The Library of Congress and DMCA – So What?

From The Organization of Transformative Works on July 26th:

The Library Of Congress is about to release a  ruling granting a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) exemption to makers of noncommercial remix, which includes vidding, anime music videos, political remix videos and the like. Previously film studies professors had the only exemption: now documentary filmmakers, makers of noncommercial video, and media studies teachers are also permitted to circumvent DMCA technologies if they need to in order to teach or to make artistic statements. (The DMCA exemption applies to you if you are in the U.S. or if someone tries to apply U.S. law to your work.)

The exemptions to DMCA also extend to protections for cell-phone jailbreaks.

Great news, right? Of course this means that the likelihood you’ll be prosecuted or otherwise held accountable for engaging in this “infringement” on a copyright goes from way less than 1% to even closer (but not actually) to 0%.

DMCA infringement, and indeed most piracy, is subject to The Enforcement-Expedient Rule (which probably has an actual name that someone else thought of before I did):

The resources expended on solving a crime is directly proportional to the political expedience of solving those crime.

This means that more famous, powerful, or rich the victim or the suspect, the more resources will be expended. The resource expenditure is also related to the seriousness of the crime. Murder, for example, becomes instantly important if someone finds out about it (a photograph of a dismembered arm in a landfill appears in the newspaper), or if the person murdered missing is a rich white girl. This is because resources are limited, even resources dedicated to the prevention of, solution of, and retribution for crimes.

It would be totally easy for anyone who cared to bust the average movie pirate, and even easier to bust a mashup artist. This rarely happens, though, and when it does, it’s for the purposes of making an example of someone by completely ruining their life. The expenditure for litigation by the Recording Industry Artists of America, for example, was massively greater than the funds recouped, and is a losing PR battle as well. The upshot? Nobody cares if you rip off movies, and nobody cares if you mashup copyrighted materials, really, nobody cares if you copy and duplicate DVDs and sell them (visit Little Italy or Times Square sometime), and unless you become a big enough target, then nobody will take you down.

So the Library of Congress ruling isn’t really a “victory” for pirates, it’s an acknowledgment that there’s no money in robbing them.

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