Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Want to copy a movie legally? Be your own lawyer.

An independent moviemaker recently accused the MPAA of copying his movie without his permission, and they admitted that they did it. According to their own website, "Anyone who sells, acquires, copies or distributes copyrighted materials without permission is called a pirate." (I claim fair use here, and I'm properly attributing it to the MPAA.) But according to the LA Times article, "the [MPAA] was operating lawfully when it copied Dick's movie without his or his producer's authorization. 'The courts recognize that parties are entitled to make a copy of a work for use as evidence in possible future proceedings,'"

Thus I reach my conclusion. Every time I watch a movie at home, I expose myself to potential lawsuits. (The neighbors might sue me for overhearing something offensive; someone might assert that a bit of flesh is illegal pornography; maybe a movie is alleged to infringe on other property that I don't have the right to view at home; I may have to prove I didn't watch a movie by downloading it; there are other unimaginable ways I might be sued.) Therefore, I am entitled to make a copy of the movie "for use as evidence in possible future proceedings." Now, I don't actually copy movies, but this legal argument provides me with the right to be able to do so, in case I ever need evidence to support myself in a lawsuit. So programs like DVD Shrink and DVD Decrypter (both available for free from Doom9.net) are not illegal but actually necessary to preserve the rights of potential lawsuit defendants.

Hey, if the MPAA gets to use that argument, we should, too.

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