[free-sklyarov] What I'd like to see: fixing DMCA and IP

Stephen R. Savitzky steve at theStarport.org
Fri Aug 24 08:24:05 PDT 2001

Robert Knop <rknop at pobox.com> writes:

> > Actually, it would be sufficient to include a unique serial number and
> > digital signature on every copy you sell.  That way if somebody
> > distributed a large number of copies you could trace them (or if they
> > filed the serial numbers and signatures off, you could bust anyone in
> > possession of an unsigned copy, since it's obviously stolen).
> That's troublesome, because part of "fair-use" rights include making
> excerpts.  It would be very cumbersome of you had to set up a system
> whereby every conceivable excerpt woudl include the serial number and
> the signature, and it would be very limiting to the people trying to
> make the exceprts.  (You would have to use only approved
> signature-maintaining software, and couldn't use the tools of your
> choice, to make the excerpt.)

No it's not -- the signature is intended to prevent large-scale piracy
of the entire book.  Excerpting is, as you say, fair use and requires no
digital signature, only a proper citation.  Even if somebody "excerpted"
a whole chapter and put it on their web site, I wouldn't object as long
as readers could click through to my site and buy the whole book.

The digital signature, in other words, is specifically meant to allow
the work to be passed around _in plaintext_, allowing for any kind of
fair use, while being able to spot blatant abuse.  It's just like the
clause in most open source licenses that says you can distribute as many
copies as you like but you have to keep the copyright notice and
disclaimers intact. 

Putting it another way, a whole-work digital signature on a plaintext
file is the _most_ I think a publisher ought to be able to get away

On second thought, this idea is probably too confusing, and could easily
lead to the kind of abuse (on the part of publishers) you're talking about.

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