Copyright madness: latest absurdity

Clay Shirky, quoted in Boing Boing:

At Etech this year, I gave a talk entitled Ontology is Overrated. I want to put a transcript up online, and Mary Hodder, who recorded the talk, graciously agreed to give me a copy of the video.

When she came by NYC last week, she dropped off a DVD, which I then wanted to convert to AVI (the format used by my transcription service.) I installed ffmpeg and tried to convert the material, at which point I got an error message which read “To comply with copyright laws, DVD device input is not allowed.” Except, of course, there are no copyright laws at issue here, since I’M THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER.

Got that? I am in possession of a video, of me, shot by a friend, copied to a piece of physical media given to me as a gift. In the video, I am speaking words written by me, and for which I am the clear holder of the copyright. I am working with said video on a machine I own. Every modern legal judgment concerning copyright, from the Berne Convention to the Betamax case, is on my side. AND I CAN’T MAKE A COPY DIRECTLY FROM THE DEVICE. This is because copyright laws do not exist to defend the moral rights of copyright holders — they exist to help enforce artificial scarcity.