Thursday, February 25, 2010

protecting the status quo

Honestly, how much can a company not get it? Listen, businesspeople: if you try to keep business models static, not only do you sacrifice future profits, you will hurt current profits.

Autodesk, the makers of AutoCAD, want to prevent people from re-selling fully licensed copies of their software on sites like eBay. Seems like a straightforward endeavor -- until you realize they're trying to invoke DMCA in such a way that it will undermine the legality of minor things like video rentals and libraries.
When Mr. Vernor tried to auction four authentic, packaged copies of AutoCAD software, Autodesk sent DMCA takedown notices to block his auctions and threatened to sue him for copyright infringement. Mr. Vernor, assisted by the lawyers at Public Citizen, took Autodesk to court and won.

Autodesk has appealed, arguing that so long as its license agreements recite the right magic words, it can strip purchasers of any ownership in the CD-ROMs on which software is delivered. If that's right, then not only don't you own the software you buy, but any copyright owner can simply recite the magic words and effectively outlaw libraries, used bookstores, and DVD rentals, among other things (eBay also filed an amicus brief on behalf of Mr. Vernor). That would be bad news not just for consumers looking to save a few dollars, but also for our ability to access older, out-of-print materials. For these materials, often libraries and second-hand sellers are the only hope for continued public access.
Public interest aside, I'm sure Netflix might be a little miffed should their entire business be deemed illegal.

It's becoming apparent that existing copyright legislation is quite simply outmoded. We need Congress to take the lead and establish firm yet workable guidelines in the digital age.

In other words: we're completely screwed.

[Hat tip to the eff blog, via the bookmooch blog]

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