The Heavy Hand of the Digital Law

During the late noughties this videobecame synonymous with every film viewing experience both in the privacy of our own homes and the dust filled cinemas of shopping centres around the country. It would be safe for me to assume that I wasn’t the only one who would retort with a question of how they didn’t know I wouldn’t be inclined to do any of the things specified in the ad at a later age. However, being the daughter of a lawyer and not wanting to break the law (or rather the fear of getting caught), I refrained from such illegal activity (no car, handbag, television or movie theft here).

That was until I realised that the world, or at the very least Australia, is a cruel place to live in for someone as in tune with every new television show and movie that comes out as I am. Online content streaming became my best friend during my pinnacle high school years; many an episode of my favourite show got me through stressful assessment periods and still does to this day. And then there’s that air of excitement that comes with the DVD box set release of the latest season, the one you’ve painstakingly counted down the months, weeks and then days for. Plus there’s nothing I love doing more on a day off than spending an unhealthy amount of time binge-watching an entire season of my favourite show.

But what happens when a disc from the box set of that show gets scratched or misplaced? All of a sudden your day long marathon comes to a halt and you’re left with the option of either a) resorting to the midday dullness of most free-to-air television shows, or b) having to download those lost episodes. Are you prepared to break the rules for a few episodes? After all, you did buy the DVD in the first place.

A few weeks ago, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article that looked at this question in regards to when a digital copy doesn’t work when purchased as part of a DVD or Blu-ray set. Disney recently released Iron Man 3 with a digital download inclusion, however it was only compatible with a few devices. As the article states:

Considering you’ve probably paid extra for the inclusion of a Digital Copy license, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to break the rules to get what you paid for.

There are various means in which to go around getting what you want, including DVD stripping software and torrent downloads, to name a few. And this doesn’t just apply to movies – it can be done with Kindle e-books to read on iPads as well as music, games and most forms of digitally created content. When it comes to digital rights management, the list of what is legal in regards to consumption is much shorter than its counterpart, and quite ambiguous.

Remember that CD you burned with all of your favourite songs for that road trip to the coast with your two best friends? You just committed an illegal act. What about that copy of the Sims that you bought which you then lent to your sister to burn onto her computer? Yep, illegal. What may seem fair to you or an innocent and harmless transaction is, in the eyes of the content creator (and the law), a felony.

With illegal downloading being an ongoing issue this past decade artists have taken it upon themselves to tackle even the smallest of legal issues associated with their content and what most people don’t realise when they purchase a copy of their favourite song or movie/television show, whether digital or a hard copy, is that they don’t technically own the content – they just have a license to listen to or watch it in a particular way. Last year English folk band, Mumford & Sons pulled the restraints on consumers even tighter, making one slight adjustment to their “Babel” CDs disclaimer:

“The copyright in this sound recording and artwork is owned by Mumford & Sons. Warning: all rights reserved. Unauthorised copying, reproduction, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting prohibited.”

As someone whose music library collection has been built on the basis of lending and borrowing CDs from friends and families and who grew up making mixed tapes from radio recordings, this seems a tad far fetched.

But at the end of the day, it’s their content and as a middle child, I’ve come to learn one very important lesson – the world can be a cruel, cruel place and sometimes life just isn’t fair.

Original article can be found here

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