Bits & P.C.s: Ahoy, mateys!

This has been somewhat of a bad week for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). These are the two groups that insist that everyone who owns a computer with a CD writer, a VCR or an audio cassette recorder, are pirates stealing every CD or movie that they can get their grubby little hands on.

The first setback happened in the Netherlands, the land of windmills, dikes, and silver skates. The Dutch court ruled that the company that distributes Kazaa couldn’t be held responsible for what the users of their program do with it. For those of you who do not have the Jolly Roger flying in front of your house, Kazaa is a peer-to-peer file-sharing program.

By using the software, you can connect directly to other pirates throughout the Seven Seas for the purpose of downloading archival backup copies of programs, music and movies. Of course, the only way to be certain that this backup copy is good is to install and run the program, burn the music to a CD, or view the movie.

Since there are legitimate uses for the program the court decided the company was not violating any laws and could still distribute the program, at least in their country.

The second setback occurred when an appeals court ruled that the RIAA could not just waltz into your Internet provider with a subpoena and demand to see the records of their users. The RIAA was using a technicality of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) that allowed them to obtain a subpoena without going before a judge; a clerk could issue it.

Under the DMCA, they do not have to have proof that you have broken a copyright law. If they suspect that you have, they can threaten legal action unless you agree to pay them thousands of dollars and admit that you have broken the law. If you fight them, they will go for more money, so most people pay the blackmail.

Finally, a Norwegian court has upheld the acquittal of 20-year old Jon Johansen. Jon was 15 at the time he wrote a DVD descrambling program, DeCSS, so that he could watch films he owned on a Linux PC. The case against him started three years ago when the MPAA approached the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit and had them file charges against Jon.

In January of this year, a lower court had ruled that Johansen had done nothing illegal when he helped to crack the DVD copy protection code back in 1999 and then explained on his Web site how he had done it.

In this country, 2600, The Hacker Magazine, was sued by the MPAA for giving out the web site address of where you could find the DeCSS program. They did not have the program on their Web site, nor did they publish the program in their magazine, they only told you where you could download it. They were found guilty of violating the DMCA and were fined.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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