PERFORM, digital copyright, and the status quo (March 13, 2007)

I wrote before that copyright is poorly designed now that digital processors are ubiquitous. Our current copyright law makes sense for paper books because they are hard for individuals to copy. They do not work well for digital material, however, because digital material is extremely easy to copy. There is only a slim hope of applying traditional copyright to digital works, and that is to heavily restrict the use of all kinds of digital devices. Heavy restriction does not lend itself to a pleasant society.

The PERFORM Act, recently introduced to the U.S. Senate is an example of propping up existing copyright approaches. The PERFORM Act addresses broadcast of music by digital radio stations such as Currently, such stations are free to broadcast in open formats. The bill would require that they use awkward formats that attempt to prevent copying.

The prevention of copying is impossible, of course, so long as playback is possible, but the act would require stations to make "reasonable" efforts at the impossible. The efforts are onerous for the stations, and lead to limited and cumbersome software on the machines of end users.

We should strive to design copyright law that makes sense with current technology. Personal computers are here, and they are great and copying digital data. These are positive changes! We should change the law, not try to turn back technology.

More information is available via the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Lex Spoon