Since November I’ve been using Ubuntu Linux on my laptop, a two year old HP Pavilion dv1000 I purchased new. Every time I install that legally free operating system I break the law. I own, as do most of you no doubt, movies on DVD that I enjoy watching on the laptop. However, to watch a DVD you need to have something called a codec, a file which contains instructions for decoding the information on a DVD and presenting it as video and audio streams.
Contrary to common sense, the information on the DVD is not just basic video and audio information laid out for your reader software or hardware to read. Instead, to ‘protect’ the content copyright holders, the information is encrypted and must be decrypted using decryption keys available only from the holders of the copyright. Part of the stipulations for employing the decryption involve working to prevent ‘unauthorized use or duplication’ by using the hardware or software which is allowed to play the media. The result is that open systems such as Linux and BSD are not allowed, legally, to use decryption codecs to play DVDs.
So I use a legal piece of hardware, that I purchased, running software that I am licensed to use, legally, trying to play media that I have purchased, legally, and have not copied or done anything else to infringe the license of the media, and installing the tools necessary to play these disks makes me a dirty criminal. This is not an issue with the DMCA specifically, but it is the same principle. Legally, the laws protect the producers of the media, not the creators or the users. Copyright law is screwed up seriously.
Thankfully, my law breaking actually makes it possible to watch movies, because a bright young chap we like to call DVDJon has written a program which ‘hacks’ the encryption and allows me to use all that legal hardware and software to illegally watch disks I have the legal right to watch. But the principle… that’s what matters.