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Friday, August 04, 2006

Circuit City invites wrath of the MPAA by copying DVDs

Fair Use advocates, take notice. Circuit City is apparently putting its neck on the line to provide customers with DVD transfer services. The company is offering a 'DVD video transfer service' that for all intents and purposes is illegal. The company will take commercial DVDs and rip them for use on portable devices for $10 for 1 DVD, $20 for 3 DVDs or $30 for 5 DVDs. That is, until their legal department hears what's happening.
Thus begins the article over at Ars Technica (Circuit City invites wrath of the MPAA by copying DVDs). It goes on to point out that the reason this may fall on the foul side of current copyright law is because of the much-cursed DMCA's prohibition against circumventing copy protection, which would be a necessary part of Circuit City's service.

Personally, I'm not entirely sure what to think of this. On the one hand, Romans 13, and some other passages in Scripture indicate that we ought to submit to the law of the land. Granted, there are some laws all but the most conscientious practically ignore (speed limits, for instance), and an argument could be made regarding enforced law vs. written law (for example, generally, you won't get pulled over for doing 10mph over the posted limit), I suppose. That sort of argument isn't very applicable here, however, since the MPAA and RIAA will take you to court on the slightest evidence that you may have broken the law (even if you're dead!).

So, on the one hand, I'm doubtful as to whether it is right for a Christian to support Circuit City's lawbreaking in this case.

On the other hand, I've developed a certain distaste for the RIAA and MPAA (to put it mildly), and there's a part of me who really wants to root for anyone with the guts to defy the RIAA and MPAA. Considering that these companies are currently abusing our nation's court system and laws, and using tactics one would normally associate with the mafia ("We've got some dirt on you, and we're willing to destroy you; however, for a certain amount of money, we can make this go away..."—see the first definition of shakedown), it's hard not to root for their enemies.

I suppose it's a sort of "Robin Hood" syndrome. Yes, Robin Hood was a thief. This is often overlooked, however, because he is more remembered for standing up to the "big guys," in defense of the oppressed poor. In this context, the RIAA and MPAA are Prince John, and those who have the ability—and guts—to stand up to Little John (by taking their lawsuits to court rather than paying the offered settlement, etc.) are Robin Hood and his merry men. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any King Richard out there right now, about to return from the Crusades and set everything right.

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