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Why I’m Suing the US Government (bunniestudios.com)
1855 points by ivank on July 21, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 307 comments


My wife is a speech therapist and uses a system that is designed to help people who have had strokes regain their voice.

It comprises a piece of software that comes with a "specially calibrated USB microphone". The microphone is actually a Samson laptop USB mic that had the voice improvement systems logo stuck on it.

The system came with lots of legal warnings about not copying, not telling unqualified people about how it worked and not to use an unapproved microphone. The DMCA was specifically mentioned.

One day the mic failed (the program requires patients to shout aggressively at the mic) so my wife went off looking for a replacement. We had a few USB mics that we tried and and the application refused to acknowledge their existence even though they showed up in Windows. It became obvious that the software was checking the USB device ID. My wife went to the company that ran the system to get a replacement, but they said she had to buy a new copy of the software as well - total cost $659. So we took a chance and ordered a new Samson USB mic from Amazon for €30.00, but when it arrived it didn't work. It was the same model, but was a few generations ahead and therefore had a different USB device ID. My wife has some colleagues with the same package so I tested their mics and they had different USB device IDs and it became obvious that when Samson released a revision of the mic the company offering the system simply recompiled the code with he new device ID baked in and then re-branded the mic.

So, not wanting to shell out $659 for a whole new package I took the old and new mics apart desoldered the cartridges from both mics and put the new one in the body of the failed mic. It worked! Now technically this would be a violation of 1201 in the sense that the individual copy of the software they sold you was tied to the specific mic they sold you at the same time - they said so in the EULA. But lets be honest that's just nonsense. They were simply trying to sell more stuff - a tactic that seems fairly common in various fields of professional therapy.

This is the sort of problem caused by 1201. If we lived in the US we would have been in breach of the DMCA even though we copied nothing.

Also, the software is as ugly as sin.

Would be easier to do a hex search on the binaries, find the device id of the old mic, and patch in the device id of the new mic. I'd be surprised if they had bothered to obfuscate the id in any way.

Now you mention it I feel like I overlooked the obvious solution.

Hahaha :) To each his own, I guess. I would have never thought of anything involving a soldering iron!

Good excuse to break out the soldering iron.

permanently modifying the hardware is the more portable solution. it will always work with unmodified software i.e. at a colleague's location. i presume your wife works with others that use the same platform.

>permanently modifying the hardware is the more portable solution. it will always work with unmodified software i.e. at a colleague's location.

No, as OP mentioned, the software was compiled to match the device ID of the mic it was shipped with. So it would only work with versions of the software that were the same as OP's.

I think you misinterpreted. It's the USB device ID, which contains a unique to the model ID and the vendor ID, so any software would work with any device if it has the same model ID. There isn't a such thing (at least not standardized) as a unique device ID.

I think you misinterpreted, because you repeated what I said.

>So it would only work with versions of the software that were the same as OP's

What he's saying is that there might be V1, 2 and 3 of the microphone in question. The software is tied to a single version of that microphone so any microphone of the same version is indistinguishable to the software.

>the software was compiled to match the device ID of the mic it was shipped with.

Since there isn't a "device ID", only a "Model ID", there isn't a new compiled version for everything being shipped. There's maybe 3 or 4 versions of the software total and there's probably one version that's more prolific than the others.

He may not have been able to buy one of those USB Microphones off of Amazon that had the same VID and PID but the old model that he repaired is one of the few versions that the manufacturer used so there's a pretty decent chance that the fixed one will work as is with another computer with the software on it.


Although, did you get any of the other legitimate mic's to work? Its possible that the device has a serial number burred in one of the USB descriptors and is using the mic like a hardware dongle (or worse a robust DRM scheme).

But, if you hack the binary, its probably worthwhile to spend a little extra time and completely remove the id check. That way you can use any random mic you find.

Alternatively, would be fun to get the OS to lie about the USB device ID. This would definitely be possible on Linux (probably with a kernel module, but perhaps you'd have to modify the USB core) but no idea how flexible Windows is on this kind of thing..

Should be possible with DLL injection or function hooking since I would guess they just check the USB id and then use the normal mic access functions so you would only have to intercept 1 or 2 calls.

On linux LD_PRELOAD should be enough.

I don't know whether it still works in Windows 10, but you may be able to tweak an .inf file to map the driver to the vendor ID/product ID combination (https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/hardware/ff...)

That also may require playing with settings that require drivers to be signed (http://www.alphr.com/blogs/2012/08/06/getting-older-drivers-...)

I'm wondering if that's "more illegal" than fixing the hardware component (which is silly because changing the ID can be simpler). In hardware you can just say you've replaced a broken part even if it's 99% of the hardware, right?

Won't be so easy if they obfuscate/encrypt the binaries.

Could do it live, but it's more annoying.

The same way we used to crack old games. That is how Mech Warrior on the PC fell.

They're only 16 bits though so you will get a lot of false positives.

I thought that was what he was going to do. Hopefully they didn't add too many protections on the software side.

would you simply change the part of the hex in the binary that references the mic id? I was not aware i could modify the hex directly .

Every now and then I get a compliment on my speaking, my very Irish relatives call it "the gift of the gab". What they don't know is that I grew up with a small but not insignificant speech impediment that among other things prevented me from saying most words that included the letter 'r'. I remember having to consciously blacklist words from my vocabulary because I couldn't pronounce them.

Anyways I was fortunate enough to belong to a school district that had a speech therapist who rotated through schools. After three years I had improved enough to 'graduate' and have been saying words with 'r' ever since. I haven't thought about it in years but the actions of that therapist, and of the district to provide her, have greatly effected my life.

So tell your wife thank you for what she does, and please ask her if she is aware of any philanthropic organizations where people can donate time or money to the worthy cause of speech therapy. I can only imagine all the inner city schools in America without a speech therapist, and what that must do the the kids.

I'll let her know. We live in Dublin, I'm Irish but shes from New York - but got her degree in Dallas.

She spent several years as a school district speechie in Texas so she probably knows exactly what you went through.

I also grew up with a rhotacism which I forced out of myself due to bullying. I know what you went through.

And this is WHY you should be able to do work like this because of crappy software. Fixing things that are broken should not be a crime (a microphone, a computer, a tractor) Glad to see you found a solution to someone else shortsighted software protection!

I think you should copy the USB device ID. If the software only rely on that and the mic fail again I'm pretty sure there is a way to make the software believe it's talking to the old mic with that.

I did consider that but I didn't want to take the risk of messing things up even further. I figured the cartridge exchange was a safer option.

Incidentally when I called Samson support looking to buy a specific model revision I told them what the mic was used for. When I mentioned it was for people shouting mouth open wide at the top of their voice the support rep said "But that mic is for stuff like Skype and maybe recording a little bit of singing not for shouting at".

Oh, first tier hardware support. The "Wait, our product does what?" crowd?

You repaired a broken analog component. Not a DMCA violation but I suppose it's no longer an FDA approved medical device.

You don't think this was circumventing a technical measure?

The technical measure (ID lock) was untouched.

You can lawyer it in your head how you want, but meanwhile someone can still get sued over this and have to fight it.

Could you email me with the name of the software? Thank you.

Nice try DMCA


I'm looking for potential new open source projects. Knowing about the software and its use helps me figure out if its doable (for me).

"Wow DMCA sucks, has anyone around here circumvented any technical measures for copyright protection? Tell me about it!" - Not_A_DMCA

How much does your wife charge as a therapist? Everyone needs to make money. HN is a weird place to bemoan prices when many here are seeking unicorn valuations while disrupting industry. Everyone hates laws until its in their best interest to have said laws.

She barely takes home minimum wage and she is self-employed. Most of her peers are in a similar position. It is not a vocation you get in to for the money.

Edit: A common problem in her sector, and other therapy sectors, is that all the recognised diagnosis and treatment systems get bought by the likes of Pearson and other big technical publishers who will demand recurring payments to use the system. For example Owls, a common speech therapy system requires her to use their pre-printed forms to take notes. The basic diagnosis pack costs over $700, but she has to keep buying the forms at $60 for 25 - even thought he system rarely changes.

How much do you think it'd cost to replicate the software as an open source tool? I've written grants before for funding open source projects, and this anecdote boils my blood.

Taking on Pearson and other companies that use similarly predatory tactics to extract value from society's most disadvantaged is exactly the sort of "disruption" that the world needs more of.

That said, I doubt one could go at it alone with no support or with only a grant -- building up mind share, fighting off BS patent threats, and doing enough sales to break even on these non-development costs aren't the sort of things that a government/ngo grant will typically support. And even if you could find the money, you'll still need access to a network of experts.

Someone should setup a fund that force-multiplies government/NGO grants for societally beneifical OSS with funding and access to expertise for these other things (legal/marketing/etc.). The aim could just be breaking even on non-grant-funded costs by selling support/branding/etc. to institutional players like hospitals and large chains.

I agree.

I mentioned Owls above. You wont believe what it is... just clipart in a nice easel book form. I'm not joking, its just page after page of clipart, accompanied by a manual and 20 page copyright warning booklet.

The thing is Pearson has convinced governments, schools, charities, hospitals etc that this system is the best way to diagnose speech issues. My wife and a lot of her colleagues would beg to differ.

Tangent: Pearson sells curricula to a lot of school districts. These are the people that in part control what your children learn, and what their teachers can teach.

Agree re: disruption. I've thought about this type of thing a lot, and I wish there was a way to fix the root cause instead of what I consider the symptom (dodgy overpriced software for a specific niche, especially when it targets non-technical users and/or has to do with medicine / HELPING HUMANS PHYSICALLY). I came to the conclusion that it's Very Hard to disincentivize greed. Anyone have any ideas for what could be done to help curb behavior like this by companies (companies which are really just people who are making these kinds of decisions -- never forget that)?

I’m not sure there’s any overt greed exactly. A company saw a market and launched a product for that market. But like most companies and products, especially in the case of a de facto monopoly, they’re not very good. When there’s no competition, why spend the money to innovate or improve? Your customers are still going to buy your shit.

The best way to improve the status quo on a case-by-case basis is to introduce competition, say by developing a better product, marketing it well, and basically out-predating the theretofore market predators. The marketing is easy if you can get enough momentum behind it:

“FooCorp wants to sell you these materials for $absurd. We made these better alternative materials. You can print the basic set yourself for free, or order any of our wide, high-quality selection, starting from $reasonable.”

I don’t think there is a general solution to the underlying cause, though.

Competition from the open source world perhaps.

Sounds like something Ycombinator should look at soliciting startups for.

Out of curiosity, are there effective and significantly cheaper systems in other countries outside of the US that people could purchase from? Or do they have industry associations and such eating out of their hand to mandate their use?

This is exactly the kind of thing I'd love to see China come in and drive the price down to commodity levels on.

Realistically, what kind of skillsets, experience and understanding would be required to setup and operate such a fund?

Its really simple software, essentially a VU meter.

The therapy involves getting patients to shout in a certain way and try and reach certain volume levels or follow certain volume patterns. E.g. shout gently for five seconds and gradually ramp up the volume over 10 seconds.

It would be really easy to replicate. I reckon the most time consuming part would be testing and calibration.

The whole app directory is less than 2MB.

Really, any audio editor would do.

But you should look into Max/MSP ( https://cycling74.com/products/max/ ), where you could build and bundle a simple audio app like that in minutes and have it tailored to your specific needs.

Seems like a audio program like Audacity or maybe Ardour would do the job.

Another business that does this is the hearing aid racket. An audiologist examines a patient, comes up with a patient's profile (some kind of EQ / convolution map), and then loads that into the hearing aid using proprietary programming cable and software.

There are other settings more under the preferences category than DSP, like what profiles go on what switch setting, beeps, things like that. But these are all guarded jealously.

The aids are very expensive, more than $5k, for what's now ancient tech. They've only recently gotten BT and only then at the high end, more like $8k for the BT models.

We really need open hardware and software, so home users can get an audiologist to compute their profile and then do what they want with it.

I saw this kind of predation secondhand when my maternal grandmother (I know her as “babcia”) went in for hearing aids. Her main problem was actually earwax buildup, not general hearing loss. But there’s no money in giving a patient a script for ear drops, so they managed to convince her to drop thousands in insurance dollars and no small amount of her personal dollars as well. <sigh>

But, she can hear, and she’s happy. I guess that’s how these companies get away with it—you can satisfy a customer without doing a whole lot of actual good for them.

Yes you are right, this sector is full of scam artists. See here http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbrief...

My father who is in the age group now pretty much confirmed all of this when recently shopping for one. As it was covered by his health care they were trying to flog him one at a ridiculous price.

I wonder how different the hearing aids are from a custom IEM designed for live performances... That market is vastly more competitive.

As I understand it, the audiologist prescription includes an EQ map as well as few different types of filters for different situations: music, conversation in crowded room, 1:1 conversation, etc. Hearing impairments are not totally amplitude dips but also comprehension ones. SO I suspect aids have a few extra DSP filters available to the programmer that IEM's don't, while IEM's probably have wider range and better reproduction for the musician's taste.

Can you say a bit more about the process of writing grants for open source projects? I have some long-term education related projects that I'm considering grant funding to support. I have some ideas how to go about it, but I'd love to hear what you've done.

Yeah, this is just plain thievery from people who can least afford it.

> I've written grants before for funding open source projects

Is this a common thing? I would absolutely love to be funded to work on a bespoke open source project for such a good cause.

How does she barely make minimum wage as a speech therapist? My mother worked in the school system for 20 years making nothing. Now works in skilled nursing, people that just had strokes and other trauma learning to speak, eat, or breathe correctly again. She makes around 80k and regularly picks up side jobs at other facilities for $50+ an hour.

I have another friend from college who works in a hospital and makes 70-80k. Although there isn't much increase over the years in a hospital.

Just curious because I'm familiar with the field. Are things different in Europe?

Could a professional organization of speech therapist come together and fund a competitor? Obviously you would need to deal with the free rider problem somehow.

The "free rider" problem has been solved. Unfortunately the solution is to have ruthless for-profit businesses, which is where we're at today.

If you want to sell software that expires after two years, just do that. Sell a two year license. Don't gouge people in dishonest ways.

HN is hardly an active supporter of unicorn style VC pump and dump. We poke fun of it all the time.

This is a common criticism of HN I hear on Twitter by people who clearly don't spend much time here.

I hear much of the same. I don't think I've ever seen Snapchat mentioned here without an oogle of 40 somethings complaining about how useless and unintuitive it is.

We appreciate your defending the HN community against spurious putdowns, but adding another spurious putdown is not a great way to go about it.

I'm really apprehensive about replying to this because I don't feel like what I said was spurious (and I feel like this comment might have the same unintended message as the first) in any way when I try to recall[1] the threads[2] I've read[3] and participated[4] in. How should I less spuriously describe my experiences here?

[0] (This is only here because I wanted to make sure spurious meant "false" and not "fast or quick") http://www.dictionary.com/browse/spurious

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12039107 (2-3 negative, spurious comments about snapchat)

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11075336 (about 33-33-33 of completely dismissive, completely bewildered, and then simply trying as hard as they can to explain to the previous two groups)

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11778392 (I honestly didn't want to continue doing this simply to explain my perception)

[4] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9606984 (This was actually my first comment on Hacker News :) Hopefully this one won't be my last...)

edited formatting of the links

Many of your comments are great --- including this one --- but the one Dan marked off-topic was not. I don't know if it was actually off-topic, but it made a sweeping generalization and wasn't a high-quality comment. I read through the threads you linked here, and I didn't see much evidence that 40-somethings were complaining about Snapchat's interface. There were many people who were bemused and confused by it's popularity, but I didn't see any clear correlation with age.

So I think Dan was right to consider your "oogle of 40 somethings complaining about how useless and unintuitive it is" to be a spurious putdown. I think your "first" comment makes the same point about Snapchat's utility, but in a more acceptable manner. So please keep posting other comments, even controversial ones, but if possible avoid such generalizations unless they are well-supported and central to your argument.

Thanks for helping me understand both of your viewpoints. I can definitely see how that comment can be seen as spurious now and will try to avoid those sweeping generalizations.

I'm 21 and I don't get it, I don't think it's an age thing but a personality thing.

I usually feel for people getting downvoted because they speak their mind, but... No people don't have to make money this way. There are plenty of ways to make money and it is not important that she doesn't happen to make a lot, even if she made a lot, I don't think this makes any difference.

What? Why should the behavior the OP described be illegal?

This is exactly the question. Is the dmca, specifically this section valid law.

People aren't complaining about the price, they're complaining about the fucking stupid way that price is enforced and the gouging that happens when the inadequate hardware fails.

Though I don't necessarily agree with you, I'll upvote you as I think you bring up a good counterpoint that's not being discussed.

It's possible that this company's business plan assumed the replacement by obsolescence model - instead of a high upfront cost to recoup their R&D, they expected users to replace it every few years at full cost.

This is no different than the vast majority of the bait & switch type schemes the tech industry and every other market uses. If one is acceptable, I don't see why the other is not, just because a small percentage of the population on HN understands how to replace the electronic components of said hardware.

Should a chemist be able to manufacture patented pharmaceuticals in his garage simply because he/she knows the procedure? What if the drugs cost $10K a month because the company spent billions developing and marketing them? Now what if the chemist decides to make the expensive drugs for his family? And his friends. And their friends. Where does it stop?

The DMCA has been abused, but it isn't so cut and dry.

In the case of the drug, we as a society (and I use "we" very loosely here; in this case it means "mainly people who benefit directly from this opinion") have "decided" that a "person" (company) who invents a useful drug "deserves" to gain tons and tons of money, and operate in a way which prevents others from duplicating the drug, even if that behavior leads directly to the needless suffering of potentially millions of individuals.

In the world I want to live in, this type of thing would be given to society due to the benefits of it. "But it's an investment; how will they recoup R&D money?" some will say. My response is that we as a society should recognize that the "free market" approach here can be quite inhumane for many people and figure out a way to either publicly fund this research (and address the related problems such as fraud and embezzlement) for the benefit of everyone.

Isn't the actual research publicly funded in many cases anyway?

Yes, most actual scientific progress comes from government-funded and/or non-profit institutions. As the saying goes: socialise the losses, privatise the profits.

No customer is or should be obligated to make obeisance to a company's "sacred" business model.

this company has not taken action to enforce DMCA or any other licensing gripe with the guy, so as yet he hasn't forced to pay obeisance to anything, and he didn't, so that issue is not really on the table.

you are essentially taking the position that the company should be forced to sell its software unbundled with hardware because you would prefer it that way.

Under your logic, the unicorn Uber could be forced to provide their software independently too, why should I have to use Uber's cars if I just want to use their software for scheduling and other market clearing tasks that I want to undertake, including scheduling competitive ride sharing. My headphone broke; I didn't like my Uber driver; how dare they bundle them together.

Now, I actually believe that Uber and other unicorns should not be allowed to become unicorns the way they do because I think we could achieve the same level of innovation in the public interest without monopoly prices. But I don't attempt to get my way by sneering at people and downvoting them.

Your argument is a non-sequitur. Bunnie's lawsuit, and this guy's situation, are not about using something they haven't paid for. In fact, they are about having the full rights to use something they HAVE paid for. You, as someone off the street who would like to use Uber's software, haven't paid for that right. Nobody here is suggesting that businesses should have to sell off their proprietary systems to anyone who wants to buy them.

They didn't sue him, yes. But they did specifically mention DMCA, and that they believe what he did to be illegal. So, at the very least, it was an implied threat. Which he ignored because "<b>if</b> we lived in the US we would have been in breach of the DMCA".

I also don't see anything in that comment saying that they should be forced to decouple software from hardware. What it says is that they shouldn't be allowed to legally prohibit their users from doing said decoupling on their own, if they have the resources and the expertise to do so.

Now, this position does result in their business model being non-viable - if working around such technical restrictions is not illegal, and it's cheaper than not doing so, then there will be a market in workarounds. But I think that is fair - there's no inherent right for some arbitrary business model to be viable, so the market sorts it out. Companies can still try to make it work by utilizing more sophisticated protective schemes that require more effort to break, raising the cost of such workarounds. But if it doesn't work for them, well, they will have to look for a different business model - sell the device at a higher price, say, to mitigate losses from savvy customers that cannot be milked; or rent it out instead of selling.

As to patents and copyrights - these are, indeed, legal tools that enable specific business models. They exist because we as a society (i.e. majority consensus) believe that these are necessary to stimulate creation of certain goods that would otherwise not be created at all - so we have established them as a kind of explicit social contract. One could argue that their present form (terms, especially, and domain of applicability) is not actually agreed upon by the majority; but I think most people agree with the basic principle. They also have some important exemptions, such as fair use, which are also there to ensure a balance between keeping the business model viable, and protecting other social interests.

I don't think that a similar consensus exists with respect to DMCA protections. If you take a random person off the street, and explain them a situation that DMCA makes illegal, as the original post in this thread, the most common reaction is "WTF? This is insane". And I think it's for a good reason - DMCA doesn't really enable any business models that are uniquely suited to producing goods and services that the society needs, and that cannot be produced through any other business model. All it does is provide some opportunity for extra profit. I don't think that most people would consider extra profit for a few businesses to be sufficient justification for very heavy-handed legal restrictions that defy common sense.

look, I am in favor of open systems, right to repair, right to modify, etc. Hell, I'm in favor of the GPLv3 which puts me way to the free-open-copyleft side of 90% of HN. So yes, I am against the DMCA.

What I am objecting to in this thread is the tone of everybody that this one little anecdote concerning the bad luck of one guy with a copy protected system is somehow egregiously bad behavior on the part of one little company. It's not. It is further evidence that we could have a better system without the DMCA etc.

What I'm saying is, when I drive a car, sometimes I speed, and if I get caught, I take my ticket like a grownup, I don't start pissing and moaning about cops, The Man, how I was treated, "we shouldn't have speed limits" etc. which many people I know do. Even though I've seen a lot of bad behavior by cops, I see a lot of bad behavior by a lot of people, many of whom have jobs that I don't want myself.

This thread should be a celebration of somebody's diligent hack around some arbitrary rules. It's not a poster child for the evils of corporate ethics.

People whose blood is boiling over what happened here? I hope they don't own guns or feel like I sped past them too fast on the highway, because I think they're *.ragers, is the argument in favor of rationality I'm trying to make.

But you can still buy a car without signing up for uber.

I want to use Uber's software, just like this guy wants to use the software that came with the hardware that broke.

Look, I agree that I don't like what this company is doing. But I don't like what the unicorns are doing either. I'm arguing for consistency of viewpoint; and in terms of damage, what this company is doing is far less damaging to the economy (and I'm not referring to the damage Uber is doing to taxis, I'm in favor of that, I'm just in favor of a herd of Uber's competing, rather than a single player monopoly run by a sleazebag)

> Should a chemist be able to manufacture patented pharmaceuticals in his garage simply because he/she knows the procedure?

Yes, he should. As long as he doesn't sell the patented chemicals it should not be a violation.

As I understand it, technically, in the United States patent infringement is patent infringement; no mitigating circumstance. In the UK or Europe there's an exception for personal use.

If their business model is based on assumed replacement, then they should make that explicit when someone buys their product; tell them that they are buying X years of service. A customer has the right to know what they are agreeing to, and having a secret expiration date is not a fair business transaction.

Any business model is fine, as long as all the people involved in the transaction know what they are agreeing to. Bait and switch is NOT acceptable, and just because others do it does not make it acceptable.

If you are going to hide the fact that you expect your product to break in 2 years and the customer will have to buy a new one, then you don't get to complain if someone bypasses your business model and fixes it themselves. You can't use the law to enforce your trickery.

I wish I had enough rep to downvote you. For shame.

This post about the damage inflicted by 1201 reminded me of another 1201: Halon 1201, banned because it depletes the ozone layer. A serendipitous coincidence, with this post talking about 1201 like an ecological threat.

More seriously, the GPLv3 contains an interesting provision. Search for "Anti-Circumvention" in this to find the section: https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0-standalone.html

The second paragraph is probably enforceable, but I'd be interested to hear from someone suitably informed whether the first paragraph has any basis. How far can it be taken?

For example, one of the most insidious things about the Blu-ray format is that unlike DVD and HD-DVD, commercially pressed video Blu-rays are obliged to use AACS. Theoretically non-AACS discs could be pressed and work, but the replication plants aren't _allowed_ to print non-AACS video Blu-rays. This has caused some consternation where people want to distribute Creative Commons/etc. video on optical media, more than can fit on a DVD. I think I recall Archive Team talking about just having to resort to putting video files on a data Blu-ray instead.

If someone made a film, put "Neither this work nor any derived work can constitute an effective technological measure for the purposes of the WIPO copyright treaty or any corresponding legislation" in the credits, and then someone else got AACS'd Blu-rays made of it, would 1201 thereby not prohibit breaking AACS specifically in the context of that Blu-ray? It seems rather dubious.

I'm not a lawyer either, but I doubt that clause has much effect, if any. The DMCA defines "effective technological measure" as follows:

> [A] technological measure “effectively controls access to a work” if the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work.

This seems like an objective metric, not something the copyright holder can arbitrarily "deem".

However, in the usual case people worry about, where a user is "circumventing" by modifying software on their own device, one could argue that given the "Installation Information" clauses and the other parts of the GPLv3 aimed at ensuring the user has the ability to modify the software, it does not "in the ordinary course of its operation" require permission from the copyright holder. The "no covered work shall be deemed" clause could be seen to clarify intent.

There are other cases, like if the GPL software was, say, a web server that someone had configured to password protect files they had copyright over, and a hacker bypassed the password protection. This would normally be covered by the CFAA and other hacking statutes, but the DMCA could apply too. In this case, the GPL's "waive any legal power to forbid circumvention" clause wouldn't apply because the hacking wouldn't be "effected by exercising rights under this License with respect to the covered work". But if the "no covered work shall be deemed" clause is effective, it would close off using 1201 against the hacker anyway...

CSS encryption on DVDs doesn't "effectively control access to a work" because it is easy to crack. That doesn't stop copyright holders and the DMCA from deeming that DeCSS is illegal.

No, the law means "effective" in the sense of "has the effect of controlling access" not in the sense of "does a great job at it." CSS clearly does have an effect of controlling access to people trying to copy DVDs even if the encryption is weak.

Got me thinking: As an argument, 1201 is an ecological threat and single point of failure. Most copyright media is a petroleum byproduct...

Good luck!

What's kind of cool about this issue is that it attracts support from citizens of all political stripes - whether you're a farmer who just wants to be able to fix his own damn tractor, or a hacker who wants to futz with proprietary hardware, the law is patently bogus.

Unfortunately, farmers and hackers have far less political influence than corporations. Hopefully by pursuing this through the courts and with adequate resources from the EFF some progress can be made that couldn't be in congress.

Just as a point of fact, farmers have huge political power. Look at farm subsidies, look at Ethanol mandates.

To be more accurate, I would say the number of farmers that want to work with code/electronics to fix tractors is a small subset of "farmers." Try cutting a farming subsidy and you'll quickly see how powerful farmers really are.

Ted Cruz was the only candidate who dared challenge Ethanol mandates -- while campaigning in Iowa. Most political pundits considered that suicide. He won Iowa despite that, but it does show that farmers actually have disproportional power in national politics. However, the "hack my tractor" crowd is not necessarily exercising that power. Perhaps in the 2020 election, this will become a marquee issue (as ethanol has been in elections past.)

No, farmers have very little power. Agri-corps, big business which collects the majority of those subsidies, have power. These laws keep little guys down.

Exactly re: influence. Laws like this are de-facto evidence of the power of the will of the people vs. the power of the will of financial interests by other people who deem that more important (in terms of their bank accounts and short-sighted profit motives).

Really, if you're a farmer who wants to fix his own damn tractor, you're probably a hacker (in the traditional sense of the word). You don't have to work with computers in order to be a hacker.

Circumvention by itself definitely shouldn't be illegal, and it's probably unconstitutional to make building and researching circumvention mechanisms illegal. But I don't buy Step 2.

> EFF is representing plaintiff Andrew “bunnie” Huang, a prominent computer scientist and inventor, and his company Alphamax LLC, where he is developing devices for editing digital video streams. Those products would enable people to make innovative uses of their paid video content, such as captioning a presidential debate with a running Twitter comment field or enabling remixes of high-definition video. But using or offering this technology could run afoul of Section 1201.

It definitely should be legal to build those products. Maybe it should be legal to distribute that captioned video as fair use. But why should Twitter profit from a user captioning a video CNN created?

That's the part I have trouble with here. Fair use is fine and good, but there is a large universe of very profitable companies that don't make content of their own, but profit from other peoples' content. Of course they have a huge interest in weakening copyright protections under the guise of promoting fair use.

Um, if I am a content consumer that has legitimate access to content streams from two different sources, why am I not allowed to multiplex those streams in a way that is useful to me?

This is not about Twitter, or CNN, but the users ability to consume content that they have legitimate access to in the way that they choose.

Replace twitter in this example with the ability to feed an audio stream into a speech recognition and translation service to translate audio streams on the fly and suddenly no one can argue the value to the consumer, but both cases are legitimate uses to different users.

Another example of a simple consumer service that could take advantage of this and already exists: RiffTrax. Right now they have to use the "the customer has to use two different players, figure out the audio settings, and get the timings right themselves" method.

Their problem has nothing to do with the DMCA, it's just plain 'ol copyright law like it's existed for decades.

The point you're missing is that the ability to dynamically remux Blu-Ray contents is legally blocked by the DMCA, but if it wasn't there could be, for example, software that injects extra commentary tracks into the processing of a disc you have.

Which is why I said circumventing copy protection shouldn't be illegal. You should be able to make that video and use it for your own purposes. My problem is with Step 2 of the article's hypothetical: instead of feeding the video into a speech-to-text machine for your own use, you put it on Twitter where Twitter makes a bunch of money off something that was mostly CNN's work.

But it does not say "put it on Twitter" anywhere. It says mix with a Twitter feed. You're reading more into it.

I don't think you understood what his product does, it's a FPGA to defeat HDCP in realtime and then adds various overlays to the picture, e.g. a live twitter feed in the right corner.

This trend of making things illegal before any harm is done is insidious.

Imagine if someone has their Blu-ray player playing on a TV. They design a system that flashes physical flashcards in front of the TV with a twitter feed. That shouldn't be illegal, right?

Now, what is the difference between that and overlaying a digital twitter feed? You are legally allowed to view the content. Why shouldn't you be able to consume it in any way you deem fit? If you copy or distribute it, that should be (and is) a crime, but until you have done that, in my opinion you have done nothing wrong.

Corporations have successfully lobbied to erode the whole basis of our legal system by taking away the presumption of innocence at every turn.

I have a little trouble understanding your point, is it that he suggested Twitter as a captioning/commentary outlet? I have to think that was just an example, but also that Twitter's position as a commercial entity does touch on wider issues.

I don't think Bunnie is looking to develop products that redistribute video.

If you've seen his previous NeTV project[1] he's looking to inject video overlays into the HDCP stream and let you do things like he described in his letter. His method of getting into the HDCP stream[2] via a MITM attack is probably what's running afoul of the government.

[1] https://www.adafruit.com/products/609

[2] http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=2117

...and if he wants to offer that product he can license the stream and not hijack another company's product, right? If not, why not? Details please.

It's not hijacking this stream, it's allowing the legitimate user of the stream to modify it with an overlay while viewing it, at home for example.

While it's not something I agree with in principle, you do know that doing such a thing outside of the specific Four-Factor Fair Use test is an instance of Copyright Infringement? I'm not happy with the way the law is written, but I don't think this avenue is altruistic in the least.

The real problem, of course, is that the Internet today consists almost exclusively of private companies profiting from other people's content. Twitter doesn't pay its users, it makes money off their tweets AND by having them look at ads (yes, this is work). Similarly with Facebook, or with any review aggregator (Yelp, Amazon, Google+), monetizing the free labor of others.

The DMCA protects certain forms of property very jealously, but other forms (e.g. a review) aren't even recognized as property, and the idea of users being appropriately compensated (as we'd expect each nickel to be accounted for a song owned by EMI) is practically absurd. (Note that I do not want the world where we monetize everything)

At the end of the day, which forms of digital property we create and enforce are going to be what determines who can amass wealth - the existing regime was obviously set in place to benefit corporations, billionaires, not joe user.

Some people seem to be downvoting you because they disagree with your view point.

I'm not sure I agree with you but your views are valid and a positive contribution to this thread. Just want to call out that I'm a bit disappointed with the rest of the community for targeting you.

That's very common here. I'll usually have it in waves: I post on internets state, some criticism, sysadmins take a lunch break and my post is voted up, then front end guys go out for a coffee and that's reverted, when startup founders start midnight hacking it's flagged etc. :) this is annoying, though I do understand that the comments that one disagree seem more likely to be spammish to them, and that this instinct is hard to overcome.

Twitter exists as a platform that allows politicians, entertainers, businesses and more communicate more quickly and cheaply with people interested in them than ever before. The profit a user gets out of Twitter depends on what is put into it.

What you're describing as profit is a diffuse social value, public discourse, not a narrowly-defined piece of property that can be monetized and sold (views/impressions/clicks).

I would like to suggest out that the latter is a heavily-defended form of property (belonging to the platform, not the user who does the work of viewing/clicking) that is monetized into the billions, while the former does not directly, probably just because it cannot be defined by terms of contract, and would be exercised on behalf of users, a diffuse unorganized source of power, and not the corporation, a narrow, organized source of power with specific intent.

We might despise users for not having their shit together, and watch happily while large corporations cart off billions and build giant systems of surveillance to further probe us, but this sort of 'vae victis' attitude is I think why 2016 is the debacle that it is.

Twitter isn't profiting off their users, or at all for that matter.

Twitter has a market cap of $13 billion mostly because of content produced by its users. The only possible way it can make money is by showing ads to users (getting them to do free labor).

The joke was that Twitter isn't profitable.

What does profit have to do with market cap.?

It is really strange to me to see this comment downvoted without anyone giving a justification.

I didn't down vote you because I don't agree with anonymously down voting people when I disagree with a comment like a sneaky coward, but maybe I can shine a little light on a possible disagreement.

Twitter is made up of it's shareholders and workers. The workers have been receiving a salary(profit essentially). Twitter shareholders make money when the market cap goes up(profit essentially). It's likely a semantics discussion about what "profit" specifically means to each person more than anything.

Um, that's a semantics discussion, I guess, but one with a clearly right and wrong answer.

It's likely a semantics discussion about what "profit" specifically means to each person

Fortunately, profit isn't defined so subjectively when talking about a corporation.

It can also make some money by selling data.

I fail to see how your quoted text has anything to do with twitter making a buck. The target here is the end user being able to do more with their paid content, including overlaying other content. Substitute a wikipedia entry as the example if twitter is causing a hangup. There are already limits on fair use when profit is involved... this is more about letting users use content in ways that are not prescribed by the big content producers, and being able to develop the devices to do so without breaking the law.

Invalidating 1201 wouldn't get rid of all copyright law. Distributing a such a video would remain a copyright violation regardless of 1201.

If I'm reading the OP correctly, the video isn't being distributed. Just an alternative media stream with some form of captioning that could paired up with the video at the user end.

Why should CNN profit from captioning their video with Twitter users' commentary? It goes both ways.

Why should CNN profit from words they didn't create?

> But why should Twitter profit from a user captioning a video CNN created?

It appears that you are saying you can create something that incorporates fair use of a protected work, but you can't disseminate it, except maybe by some non-profit internet samizdat. That makes fair use a nullity.

Twitter isn't profiting from a work CNN created. They are, indirectly, profiting from user-created content, some of which is based on fair use, by creating a communications medium.

That was the notion that I was operating under as well, as a content creator, and got torn to shreds so I backed out of this thread mostly.

I went ahead and wrote an article that might be of interest to you, and seeing as you're an astute and recognized authority, I'd appreciate criticism as well.


What we need is the legal right to fork any IP. An open licensing model where no one needs permission. They just need to maybe pay an IP tax that trickles up to the previous contributors that helped produce what was forked.

IP is completely flawed because it grants a monopoly on the fruits of specific knowledge or a work as if they are static end products, whereas in reality anything that is not evolving is dying. So the law restricts progress to the owners of the IP even when we could all contribute. And when there is incompetence or negligence by the owners, we have a situation where something good is ruined or withheld, with anyone fixing it being illegal.

Removing IP is impossible because it's about profit, which is also a right. What we need is a new revenue system based on new principles of an expectation of progress and open contribution. Open source software and hardware is this, but just without any standard profit model backed by law.

who pays this tax? the person that forks the github repo?

This is just one scenario, but you can imagine a system where the person who profits over any IP would pay IP tax, which would then get distributed upstream to previous registered contributors. IP producers would need to be tracked, but this is something that systems such as github already do extremely well, and credit card companies already run systems that process fees for every single transaction.

Producers will announce themselves anyway, in hopes that their content will generate as much value as possible. Contributors would announce themselves in exchange for the right to use any IP.

So say DJ Foo remixes a Michael Jackson song and uploads it to YouTube. YouTube will withhold the IP tax from the ad revenue paid out, and hand it over to the IP revenue service with the copyright profile. Michael Jackson will get paid for DJ Foo's remix automatically.

Say DJ Foo does an original song and uploads it to YouTube. The same thing will happen, but DJ Foo will get paid from the IP revenue service since the IP is tied to DJ Foo as the originator.

And imagine if all this information was open and public. We could lookup any product or work and see all of its activity and history as if it were open source code on github.

In exchange for everyone paying an IP tax, anyone creating anything or adding something will be guaranteed to get paid for their contributions based on the maximum value society can generate from it. Violators will be shamed just by manipulating the system because they'd be doing it in public, and it would be in the IP creators best interest to police their work and report violations. Violations don't even need to be criminal. They just need to be fines that disincentivise those actions enough, much like parking tickets. An example violation would be uploading someone else's song without changing it or false claims regarding ownership.

Okay, now one more paragraph about how anyone is incentivized to create anything in this system

not that i'm necessarily agreeing, because it's complex but pay what you want entertainment works quite well so people are willing to support when they don't have to. also people create plenty of FOSS and creative commons software, so the incentives to create don't have to be monetary and the incentives to support don't have to be legal

plus... does anyone except the rich celebrities really think they're worth as much as they make? they could afford to have a bit less anyway ;) and they'd still keep creating

Ah... You miss an important point. There doesn't need to be an incentive to create anything. Creation is the reward. Creative minds will create no matter what.

The trick is to create a society where creators get fed, and that still remains compatible with capitalism because we are in love with capitalism.

Just to add, this is the creator's side. You can imagine a consumer side where everyone decides to put in X dollars like public radio, but watch their donation get equally distributed based on the content they consume. For both sides, the idea is to remove the profit motive from the platform itself, make it as automated and hands free as possible, make it fair, make it as open and data driven as possible, and to let creators focus on creating and nothing else.

And maybe just anyone who wants to join is good enough. By joining, creators will get paid automatically just by publishing content that generates income for themselves or anyone else.

> the legal right to fork any IP

Not really useful without any public source code.

If something isn't done about this very soon, people will never remember or know what used to be. Most (many?) of us here have used VCRs, tape recorders and CD burners, etc, and understand what he is talking about when we remember the days when we had freedom to own information.

Today's kids have been well trained by Apple, Google and Netflix and hardly even understand what we are talking about.

"Oh, you don't have an iPhone anymore? Just buy it on Google Play and you will have it again on your Galaxy." is a quote I have heard more than once...

Unfortunately I believe that even if the suit was successful, we would just see more purchases become 'perpetual licenses', skirting the updated law. IIRC, Tesla was very heavily against letting anyone tinker and went to some extremes to stop it. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see them make buyers sign a EULA in the future when you go to 'purchase' a vehicle.

I can imagine tinkering with a Tesla could cause some heartburn for Elon. There are safety issues, which are real. What happens when some maniac changes the software to make autopilot into full self driving, then plows into a minivan on its way to Little League practice? Also interesting, recently heard about a guy who can reprogram some diesel trucks to get better performance (probably at the expense of NOX emissions, like what happened with VW). Still thought it was pretty cool that the truck was not locked down to prevent tinkering in this manner.

NOTE: I am talking about what the company's perspective may be, not my own view of the risks.

What happens if I tinker with a regular car and put a nitrous oxide engine? The safety issues, which are real, could allow someone to plow into minivan on its way to Little League practice. It could explode. It could cause a massive fire. It could go way faster than the speed limit, bypass the limits of the breaks, and go against any number of laws.

So... does this mean I could sue Ford if someone modified a Ford car with a nitrous oxide booster? Could Ford sue the modifier for ruining the reputation of Ford when they crashed a modified Ford car? Will the state sue Ford for allowing such modifications, commonly used in street races? Can there be a civil suit against ford for anyone harmed by such modification?

To me, all those questions has a clear answer, and that answer is No. It also has a historical proof, as there hasn't been any lawsuits against Ford for failing to prevent such modifications. If the owner of a car modify their own car, then that person is fully responsible of any consequences of that action.

I would argue self-driving car software is different. If license terms permit modification, and a modified version is running in a car that causes damage, then there will be an argument as to whether the modifications caused the wreck, or whether it was the underlying software and thus the manufacturer who is responsible. Tesla, quite rationally, would not want to give users a permissive license, given this obvious liability problem. Even if, nod nod wink wink, they might approve of owners playing around with it.

I'm sure we all could come up with compelling arguments for both sides of this debate.

"It is the socially responsible thing for Tesla to make guarantees about their car software performance and prevent tampering in order to keep our streets safe."


"It's my product, I own the car; I have the right to tinker with all of it."

I observe that we constantly have this same debate: can we be responsible and take care of ourselves or do we need some ruling class to take care of us and micromanage our decisions for us? Or philosophically, can mankind be perfected through laws?

Half-measures and exceptions in the self-determination debate always strike me as lacking wisdom. Culturally, we should be strongly predisposed one way or the other.

How about using the same tactic many smartphone makers use:

"We're allowing you to unlock your bootloader, but if you do, you're voiding your warranty."

Similarly car makers could say as soon as the user unlocks the car's systems for modification, the company is no longer responsible for any accident that might happen.

It seems like a rather good compromise to me.

The car company is already not responsible for any accident that might happen. The operator of the vehicle is responsible for safe operation, period.

Yea, that's why nobody blamed Toyota for any crashes caused by faulty brakes and they didn't have to spend millions recalling all those cars at all.

No, car companies are sued when defective equipment causes an accident. They would have to take measures to ensure that consumer-modified equipment that causes an accident is not blamed on them.

Defective equipment is not the issue here.

Except for failures not caused by poor maintenance or poor/reckless driving. Like if your rear diff falls out because the bolts weren't done up at the factory, etc.

I'm sure user modification of functional systems would void the warranty. That is a separate issue from third-party liability, though, because the third-party victims are not party to the warranty.

>put a nitrous oxide engine


Petrolheads add nitrous cannisters to their engines to get a boost in power when it is pumped in.

Check out the Fast and Furious movies if you're interested.

> What happens when some maniac changes the software to make autopilot into full self driving, then plows into a minivan on its way to Little League practice?

We can't let these hypothetical worst-case scenarios be an excuse to stifle innovation.

What happens if we let people modify their microwaves and a terrorist uses his to give kids cancer!?!?

What if we let people tinker with their toasters and somebody uses one to electrocute a pool full of kids!?!?

Please, think of the children!

> What happens if we let people modify their microwaves and a terrorist uses his to give kids cancer!?!?

I know this was said in jest, but given the (generally unfounded) fears some people have about microwaves and cellphones I want to point out that exposure to unshielded microwave radiation isn't going to cause cancer (at least not any more than anything else that heats you up could somehow cause cancer) because microwave radiation is non-ionizing; you would need at least ultraviolet light for that (and UV-C or X-rays would be most effective).

The biggest danger with strong microwave radiation would be boiling your eyeballs as they lack the cooling most of your body has but contain significant amounts of water.

Good to know, now I'll have something to say to my mom the next time tells me to back away from the microwave while it's on...

What about cooking the marrow in bone?

If that's not a weird joke, I really want to hear why you think marrow is going to absorb more microwaves than any other part of your body. Because it won't, it's an overall heat like sitting in a sauna. At low power it's warm, past that it's unpleasant, past that you have heat stroke.

bone marrow is one of the parts of the body that has high water content and thus would heat faster than others under radiation.

Sauna heat does not preferentially target liquid for heating.

Almost all of your body is high water content, and the heat will easily conduct the last little bit.

By the time you have to worry about specific non-brain parts being overheated, your overall temperature is such that you're braindead.

Actually, no, you can easily sustain heavy damage to certain organs without being brain-dead: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_burn

I should have chosen my words to be more focused, I suppose. You can damage certain organs. You will not be cooking deep internal organs with an unshielded microwave. Not without cooking everything else.

Pretend my original comment ended with "Past that, you basically fell in a fire and it doesn't matter what is heating you." Is there anything wrong with that? Or the rejection of the idea that bone marrow is at risk?

have you looked into 5G signals? I was recently reading about how they plan to make them in the 50GHz range, which to me seems potentially dangerous

50 GHz is still significantly less energetic than visible light, which is in the hundreds of terahertz. The sun bombards us with a lot of visible light, but you have to get into the blue/violet/ultraviolet region before it's energetic enough (high enough frequency) to cause damage. Barring some strange and previously unknown special biological interaction with a particular radio frequency, radio signals which have lower frequencies and lower intensities than visible light from the sun are not going to cause cancer any more than exposure to red or green light would cause cancer.

>We can't let these hypothetical worst-case scenarios be an excuse to stifle innovation.

Well, given that the Earth could be wiped out at any moment with the nuclear weapons and stuff we stockpiled, long term this idea might prove to be laughably wrong.

Very true! We should be concerned about worst-case scenarios. Probably an isolated car crash is not a worst-case scenario, except for a PR-obsessed tech company.

That's not how nuclear weapons work.

Care to elaborate? Because that's exactly how they work.

Innovation is the magic word that renders everything it's attached to undebatable and unquestionable..

The parent argument is that the magic words we should stop using are "what if". So let's stop the qualitative pontification and have a quantitative discussion of cost vs. benefit for various parties.

How many people die in auto wrecks each year. How many people die due to accidents involving microwave ovens.

Put that way, the statistical impact of someone tweaking their automobile improperly is lower than that of someone messing up their toaster.

> We can't let these hypothetical worst-case scenarios be an excuse to stifle innovation.

Yes, we sure can.

I don't want your "innovation" killing a bunch of people.

If you can't innovate without endangering people, you need to "innovate your innovation" and come up with a way you can do it safely.

I'm sorry Mr. Wright, we have several, accounted ways of flying and they all led to death. Maybe you should try something a little safer. No, of course you cant experiment with only yourself as test person- this government cares about its subjects.

Still dont see the point why the third generation of the of Wrights should have a right to cease control over new forms of space travel. No reason why the descendants of the inventors wife and the patent-lawyer, shall hold back the creatives of today.

Someone determined enough to rework autopilot to work everywhere is not going to be stopped by the terms of a EULA.

It might be easier than you would think. It's possible Tesla (or other vehicles with self-driving features) have latent capabilities already in their software, which just need to be switched on. A hacker playing around in his garage might feasibly jailbreak the car and flip this switch. Whereas I would agree with you to the extent that writing self-driving software that uses all the various data inputs and maps to pilot the vehicle, from scratch, is not something very many people are even capable of doing.

Had the same thought, that would be quite the feat.

But that logic is kept far away from legal decision making.

If a Maniac has made unauthorized modifications - Maniac gets sued and does jail time. Tesla is fault free.

You shouldn't be able to sue a tool manufacturer for misuse of a tool.

If you cannot sue Mercedes for a case when a driver with after market tuning kills someone in a crash, why should Tesla be liable?

Safety policy should be enforced by safety laws. Not unrelated IP laws.

"Just" pass a law that makes these EULA's null and void.

But if this suit is successful, it would mean that Section 1201 violates your First Amendment rights which in turn means that EULA also violates your First Amendment rights.

No. The First Amendment limits what the government can do to restrict your right to free speech. The DMCA, and Section 1201, is the Government limiting the power of freedom of speech, and so the First Amendment is applicable.

By signing a EULA, you are accepting a limitation of your freedom of speech and (along with other factors - e.g. money) gaining some compromise instead (a car). That's not First Amendment territory in the same way that moderation of an online forum isn't.

The First Amendment prevents laws being made, not contracts being signed. It means it's not illegal, not that it isn't a breach of contract.

(IANAL - Obligatory XKCD https://xkcd.com/1357/)

Ah, thank you for clarifying! I'm not a US citizen so I don't know much about the US-specific rights and laws.

The First Amendment guarantees rights to citizens in the eyes of the US federal government.

The EULA is an agreement between a citizen and a corporation, and thus the First Amendment does not apply.

Under American contract law you can sign away any of your constitutional rights. Be careful what you put your magic squiggles on.

Sort of. We can't make a contract to do something that would otherwise be illegal. A very simple example is that I cannot put into a rental lease that I can evict a tenant in 5 days. That would be in conflict with the law that says I must go through a 30 day process. Even if I put it in a contract and you sign it, you can still sue me for not going through the 30 day process.

Right, there are laws that govern certain types of contracts. I think the problem there is that a lease is regulated, rather than contracts in general. As a counter example, the contracts that members of sober living houses sign indicate that they can be expelled for relapse without going through a formal eviction process. These contracts are governed by a different federal law (the 1988 amendment to the federal fair housing act, IIRC).

Not necessarily, if the contract can later be found to be unconscionable. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconscionability

Not true: for example, you can't sign a contract that makes you a slave.

If you're in this thread to support this EFF-backed action, I would strongly consider donating to a cause you support:


Also be sure to click their Amazon affiliate link before buying stuff, it's an easy way to give for free.

You can also set them as your designated recipient for Amazon Smile and use a browser extension to put all applicable purchases through that program:



What's the EFF stance on this particular lawsuit?

I am curious why, if they actually believe they have a good chance of success, this is only being filed now rather than in prior years? Has something changed?

I may be reading the actual complaint incorrectly, but I believe it's because in the 2015 update, the Library of Congress failed to adequately address previously protected exceptions of the DCMA:

>"The Library of Congress failed in its October 28, 2015, rulemaking to grantexemptions from the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision, 17 U.S.C. 1201(a)(1), for speechusing clips of motion pictures, for the shifting of lawfully-acquired media to different formatsand devices, and for certain forms of security research.SeeLibrary of Congress, “Exemption toProhibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access ControlTechnologies,” 80 FR 65944 (Oct. 28, 2015) (“Final Rule”). The Librarian’s failure to grantthese exemptions violates the First Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”),5 U.S.C. § 702.Case 1:16-cv-01492"

As is such, the EFF needed time to compile a case, file it, and also find plantiffs.

[1] https://www.eff.org/document/1201-complaint

> I am curious why, if they actually believe they have a good chance of success, this is only being filed now rather than in prior years? Has something changed?

You need standing and money to sue. Based on the EFF release:


> EFF is representing plaintiff Andrew “bunnie” Huang, a prominent computer scientist and inventor, and his company Alphamax LLC, where he is developing devices for editing digital video streams. Those products would enable people to make innovative uses of their paid video content, such as captioning a presidential debate with a running Twitter comment field or enabling remixes of high-definition video. But using or offering this technology could run afoul of Section 1201.

> EFF is also representing plaintiff Matthew Green, a computer security researcher at Johns Hopkins University who wants to make sure that we all can trust the devices that we count on to communicate, underpin our financial transactions, and secure our most private medical information. Despite this work being vital for all of our safety, Green had to seek an exemption from the Library of Congress last year for his security research.

They have two people with reasonable reasons for wanting the regulation changed and are affected by it now would be my guess. Oh, and these people need the EFF to cover the legal costs.

So you're telling me Andrew Huang's business model is to make derivative content devices, for profit, without permission or compensation from the original creators and/or rights holders?

I don't find this litigant to be sympathetic in the least (the second one, Green, is much more reasonable - though redundant to the John Deere case going on).

My initial impression is that I might actually want Huang to lose, if the implications of what he wants are as stated. He's trying to justify "remixing" for profit without compensation to the original rights holders. That's hot garbage in my personal opinion as a content creator.

I don't see the problem. I paid for some content, why shouldn't I be able to view it in my manner of preference? If I want to watch it mixed up with some funky third-party subtitles, or a chat window with my friends, why not? You're assuming that Andrew Huang's business model requires sharing content.

Here's a practical application: Due to travel, sometimes my wife and I are apart when the latest Must Watch Episode of something comes out. We will fire up skype and hbonow/netflix and watch it together. Dorky, yes. But also a pain in the ass to keep synced when pausing for bathroom breaks, snacks, etc. Someone should invent an app for that! Oh... but it would be illegal under DMCA.

The problem with your initial paragraph is that you assume making derivative content is legal in one's own home, DMCA not withstanding. Outside of "actual" Four-Factor Test Fair Use, it's infringement. Making a device to enable it is highly suspect as a motivation for an outright repeal of the legislation.

You do know the app you describe wouldn't be illegal under the DMCA if your program was licensed by the rights holders, right? That's what we're getting to here. If Huang's post described how he went about trying to negotiate and make deals with the content providers his device wants to piggy back on, and they were terrible in response, that's a different game - I'd be a lot more sympathetic then, no doubt. Show me where he did the due diligence and crunched the numbers, really!

It certainly doesn't change the basis of argument being asinine when realistically DMCA protections don't get in the way of day-to-day Fair Use. It just takes some effort, not buying some Bunnie Studios box off the shelf so he can make a profit. That's what is so stupid about trying to digitally steamroll protections - any time a human can SEE or HEAR something they can find a way to jack it and do something. It's just reality.

> So you're telling me Andrew Huang's business model is to make derivative content devices, for profit, without permission or compensation from the original creators and/or rights holders?

You realize a TV fits that description, right?

There is no reason for every device in the pipeline to kick back money to the content creator. You only need to pay for it once.

You apparently don't realize watching TV is not an act of creating derivative content, which is the stated goal of the device.

You only have to pay for it once when you're consuming, you have to pay for it in a different way if the intent is to allow someone else to consume a variation of what you've paid for. That's how copyright works. Questions?

I can pull up twitter on my laptop while watching a video and tweet about what I'm watching, and if others are watching it at the same time, I can see their tweets about the same video. Why is putting that twitter content onto the same display as the video somehow different than when it was on my phone display, especially when injected between the player and the display? It would be different if Huang was taking video, modifying it with a twitter stream, and then distributing the resulting derivative work, but that's not what he's doing.

If I sold a transparent LCD display that displayed twitter content, and told buyers to put it in front of the video while it was playing. Would I still be making derivative content for profit? If not, why is compositing the video and overlay physically meaningfully different from the compositing happening between the player and the display?

Yes, and VLC should have to pay movie publishers since they let users add subtitles over the video stream.

That makes a lot of sense. /s

If you can't tell the difference between adding subtitles and making hard edits to video content then I'm sad for you, because it's a very easy distinction to make in the basics of how content, Copyright, and Fair Use work. Not /s

> their paid video content

There are a large number of situations where you have to break protection mechanisms on content you've legally purchased in order to exercise your previously existing and legal rights to use it as an owner.

...and it happens day in and day out, and until I see drastic legal cases of enforcement going out and ruining companies and individual people and families I don't believe that the threat is particularly concerning. It exists, okay, and cleaning up 1201 would be great, but we're talking more about First Sale here in principle.

The ability to chill new development through ambiguously enforced law is just as important as the prohibitions actually in law.

Define new development - the security researcher has extremely valid standing, but "editing and chopping video" isn't new development in the phrasing this case presents.

And that merely makes you a copyright maximalist. Others feel differently, and the law itself is essentially an encoding of policy because here are no natural rights for retaining ownership of all derivative works in perpetuity.

It shouldn't make a difference. I don't think there is a statue of limitations in challenging a law and sometimes it takes some time to understand the implications of a law anyway.

I fully support your cause.

I'm not an American and do not live in America but the problems with American (copyright) laws unfortunately affect the world on a global scale. I sincerely wish you all the best in your efforts and hope that other organisations as well as the (fantastic) EFF back you.

I stand behind you.

If only my precious American vote had any power over this whatsoever. (My foreign colleagues seem to think it does.)

A quick summary for those who don't want to click through without knowing what the lawsuit challenges:

Section 1201 contains the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions. These infringe upon fair use activities like format conversion, repairs, and security research.

A related article by Matthew Green is at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12137437, and by the EFF at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12136682.

If only they were the bully on the school playground perhaps you could fight him. But they are the playground, i wish you the best of luck.

Suing the government to stop enforcement of some law is a pretty well established procedure at this point.

Yes and that should worry people, that so often laws are taking into effect that nobody wants and you have to sue to get it undone, correcting HOPE you can get it undone, which i don't remember many cases of that it actually worked out the way people wanted it.

Don't get me wrong, great that a person can, but that shouldn't even be needed... in my opinion, utopia

Which people are you talking about? This is done pretty regularly but generally judicial review tends to favor conservative interests.

The people, citizens. Though i'm curious what kind of laws are rolled back in the US because a citizen decided to sue to government. Do you have any nice examples (preferably of some law effecting many but sued by just one person?)

How about Roe v. Wade?

"Roe (P), a pregnant single woman, brought a class action suit challenging the constitutionality of the Texas abortion laws. These laws made it a crime to obtain or attempt an abortion except on medical advice to save the life of the mother."

ah yes that was a great case, thanks for the reminder. I'm not from the US but i have heard about that. But that does kind of shows what i meant, afaik that was a big and hefty case? And all because some people decided what another person could do with (mostly) her body. (hoping to get it undone).

But this one has economic (money) aspects, i fear this might be a bigger struggle (while people may differ about whats more important).

This is a pretty big part of what the Supreme Court does, although I guess the majority of the time it's because of an appeal or a lawsuit against some other entity and not a lawsuit against the US government directly.

Usually it's a lawsuit against some state government. Which shouldn't be surprising, since most laws affecting day to day lives of citizens are state laws, rather than federal laws, due to constitutional limitations on what can be enacted on the federal level.

So, basically, go here:


and pick any case titled "{Person} v. United States" or "{Person} v. {State}". If the winning party is {Person}, chances are good that it repealed some law or another.

Obergefell v. Hodges, United States v. Windsor, Lawrence v. Texas

The UK government is trying to push for OSS as the default for all government software. As a default for all "societally beneficial"'software is a better goal and one highlighted here.

Now my attempts so far are stymied by this weird half world. Most government contracts basically want either bums on seats contractors or to fundamentally hire "someone who has done it before" (effectively the same as wanting to buy off the shelf)

So there is almost no way to seed fund the initial OSS development.

Down thread people talk about a fund for starting OSS projects to provide things like this. Plover is an example of people trying it on their own - but a funded system that basically follows current gov work seems better.

Can someone do a tl;dr? This is upvoted very highly but it's assuming a ton of context I don't have. All I get is that someone wants to be able to tinker, but today that necessitates breaking some legally-enforced protections on the product.

That's a valid point but I don't see how it's gotten to 1000 points, so I think I'm missing something. What's the lawsuit? What's the egregious use case?

DRM. I assume you know of it, and that it's massively hated. It's "copy protection" software mechanisms that is meant to control how you use and copy media that you have. It's a pain. Nominally, it's there to prevent you from copying the media in illegal ways, but it often also prevents you from doing perfectly legal things with it.

However, it's not just a pain to be worked around. In the US, since the DMCA section 1201 became effective in 1998, it is illegal to try to work around DRM. Mostly.

Every couple of years, the Library of Congress gets to make a list of exceptions to 1201, of specific situations where you can work around DRM without it being illegal. Most recently was October 28, 2015.

Many people still objected to section 1201 on principal that it prevents tinkering, but the Library of Congress' list of exceptions has generally kept people placated.

As for context of their specific case: I'm not totally sure. User csydas suggested that this case became possible because of certain exceptions being removed from the latest version of the list (then some time for the EFF to compile the case). This seams reasonable to me, but to know for sure would involve legal details about the case that we don't have yet.

I'm familiar with DRM and the related DMCA criticism. I just don't get what's so special about this case. It's like when you see a really boring scene in a movie and everyone is laughing at references and subtext you're not getting, or on the edge in suspense.

Like, if the scene is some dinner party, but right before you started watching someone had set a bomb under the table or something. What's the bomb here?

You should be excited about this case because it seeks to overturn the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. It is notable because it's backed by the EFF, notable researchers, and a top law firm. If it succeeds, it would be a huge win for our right to hack--many have posted stories about how those provisions affected them.

"Our children deserve better." If you take children - they indeed mix and remix without worrying about any (copy)rights...

Practically all of mankinds knowledge is a result of freely mix and match creation and ideas of others, be it in the domain of language, arts, science or technology.

Copyright has gone out of control. Luckily not yet the whole planet bows to USA's demands. Let's hope that that will never be the case.

Unfortunately the TPP is enshrining the US copyright approach in other countries.

They need tools for remixing though, don't they? Who will make the tools if it's illegal?

You know, no one asked you tech people from getting involved in law making. Nowadays, a law maker can't seem to do anything at all without some techie crying foul. Their argument always is some nonsensical technobabble, which the courts can't really understand anyway, often giving in to their demands just to get them to go away.

And it's such a shame, too, since those laws were bought and paid for by lobbyists, and what does it say about the rest of the country if one can't expect to get what one pays for when lobbying at the highest level of government?

Doesn't the US dismiss most lawsuits filed against it out-of-hand? Wasn't that why that class-action on behalf of the Japanese concentration camp survivors was such a landmark case?

Great. DMCA-1201 was always unconstitutional and was in practice used to stifle free speech. Good to see EFF actually bringing it to legal fight. It should be repealed completely.

The problem is this new business model where they don't just sell you things/stuff, rather they also sell you "specific rights" along with the stuff. The usual things like you cannot do this or that with the stuff that you bought from us. The sole purpose is to keep earning money even after the one time deal of buying the stuff.

I've made an account just to wish you good luck! You're a great man for doing this and I'm glad EFF is on board.

This entire cause is a sham, beyond belief, a cause that seeks to degrade the value of creative thought and intellectual property.

Before we get into socioeconomic barrier discussions I am a former disabled homeless person who is how the founder of one of the most powerful environmental activism groups in the country. I started out with nothing and worked myself to where I am, using original and creative thought and at no time have I ever needed anyone’s intellectual property to build myself to where I am.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, that supports this complete bullshit erosion of the rights of content creators everywhere, does nothing in this world but fight for causes that continually reduce the market value of original ideas.

They claim to fight for things like “free speech” but what they really fight for is the rights of anonymous hate groups to steal your photos and write nasty messages on them. They fight for the rights of the meek to inherit the Earth so they can then destroy it with their abject failures.

Look to the recent lawsuit Google v Oracle, where Oracle sued Google over the use of their software in Android. Google avoided billions in liability and it was all thanks to the work of the EFF, who suck off the teat of Silicon Valley and protect their billionaire buddies from financial liability, and then they support “little guys” like this so they can continue their 1% supporting ruse.

I look forward to watching this mad grab at free intellectual property get slapped down by Washington DC. This is not about fighting the government, this guy is a puppet being used by the power that be in Silicon Valley in order to allow companies like Google to continue to rob, loot, and pillage other people’s intellectual property without financial liability.

IME many US people do not resonate with the creativity arguments, but do with the freedoms. The land of the free lately doesnt feel like it and I think many US people are feeling it too. It may help to phrase your arguments in the wording that the constitution is meant to protect -- in terms of freedom.

I wonder how much he budgeted for this series of lawsuits.

I think he could be supported by EFF since they have released a press release.

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