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Subject to Change by Rudy Yniguez: Fair use of copyrights under attack by entertainment giants in bed with Congress

March 19, 2002

A number of years ago a federal judge ruled that when the government conducts surveillance on its citizens, those citizens have the right, nee the obligation, to try to detect that surveillance. The court case revolved around the government's use of radar guns.

A citizen had successfully used a radar detector to detect the government's surveillance. The citizen was prosecuted for using the device in a state that prohibited such use. The court ruled as mentioned.

So it is in the free society in which we live: the government, and others, seek to spy on us, or prevent us from using what is ours in manners we see fit. Some of us fight back, others do not.

I've owned my share of radar detectors.

The latest attempt at keeping us from using what ours is a proposal to place copy protection on music compact discs so that they cannot be played on computers. Never mind that your computer might be your only system on which to play music.

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Leading the charge against us is the entertainment industry and congressional Democrats.

Before I go on, I should say I understand why rock groups like Metallica does not want people to buy one CD and then allow others to make copies of it. (Of course Metallica ought to concentrate on making better music instead of the orchestrated junk they've made lately, but that's another column.)

No good can come from this latest assault on the consumer. As the entertainment industry moves against its bread and butter, the reaction is predictable: someone will write a hack that will allow copy protected CDs to be played on computers again.

Time after time it's been proven that a good hack will outdo good copy protection. Here's a couple examples of what's out there.

Digital video discs, or DVDs, come with software that prevents them from being copied onto videocassettes. The copy protection is called Macrovision. If you try to copy a DVD with Macrovision protection onto a videocassette, the picture comes out all screwy.

To circumvent Macrovision, what you do is an online search for the terms "Macrovision" and "hack." Each hack will likely be specific to the name and model of specific DVD players.

Read what's out there in order to find a reliable site with the proper hack. Download the hack onto your computer. Burn the hack onto a blank CD-R. Put the completed CD into your DVD player, and the hack will automatically modify the DVD player's chipset memory to circumvent the Macrovision lock.

I have no clue if there are hacks available online for all makes and models of DVD players. Now hook up your DVD player to your VCR and copy away.

Of course, you do this at your own risk. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. Maybe your DVD player gets hosed. Maybe it works like a charm.

It is my understanding that under the "fair use" provisions of current federal copyright laws, it is perfectly legal to copy anything for your own personal use. That includes records, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, TV shows, etcetera. I am not suggesting people make illegal copies of software or intellectual property to supply to others or to sell.

Here's another example. Should the day arrive that you can no longer play a CD in your computer CD-ROM you can still make copies of the CD and copy songs from the CD onto your computer. Here's how you will do it.

All CD players today must be hooked up to some type of receiver, integrated amplifier or preamplifier in order for it to be heard through loudspeakers. Simply take the output that would normally go to a cassette deck and plug it into your computer sound card. (You already knew this from last week's column.) Record the music onto your hard drive, edit the resultant file into individual songs and burn them onto a CD. You can then keep your favorite songs on your computer.

One more fun thing to do. Ever want to record songs from "Saturday Night Live," including the ubiquitous reruns? Here's how.

Hook up your satellite receiver audio output to your stereo receiver, and, as before, then go from the stereo to your computer. Get your software ready to go by launching it and setting the record levels. When they come back from commercial and show the photo of the musical guest — they always do that — immediately start the recording. When the song is over, edit the song to remove the introduction if desired and use the software to fade out or cut the audience applause.

If you're unsure of the name of the song, do an online search of SNL musical guests and find it.

Again, I'm assuming you are going to use these methods for your personal use and not illegal uses.

As an aside, Philips, the Dutch company that invented the compact disc, is reportedly getting ready to sue any entertainment company that installs such protections because the changes are not allowed under the licenses issued by Philips for the manufacture of CDs, which calls for CDs to play in all kinds of CD players.

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