A Comment on Copy Protected CDs - Consumer Rights

This web page comments on the trend to add copy protection to CDs containing software. The point of view is that of the consumer.


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Consumer Rights

In the United States, the consumer is legally allowed to make a backup copy of software (or any other material covered by a copyright) for personal use. This has been established by by federal statute (Title 17, Section 107).

Although the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has features (Section 1201, Paragraph A1a) that attempt to curtail the use of software for the purpose of avoiding copy protection, I see nothing in it that superceedes Title 17, Section 107. For the purposes of personal backup of software, the DMCA appears to have no impact. Please note that I am not a lawyer, and my opinion on this matter may be incorrect. More information on the DMCA may be found here.

Other countries have different laws, which range from slightly more restrictive to much less restrictive.

The use of copy protected media attempts to remove this right from the consumer.

In addition to the loss of the rights of the consumer, there is also the probability of a loss of money to the consumer. Many companies charge to replace defective media. When the media is copy protected, the consumer is not allowed to make a fully functional backup of the media. When the media fails (and it will fail), the consumer will be forced to pay for replacement media. The cost is rarely less than $10, and often more than $30.

As an example, the Microsoft policy for media replacement is $23 plus shipping (normally $5) and sales tax (in almost every state). Additionally, Microsoft must receive the original receipt and the damaged media prior to shipping the replacement media. Often, this can add up to a significant portion of the original purchase price of the software, and can sometimes exceed the purchase price. Furthermore, since it requires that the original receipt be retained, most people (even the legal purchaser/owner) can't use this 'service' (how long do you keep the receipt for software?).

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