Why you should care about the DMCA

Posted:

This originally appeared on the RT Soft BSS.

The machine that I used to run Funeral Quest has lost all its data. It was running Windows 98. During the reboot that occurs after installing the lastest service packs, I was greeted by an ugly DOS message accusing me of violating the DMCA. There was no way around this message, it appeared to be installed on the master boot record (just as “old skool” DOS viruses used to do). When I rebooted the machine with Win95 rescue disk, fdisk reported that my partition was changed to NOVELL. Although I tried several recovery methods (I used to have to deal with broken DOS boxes a lot before I became a Unix hack), I was forced to remove the existing hard drive partitions, destroying all the data on that machine.

I was accused, judged and prosecuted by Microsoft’s updating software. I had no chance to plead my case, nor recourse to the punishment. In fact, I do have a license for the copy of Win98 that was running. This point is moot now, of course. The DMCA allows large corporations, such as Microsoft, to assume control of my personal property. A more reasonable approach for Microsoft to have taken is, on determining that my machine had an invalid license, to refuse to install the software. Although that still would have angered me, I would not have lost my (and my player’s) data.

And this all happened because I was installing patches to fix Microsoft’s bug-ridden software.

This is not an urban legend. This happened tonight, at 9:45 EST 12/30/2002. Whether I like Microsoft’s software or not, the destruction of MY intellectual property has galvanized my opinion about the DMCA and companies that abuse their customers under the guise of protecting their business. This isn’t healthy development for America or business in general.

To more learn about the fight against the DMCA, take a look at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s page about it.

In the meantime, I’ve cobbled together another system to host Daisypark’s FQ game. Those angered by the needless interruption of their game should direct their wrath towards eliminating the DMCA once and for all.

[Original use.perl.org post and comments.]