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Ownership of music and movie containers is futile

Saturday, 10 August 2002 - German copyright institute may save UMTS

The top chief of the German copyrights institute Phonoverbände Gerd Gebhardt declared on 5 March that there is no future for private copies of CD’s. Immediately a lot of turmoil burst loose. The matter should not be so controversial. It is about a just compensation to musicians for the job they did. The current legislation simply is not clear, the pending legislation isn’t either, and practice is plain anarchy. If we continue on this course we might return to the times of the starving artist. Are more legislation and law upholding the solution, or should other measures be taken?

Phonoverbände's slogan is "to protect what can be protected, and compensate the rest". The message of 5 March was to confirm that the German government adhered to this motto in the draft for the new German copyright law. They rely on legislation and law upholding to prevent mass copying. The keeper of the copyright should be able to protect his/her work. Therefore they want to forbid both technology to evade copyright protection, as well as manuals about how to do so. That means you will not be able to make copies of music or movies for private use. The European directive about copyrights contains an exception about copies that are not primarily made for economic or commercial advantage. Apparently the Germans do not want that exception. They do not want you to make a copy of a CD for a good friend, if you want to avoid lending him the original. And certainly you can not put the contents of a CD somewhere on the Internet, to allow all of your friends to enjoy the fantastic discovery. In your car you may only want copies of albums because of the extreme climate in the car during mid-summer and mid-winter: illegal. And when you go jogging and do not want a bulky failing CD-player, but a neat MP3-player: no MP3-copies. The big question is: can and should CD's and DVD's be protected anyway?

The ambiguity of the regulations and powerlessness in the upholding of them has led to an ever further spreading form of anarchy by which every popular album can be downloaded for free. This practice slowly spills over to movies, now that fast Internet connections make downloading a couple of hundreds of megabytes possible. At present there are quite effective compression technologies that shrink the gigabytes of DVD movies dramatically. A never fading inventivity is applied to map the songs and movies that are available worldwide (past: Napster, now: KaZaA and Filetopia) and complete the circus.

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Category: Policy

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