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Debate Rages Over Copyright Limits

Posted November. 24, 2005 08:29,   


On November 21, the American digital copyright protection group Electric Frontier Foundation (EFF) made accusations against the record label Sony BMG. EFF claimed that the record label secretly distributed anti-reproduction software on the computers of consumers that corrupts various practical applications.

Concerning the fundamental issue of copyright protection in our digital age, Google and Sony BMG commented, “Where exactly is the intersection of the conflicting interests of media producers and consumers?”

Free Use Cannot Be Permitted-

After being harassed by consumer complaints and hit with a lawsuit, in an effort to restrict copying, Sony secretly inserted spyware called XCP on over 50 CDs, so that if the CD is played on a computer, files are secretly installed onto the computer without the consumer’s knowledge. Because of this spyware, the computer would become more susceptible to viruses and other harmful effects. The CDs with this spyware could not be reproduced more than three times. It was announced that 4.7 million CDs encrypted with this spyware were sold.

From the third of this month, if consumers enter searches, “Google Book Search” will search through the pages of actual books. Although the problem presented by publishers’ copyright groups of giving people access to the contents of books without paying has not yet been resolved, currently the contents of the site are limited to books that are no longer available in bookstores, only in libraries.

New kinds of rights have been created-

Because of these two events, a general discussion that this opportunity should be taken to restructure the general concept of copyright has spread not only through the IT industry and legal realms, but also among political circles.

A recent column in the New York Times said, “‘Google Book Search’ does not infringe on copyrights of preexisting books, and a new form of rights should be created.” The Boston Globe stated, “The ‘Google Book Search’ problem isn’t about whether to release the right of using the contents, but it’s about whether to give the rights of using “metadata” search engines that search through the contents of books to consumers.”

Further, concerning the software meant to prevent reproduction, the Internet news site Slate said, “When consumers buy a CD, they are also buying the right to use the material recorded on the disc according to their discretion,” and stated that copying must be permitted as long as is not for private sales.

American Republican House representative Rick Boucher is pushing forward the “Digital Media Consumer Rights Law” to regulate the IT industry. If this law is passed, copy prevention material/software distributed by CD and electronic book vendors that destroy equipment would be made illegal, thereby repealing the 1998 “Digital Millennium Copyright Law.”

Yoon-Jong Yoo gustav@donga.com