Leonardo Chiariglione has responded
most recent anti-SDMI letter. The
current SDMI candidates are toast, but Mr. Chiariglione
raises an interesting point. Is opposition to SDMI just a "witch hunt"
against controversial technology? His most recent letter follows,
with his permission.
Mr. Marti --
I am writing this note to you in a personal capacity, and I hope you
will understand it as such. I was saddened by your 28 September
response to the last open letter I posted that sought to clarify what
SDMI is and is not attempting to do.
After our several conversations over the last month, I thought we
understood each other as two technologists working to push forward
frontiers of knowledge using pretty much the same tools. I thought that
I had met a colleague who shared the same goals, while
possibly disagreeing on the way to reach them. And I had hoped we had
opened the door to free and open technological discourse.
Your letter changes that view and, in my mind, puts you in unexpected
company. Rather than someone who, like me, is looking to
technology to solve thorny issues, you now seem to be aligned with
people who fear technology and seek to restrain its use. As I read
your latest letter, your approach seems to call for a halt to any
problematic technology. I say this because based on your letter, your
answer to issues some have seen as raised by SDMI seems to be: Does SDMI
prevent people from exercising their fair use rights?
Then ban SDMI. Let's take that argument to its logical extension. Does
MP3 enable people to make illegal use of copyrighted music?
Then ban MP3. Has MPEG-4 started enabling people to do the same with
video? Then ban MPEG-4. Will MPEG-7 offer the
possibility for people to increase the scale of illegal use of
copyrighted content? Then ban MPEG-7. Does file sharing enable people
to increase the scale of illegality in the use content to the masses?
Then ban file sharing protocols or, while we are at that, protocols in
I do not want to be part of that company. As much as, wearing my MPEG
hat, I reject the claims that come from some quarters that
technology for content digitisation, compression and description should
be put "under control," I reject the witch hunt that seems to be
waged against content protection.
Let me make this clear: I think the questions that you raise are
important. But I do not think that one technologist asking another
technologist these questions gets us anywhere. I am not a lawyer, and
especially not versed in American law. Technology is
universal, but the concept of user rights is, unfortunately, not
universal in either space or time. Today in my country I cannot make a
photocopy of a few pages of a printed book, while in the U.S. this
appears to be protected under "fair use," a doctrine of the American
legal tradition. Before the invention of printing, people copied
manuscripts at will. But the invention of printing made the English
Parliament issue the first copyright law that prohibited the
unauthorised reprinting of books.
I wholeheartedly agree with you that there must be a good balance
between the rights of the different players: authors, publishers,
retailers, consumers, etc. But the stance you have taken puts you in an
awkward position. MPEG and SDMI are technologies. From a
fellow technologist I expect that they would be considered for what they
are: Technologies. Let's leave to others the profession of
With kind regards,
My immediate reaction to this is that when technology is "deputized" to
do the work of law (as the DMCA, in effect, does) it's not just
technology any more.
Critics of SDMI aren't just playing Pope Urban VIII to Mr.
Chiariglione's Galileo -- we're trying to express opinions about the
politics and economics of the systems we participate in. The SDMI
boycott wasn't even a call for government regulation. It was a request
that people choose not to participate in a certain project, SDMI,
because of the foreseeable adverse effects of that project on people's
"In cyberspace we must understand how code regulates -- how the software
and hardware that make cyberspace what it is _regulate_ cyberspace as it
is. As William Mitchell puts it, this code is cyberspace's "law." Code
"This code presents the greatest threat to liberal or libertarian
ideals, as well as their greatest promise. We can build, or architect,
or code cyberspace to protect values that we believe are fundamental,
or we can build, or architect, or code cyberspace to allow those values
to disappear. There is no middle ground. There is no choice that does
not include some kind of _building_. Code is never found; it is only
ever made, and only ever made by us. As Mark Stefik puts it, "Different
versions of [cyberspace] support different kinds of dreams. We choose,
wisely or not."
Lawrence Lessig, "Code and Other
Laws of Cyberspace"
So how should we consider the legal and other human consequences of
technology projects when we plan them or decide whether or not to
participate in them? Or should we just build what seems cool at the
I think an awareness of what is going on in the wider world is very
important and if a movement exists to force people to suicide at age 30
then how can you in all concience help build suicide boths?
If there was more trust in laws and rights enforcement then everyone
could relax and feel free to make our technological nightmares secure
in the trust that no one would use them for evil. Just to remind you
that it can indeed get worse I will quote a portion of a message I
posted to the DVD-discuss list.
Thankfully this evil of copyright expiry will soon be abolished in
Australia by the moral right of the Author to *withdraw* the work. This
enlightened country will also prevent 'derogatory' use in such filth as
parodies, indeed any 'damage' to a copyright work is an assault on the
authors moral rights, so you better never right 'this movie sucks' on
of your DVD's.
Presumably the rest of the world will follow Australia's leading
Aus copyright state
moral rights bill
Note:generaly laws in Aus start off weak and get tighter as they go
public consultation invariably find big business is getting ripped off
pirates in every other house and that for our own good (and the vague
promise of lower prices) as consumers these laws must be as tough and
protective of our fledgling industry.
Is there anything like this in USA?
Perhaps you should state in your amici that what makes US of A what it
is its constitution and that NO interest should come above the
Alas every country is different and what one country takes as an
inalienable right is just an interesting but inapplicable novelty in
another country. The universal declaration of human rights has not
stopped any of the atrocities in the world and the WIPO hardly seems to
take sides with the consumer, so it falls to the individual to be aware
of what use becomes of their invention or efforts and to bear some of
the moral responsability of what may come from it.
Final thought? I strongly support copyright, but not by any method
that prevents the material contributing to society in general. Trust
people to be honest, true pirates are easily found and are clear
cases. Fair use is just that. Fair!
I don't see it as a witch hunt, Don. You're quite correct, a boycott is
not the same as government action. And it simply doesn't make sense to
participate in that sort of content restriction.
Fortunately, I think that, between boycotts and the simple economic
nonviability of content restriction, the situation should eventually
Mr Chiariglione attempts to convince us with this argument:
Does SDMI prevent people from exercising their fair use rights? Then ban
SDMI. Let's take that argument to its logical extension. Does MP3 enable
people to make illegal use of copyrighted music? Then ban MP3.
- Does SDMI prevent people from exercising their fair use rights?
- Does MP3 enable people to make illegal use of copyrighted music?
In fact, those two sentences are not very similar. The second sentence
bears more relationship to this one than it does to the SDMI sentence:
- Do knives enable people to illegally hurt other people?
Clearly the answer is yes, you can hurt people with knives; but that
doesn't mean we should flat out ban them, because they have all sorts of
other positive uses. Similarly you may be able to violate copyright
with MP3, but that doesn't mean we should ban it, because it's got legal
uses as well.
Well, I think it's clear anyway. Even if you don't agree, I think you
do have to agree that it's perfectly consistent to oppose SDMI while
supporting MP3 and knives. Or at least that Mr Chiariglione hasn't yet
shown that stance to be inconsistent.
The point is that "X enables something bad" is logically quite a
statement from "Y prevents something good". Let's make a more logical
extension of that first SDMI argument:
Does lack-of-MP3 prevent people from exercising their fair use rights?
Then ban lack-of-MP3.
Sounds like company I'd be happy to be part of!
Thank you for posting your exchanges. I do understand some of the
comments made by Mr. Chiariglione, but I most definitely agree with what
So how should we consider the legal and other human consequences
of information technology projects when we plan them or decide whether
or not to participate in
My answer is a resounding YES, we should definitely
take these factors into account. Technology is merely a tool and
it's use can have either a positive or negative (or both) effect on the
world around us. We do need to think about the larger ramifications
before simply unleashing new technologies.
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they are out to get
The question for us is, why pay any attention to this person? He
obviously has no power to affect what will finally happen with SDMI,
and is far too confused to engage in rational discussion.
Hint for the confused: a "witch hunt" involves abuse of authoritarian
power. No authority, as here, implies no witch hunt. For the converse,
observe recent MPAA behavior, suing (i.e. abusing State authority over)
a magazine publisher for posting information about a disk format.