Posted on January 14, 2008 in copyright, DRM, NYT, Rick Cotton, Tim Wu by Brian RoweComments Off


The New York Times is hosting a debate on copyright issues and technology between Rick Cotton, general counsel of NBC, and Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School. This should be a a very interesting event. Wu is working to expand access the public domain through programs like AltLaw, while Cotton is a copyright maximalist who has helped NBC fight for stronger copyright laws and more DRM on video content.

Round 1:
Topic: DRM, Digital Rights Management, creating a war with users or a useful tool?

Cotton starts round one by acknowledging the major concern that artist want to get paid and that copyright law allows the use of DRM. Then he stumbles by overstating the purpose and the usefulness of DRM as a silver bullet that will solve distribution problems through noninvasive solutions.

Wu responds by pointing out the problems with overzealous DRM like the Sony Root Kit and the fact that most DRM prevents features that users want such as moving their own movies between devices they own. Wu also points out that DRM is being used to cling to outdated distribution models and prevent fans from remixing.

Outcome: Slight edge to Wu. I hope that as the week goes on issues like user generated content and free speech will take center stage.

Full text of round 1

My Response:
The only message DRM sends is “we do not like or trust our customers”. DRM views the public as the enemy. For those of us on the ground, fighting DRM is a war and consumer rights are the casualties. Get involved in the fight – visit Defective by Design.

To speak much is one thing, to speak well, another.
-Sophocles

Round 1 word count:
Cotton 844
Wu 449

Related FFIP articles:
Tim Wu – “tolerated lawbreaking” and Copyright

Posted on October 18, 2007 in copyright, Tim Wu by Brian RoweView Comments


Tim Wu wrote an interesting piece in Slate about “tolerated lawbreaking.” There is a whole section dedicated to copyright that I recommend reading. I appreciate his identification of harmless infringement and focus on tension between copyrights extremely broad control the positive benefits of increased publicity. I do wish Tim had taken time to discuss ways to improve the system such as expanded fair use or explicit exceptions for noncommercial uses. Maybe this will be a future project

Wu writes:
“The paradox is that the current [copyright] law is so expansive and extreme that the very firms that first sought it cannot even make use of it. Nor would they want to. In a well-functioning political system, the copyright law might be reformed in a grand negotiation between all interested parties, with the long-term goal of separating out the harmful infringement from the harmless. But in 21st-century America, that’s not a result our political system is capable of reaching. And that’s why, here as in the rest of the series, we leave it to tolerated lawbreaking to find some way out.”

Read more at Slate: part 4 is on Copyright
http://www.slate.com/id/2175730/entry/2175733/

PS his about me page on his personal website is under a PD no rights reserved. I have to respect that!