Behind The Scenes of the Swiss DMCA Fight

Whilst America is often considered by many to be the home of overreaching and overprotective copyright laws, the Swiss government has decided that it can do better, and so quietly passed a bill in an attempt to catch the US. However, the Swiss won't accept such a law without a fight.

Swiss DMCA referendum logoThe law, dubbed by many to be a ‘Swiss DMCA’ was slipped through on October 5th with little fanfare, and overwhelming legislative support. Annoyed, Florian Bösch started the ‘No Swiss DMCA’ campaign to do something about it. Unusually, Mr Bösch is actually a coder that works on DRM systems. He agreed to talk with TorrentFreak to discuss the law and his aims.

TorrentFreak – What brought this law to your attention

Florian B̦sch РBoingBoing, through slashdot

TorrentFreak – The law wasn’t publicized at all?

Florian Bösch – It was, but it’s… a convoluted topic, and I don’t care about politics. There’s a trail of press releases and actions that accompany the passing of this law. It just didn’t gain any mainstream attention. Don’t know if it did now, I certainly hope so. You see I didn’t really know I cared that much about all of this, but somehow the news hit me and I knew it did.

TorrentFreak – Have you contacted your representatives in either council?

Florian Bösch – I didn’t contact the representatives in the councils no. Two reasons mainly, I don’t think it’ll help anything (with exception of two all voted for this law, no abstains), and I was pretty busy of late. (I have a day job too, one with deadlines) It’s a bit controversial, I work as a programmer for a company that sells DRM technology and services.

TorrentFreak – I would think that would put you in support of this law

Florian Bösch – I’m not. I think it’s a bad law, for the industry as well. See I think the DRM industry does just fine, it doesn’t require laws to protect it. They’ll make a shoddy product that will not be able to compete with actually free content once that becomes commonplace. And the cynicism of the industry is somewhat ungraspable for me.

TorrentFreak – This 50,000 signature rejection, is it common knowledge, or is it something brought up on rare occasions?

Florian Bösch – It is a very commonly known that it’s possible.

TorrentFreak – is it utilised often?

Florian Bösch – Yeah it’s usage is commonplace. Usually parties hold it up as a Damocles sword for discussions, at any time there’s 1-3 referendums running. It’s a bit rare that it’s started by people with no backing and clue how to do it.

TorrentFreak – How has this drive been met by the general citizenry?

Florian Bösch – I don’t know actually. I started last Friday (November 31st), spent the weekend doing the website, buried myself in mailing around and talking to people to do something, organized stuff.

TorrentFreak – What’s the response been like so far?

Florian Bösch – By the people who come to the mailing list and to the IRC channel, I’d say thankful and concerned. By people who worked on that law openly hostile (such as here). They basically think this law is the best we can manage, and the next one will be worse, so if we now abolish it, we will have to fight again, and it’s not sure it’s going to be better. (or the worst happens and the people vote for this law)

TorrentFreak – According to that thread, you believe DRM will soon be impossible to circumvent?

Florian Bösch – So hard it won’t matter, yes, I think that. See the DRM as you know it is already the past. That’s kiddie stuff, the future is polymorphic DRM that changes algorithm and inner working with every content item, because on it will be some bytecode that executes on a secure VM. Whilst it certainly won’t be uncircumventable, it will just be hard to keep open.

TorrentFreak – Yet, there’s the possibility that it will become undesirable

Florian Bösch – Yes, actually I think it’s inevitable this becomes undesirable, but I rather see it happen sooner then later.

TorrentFreak – More and more are going away from DRM and copy protection, and some of the best arguments came from a company called StarDock when they released the game GalCiv2 – that the only person it hurts and inconveniences are the legitimate consumers.

Florian Bösch – I don’t think that’s true. It hurts the whole content industry.

TorrentFreak – How so?

Florian Bösch – See we set-up music services for say mobile network operators. to do that you need players on mobile phones. To get content from the labels you need to prove that you do effective DRM. Then you have to explain to your client what he can and cannot do with DRM. It’s always funny when you get to the point where they absolutely want ripping to CD of your music, but insist that everything must be quite protected. Plain content on iPods (you got to support iPods) so the company I work for has this really good DRM, and your non-techie customers rip it apart with their real world business cases. Not that I mind, it’s just ironic. Then there’s the nature of obscurity. It permeates the whole system, you have to keep track of device IDs and userIDs and public keys and do the right dance against some piece of patented software to be privileged just to hand out a download url. I mean, something essentially simple, handing out a file, has become a huge and complex task.

TorrentFreak – So its log jamming itself, and that’s part of what is the problem with these laws, it not only hurts the consumers, but also the industries its intended to protect?

Florian B̦sch РExactly. it encourages the industry to more of that when it should do less. DRM in your business case is not quite yet the kiss of death, but it feels quite familiar.

TorrentFreak – How many signatures have you collected so far?

Florian Bösch – Embarrassingly few. we keep track here. It’s a lot more probably, but who knows.

TorrentFreak – and the signatures all have to be verified by the canton government?

Florian Bösch – By the municipality of the signatory; there’s about 1000 municipalities in Switzerland. The trouble is we should collect on the order of 2000 signatures a day. Those all have to go to the municipalities first and then be collected centrally; it’s a huge task. I think the important thing that happens isn’t so much the signatures as that people are talking more about this now then before. I’m happy I could help with that at least, and It’s a very interesting experience to go trough the signature collecting thing, I’ll write a tutorial/howto about it so more people can do it.

TorrentFreak – How do you plan on ‘expanding’ the campaign over the next few weeks?

Florian Bösch – I have no idea honestly. I try to make a breeding ground for like-minded and get them to talk to each other, and I hope we can form a network of action to have more local effect. I do just one thing, I express that I’m not happy with this law, and I thought I was not alone, and others might join in.

TorrentFreak – A laudable aim. Thank you for your time.

More information on the campaign can be found at http://no-dmca.ch

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