While the public and the media have been distracted by the story
of Napster, warnings about the evils of "piracy," and lawsuits by
the recording and film industries, the enforcement of copyright law
in the digital world has quietly shifted from regulating copying to
regulating the design of technology. Lawmakers and commercial
interests are pursuing what might be called a technical fix:
instead of specifying what can and cannot be done legally with a
copyrighted work, this new approach calls for the strategic use of
encryption technologies to build standards of copyright directly
into digital devices so that some uses are possible and others
rendered impossible. In Wired Shut, Tarleton Gillespie examines
this shift to "technical copy protection" and its profound
political, economic, and cultural implications.Gillespie reveals
that the real story is not the technological controls themselves
but the political, economic, and cultural arrangements being put in
place to make them work. He shows that this approach to digital
copyright depends on new kinds of alliances among content and
technology industries, legislators, regulators, and the courts, and
is changing the relationship between law and technology in the
process. The film and music industries, he claims, are deploying
copyright in order to funnel digital culture into increasingly
commercial patterns that threaten to undermine the democratic
potential of a network society. In this broad context, Gillespie
examines three recent controversies over digital copyright: the
failed effort to develop copy protection for portable music players
with the Strategic Digital Music Initiative (SDMI); the encryption
system used in DVDs, and the film industry's legal response to the
tools that challenged them; and the attempt by the FCC to mandate
the "broadcast flag" copy protection system for digital television.
In each, he argues that whether or not such technical constraints
ever succeed, the political alignments required will profoundly
shape the future of cultural expression in a digital age.
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