of Adobe’s eBook encryption. Although other cases that brought the issues of copyright to the forefront were more widely covered in the media (the Napster case, for example), the Sklyarov case is singled out here because it illustrates the emerging dynamics of the movement. Furthermore, it is a case that struck a particularly strong chord among activists. So although activists were certainly involved in advocacy in...

    • 5 DeCSS: Origins and the Bunner Case
      (pp. 85-96)

      Like the Sklyarov case, the DeCSS case, another important landmark in the evolution of the digital rights movement, involves the development of a technology that infringed on the DMCA’s anticircumvention provisions. The movement framed the prosecution of individuals who were linking to the DeCSS source code as an infringement on free speech and a disincentive to innovation. This chapter shows the changing configuration of technology and users. Whereas the AEPBR was a consumer product that came to be politicized through the legal process and movement framing, DeCSS, which emerged from hacker groups rooted in the open-source/free-software movement, came with some...

    • 6 DeCSS Continued: The Hacker Ethic and the Reimerdes Case
      (pp. 97-126)

      The Reimerdes case, like the Bunner case, is important in the DeCSS history in that it showcases important frames for the movement. Furthermore, it is particularly illustrative of the dissonance between hacker practices, academic freedom, and user concepts of freedom of speech and legal/industry interpretations of those concepts. It shows how wider publics such as academics in the fields of cryptology and engineering can be drawn into a debate that starts off as a question of copyright policy. In that sense, the case demonstrates the power of movement frames to touch on the everyday technological practices of users with technological...

    • 7 iTunes Hacks: Hacking as a Tactic in the Digital Rights Movement
      (pp. 127-152)

      A history of iTunes, the iTunes Music Store (iTMS), and the DRM system that once operated on music sold through Apple illustrates the development of hacks to iTunes and its access-and copy-protection measures. With this history, we can see a progression of technological resistance that began with DeCSS and AEPBR (consumer products that became politicized) and continued with hacks for iTunes (which were designed with both a political and technologically functional purpose).

      On April 28, 2003, with much fanfare and publicity, Apple introduced iTunes 4.0 and quickly became the darling of the nascent digital media distribution business. The success of...

    • 8 Structure and Tactics of the Digital Rights Movement
      (pp. 153-174)

      This chapter documents the tactics of key SMOs and actors in the digital rights movement through brief case studies. Here I seek to map the actors in the field and position technological resistance within the movement as a whole. Importantly, as this chapter reviews the movement’s tactics, it also positions technology in a way that may decenter SMOs as thekey playersin mobilization. This observation is significant in the context of social movement studies, which typically position organizations as central for both framing movement issues and mobilizing resources and adherents for collective action. I do not imply that the...

    • 9 Conclusion
      (pp. 175-180)

      The legislative history of the DMCA shows the blind spots in its configurations of users and their activities. The technological realities of the NII raised some troublesome issues for lawmakers and media companies, putting pressure on longstanding applications of copyright law. Awareness of the blind spots in the legislative process instigated the work of the digital rights movement and its progress toward challenging technolegal regimes over content so that consumers can do more with their legally purchased media.

      The formulation of the DMCA, informed by the IITF WGIP, was a contentious process where stakeholders from the content industry, libraries, and...

  5. Appendix
    (pp. 181-196)
  6. Notes
    (pp. 197-208)
  7. References
    (pp. 209-218)
  8. Index
    (pp. 219-244)