Lego robot that strips DRM off Kindle books

The fact that we’ve made a system so ridiculous that this has become practical bothers me to no end.


The question is — as always — should it be?

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I don’t think it’s clear-cut at all; the owner of this book (owner, not licensee) has a right to read that book regardless of platform or device, and to make copies of it for archival purposes in a different format. These arguments hinge on interpretations of the first-sale doctrine, fair use exemptions from copyright law, and the DMCA , specifically the anti-circumvention exemption of 2003 (?) that allows literary works to be copied to prevent platform obsolescence.

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I think this is every bit as against the law as just using DRM breaking software. It’s circumventing digital rights management. If you get picky, it’s using digital means to do so.

I think using DMCA to prevent the person who bought the property to use it in a way consistent with the terms of sale (IE “to read it” versus “to give away 1000 copies” or “to plagiarize it” is an immoral piece of legal action, but given that DMCA exists, I don’t believe that this is any less infringing than any other method.

In fact, DMCA could be used to outlaw everything more modern than monks with quill pens. Even Gutenberg used technology that could be described as “digital.” Couple this with the way governments have been treating libraries, and I am beginning to wonder when they will simply outlaw reading altogether. As they squeeze the market tighter and tighter, demand will drop, causing prices to rise, causing demand to drop…


The monks would still be using their fingers, though! That makes it ‘digital’.


No, the DMCA prohibits the circumvention of an effective means of access control. There is no effective means of access control between the screen and the camera, so there is no circumvention.

This is called the “analog hole” and even the MPAA admits it is not a violation of the DMCA. in their brief on why people shouldn’t be allowed to circumvent DRM on DVDs for the fair use purpose of criticism, they said that people wishing to make fair use could do so without running afoul of the DMCA by capturing the video on the screen with a digital camera.

However, Purgathofer is in Austria, where the prevailing law is the local implementation of the EUCD, not the DMCA. But like the DMCA, the EUCD protects effective means of access control, not analog reconversion. What’s more, Austria has a “private copying right” that says that it is not an infringement to make copies for personal use – provided no EUCD-violating circumvention takes place.


Any exception to the DMCA would have expired three years later (and the exceptions are made at 3 year intervals that started in 2001, so you’re either thinking of 2001 or 2004).

Further, there is no DMCA in Austria (it’s the local implementation of the EUCD).

But in any event, analog reconversion is NOT a DMCA violation. (nor, for the record, is it an EUCD violation).

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Nope. Austrians have a private copying right – the right to make personal copies provided they don’t circumvent an effective means of access control in so doing.

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Ah, ok, I wasn’t really familiar with the remaining exemptions. Yeah, you’re right - it does appear to be an exemption made in October 28, 2003. You are allowed to make a personal copy of an etext for certain specific functions, such as “read aloud.” For some reason I thought that had been gutted, but it only had been made impossible to achieve without an absurd process like this. I get it now - the absurdity here is a direct result of the absurdity of how the exemption was defined.
Edit: Oh, but that exemption was denied in 2006…
Edit edit: But the exemption was re-granted in 2009?

A separate - and more important - issue.


Ah, so it’s only illegal most places. I don’t know which is more depressing - that such an absurd process is required to make possible perfectly reasonable activities, or that even that absurd process is legally denied to Americans…

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“Required?” This is an art project. It’s not meant to be practical or reasonable.

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My understanding is the anti-circumvention exemption for literature has been extended multiple times and is still in effect. Regardless, I still think that first-sale and fair-use doctrines trump dmca, but whether my position is supported by the law is another question. I can’t really speak to Australian law, but I think the same principles apply under that common law jurisdiction or at the very least, its still the ethically right way to look at it. Using that argument vs local laws, however, ymmv.

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Reading this string of comments makes me realize how much I would hate going to law school.

I recall a few years back at a reading room in a special collection library (the kind of place where they let you check out books for a few hours but you can’t leave the building with the books), this young woman was standing next to a table with a book spread open on it, taking photos of each page with her phone or digital camera. My 20th Century photocopy-loving mindset was blown.


Yep. It would be extraordinarily hard to do, well, almost anything today that did not include a “digital component”.


The idea that a dominant class would force illiteracy upon its subjects makes me rethink the possibilities for the cessation of Linear B in the Greek Dark Ages.


cf. Plessy v. Ferguson.



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Yup, I have decided.

It’s amazingly stupid that we have to have this conversation at all.

It’s layers and layers of madness.

  • Good artists are driven to create
  • Creative people work best when life is safe, stable, and worry-free
  • Good artists want the world to see their work

So instead we have . . starving artists with unstable lives, a world full of people who can’t experience their awesomeness, and constantly interrupted creative processes

This is the OPPOSITE of helping!