Words by c.z.robertson

DRM extends the length of copyright

2002-06-14 01:00:00 UTC

Lots of people (The Shifted Librarian, Epeus' Epigone, Slashdot) have commented on Salon's interview with Stan Liebowitz. I just want to add one of the points that struck me as I was reading it.

I'm not unhappy with digital rights management, narrowly defined to software that keeps you from making copies; that doesn't extend the length of copyright; and certainly doesn't get rid of fair use.

Ignoring the murky waters of fair use for a moment, Liebowitz is simply talking nonsense when he says that DRM doesn't extend the length of copyright. Given a recording imprisoned within a DRM system, it will be no more possible to make copies of that recording when its copyright has expired than it is now. (I don't know of any DRM systems that magically switch themselves off when the copyright expires.) If the original owner of the recording has disappeared (which is highly likely given the current length of copyright) it may be impossible to make any further copies at all.

DRM systems do not enforce copyright. They enforce a ban on copying. Given that copyright must expire and that works must at some point pass into the public domain, DRM systems enforce something that is antithetical to copyright.