LATEST NEWS IN THE COPYRIGHT WARS

The recording industry is gearing up to sneak copy-protected CDs into the marketplace – audio CDs that would play normally in conventional CD players, but that would prevent you from making copies or .mp3 files.

Philips Electronics stuck its head up today and said that copy-protected discs don’t fit its strict definition of a “Compact Disc,” and maybe Philips will stop the recording industry from using the “Compact Disc” logo – maybe even insist that copy-protected CDs be clearly identified on the outside so consumers won’t be misled. A Philips spokesman also said Philips would begin making CD recorders that bypass copy-protection technology – with a legal theory as to why that would not violate the evil Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (You can hear the sound of teams of lawyers warming up their timesheets, right?)

That sounds like good news, but it may not turn out to be very significant. Philips sells a lot of CD recorders and other devices for digital music. It stands to lose if the recording industry shuts everything down. But if the industry ever developed a stable copy-protection scheme, and sweetened the pot with some money for Philips, the objections might melt away.

THE DARK SIDE: In the meantime, the content industry is hard at work lobbying Congress to require hardware copyright protection – essentially outlawing any device whatsoever that permits you to manipulate anything with a copyright. Their goal is to require every device to observe whatever watermarking scheme is cooked up, and make it illegal to sell a hard drive that can store .mp3s, or a handheld player that can play them. Without this protection (as well as copy protection built into operating systems, software, web browsers, routers, and everything else), we will eventually see the “industry’s destruction,” as put by Michael Eisner.

You’re probably nodding your head, thinking of what happened when VHS recorders survived the initial legal battles and consumers began to indiscriminately tape movies and trade them freely, leading to the eventual destruction of America’s movie industry.

Oh wait. That didn’t happen. Sorry, my mistake, I got carried away by the compelling logic of the industry’s arguments.