Strange bedfellows

There's been a lot of talk about the DVD filtering bill on various copyright/law sites, but what I find most interesting is watching reactions to it outside of the tech law realm. It turns a lot of traditionally friend and foe relationships on their heads.

It all started with CleanFlicks, which rents and sells what are essentially derivative works, movies clean enough that they could be played on an airplane. There are obvious legal issues when they resell and rent modified works, and Hollywood directors were not happy. Then came ClearPlay, a DVD player that takes regular DVDs and has essentially a text file associated with movies, telling it what to skip when you play them. Like CleanFlicks, but in a device. This one skirts most legal issues because it's a box running in your private home, on your own DVDs that are unaltered. But still, some Hollywood folks disliked the idea of it and this bill passed through congress to protect them.

The best part for me personally is watching where people fall on the issue when they discuss it online. A lot of folks fed up with the rise of religious influence in this country have a knee-jerk reaction against the bill, due to the backers. A lot of artistic types are also reacting against the bill and these services because it doesn't consider the original artists' work and how it was meant to be displayed.

Personally, I'm happy to see it, and not because I'd ever use a device or service like this, but for the sake of the law surrounding technology and art. In a way, President Bush just signed a law making derivative works legal and home hacking projects OK for sale to others. There's not much of a difference in the abstract between a DVD player that skips scenes and creates a new movie and a XBOX that can be turned into a web browsing, weather reporting, movie and music jukebox. Selling a copy of a DVD with scenes removed and language tweaked by an outside company unrelated to a movie studio has obvious parallels with DJ Dangermouse making the Grey Album.

To further complicate matters, the bill also upped the crimes of taping a movie in a theater and pre-releases of music and films online, but it also allowed Orphaned Works to survive.

There's a lot of good and bad in this bill, but I look forward to seeing what can come from it, in the realm of sampling and hacking.