It’s 7:15am. Then 7:30… 7:45… 8:00.
At 8:13 your eyes finally open, just in time to have completely missed your morning gym session. You could’ve sworn you’d set the alarm on your Apple Watch the night before, but for some reason… you can’t seem to find it.
You’re running late, so you jump in the shower, throw something on, and rush down the stairs. No time for breakfast. You grab your jacket and keys and head out the door but… the driveway is empty.
Panicked, you reach for your phone to call the poli… Wait… where is your phone?
Your day is off to a terrible start and as you go through the day, something — everything — seems strange.
The new iPhone — gone.
Spotify — gone.
Netflix — gone.
That new e-book you love so much — gone.
You wonder what could possibly be going on. The apocalypse? Not quite.
It’s not the end of the world, just the end of the world as you know it.
This is a world without DMCA Section 1201.
What exactly is DMCA Section 1201? The DMCA — Digital Millennium Copyright Act — was created to do just what the name suggests: bring the copyright act up-to-date with the 21st century. In the 21st century, we don’t just have books, we also have e-books. We don’t just have music and movies, we also have on-demand streaming. We don’t just have television, we have live streaming. In the 21st century video games are more advanced, and “computer software” includes everything from word processors to the engine in your car. The biggest threat to copyright isn’t the copy machine or VHS tape. Now, there are hackers skilled in the art of breaking through digital barriers to modify, copy, and leak the underlying content.
Section 1201 was designed to facilitate and promote the creation of copyrighted works in digital form, by allowing content creators to effectively use Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) to guard against infringement. TPMs are what authors use to protect their e-books. They’re what allow Netflix to stream movies into our homes without having to worry about people illegally downloading them. And while the idea of getting everything you want at your fingertips, for free, may seem alluring, it’s an unrealistic and unsustainable business model. If it were legal to break into the Nike store and walk out with whatever you wanted for free, Nike would’ve gone out of business decades ago.
The same logic applies to the copyrighted works that 1201 helps protect. If people were allowed to circumvent the protection measures that Netflix and other streaming platforms use and tamper with the software or download whatever content they wanted for free, they couldn’t afford to keep giving us that content. Did you know that on any given night, Netflix alone accounts for more than a third of internet traffic in North America? In this 1201-less world, platforms like Netflix would disappear because they simply couldn’t afford to exist. Now that would break the internet. And in the end, it’s the consumers lose out.
Opponents of 1201 argue that getting rid of it is about accessibility — that without 1201 people would have better access to content and information to use how they’d like. But the irony is, a world without 1201 is a world with less digital content to access and a world where accessing that content is much more difficult.
Today, we live in the “Internet of Things” era. Verizon, in its report, State of the Market: The Internet of Things 2016, they explain that the 21st century internet is everywhere:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is in your home, in your car and phone, and, increasingly, on your body. It’s connecting citizens to their cities, linking patients to health services, bringing companies in closer touch with their customers and capturing our imaginations. In-vehicle geofencing and other applications considered novel just a year or so ago are rapidly becoming part of our everyday lives.
In today’s digital era, getting rid of 1201 wouldn’t just break the internet, it would break everything. Do we really want to go back to the days of cassette tapes, floppy disks, and Etch A Sketch?
Photo Credit: SO3000/iStock/thinkstock & sergeyryzhov/iStock/thinkstock