October 16, 2006  ·  Lessig

TechWorld (a UK publication) has an article about a “leaked” letter from the Initiative for Software Choice (ISC) (apparently MSFT funded) about, as the article puts it, the “potentially dire effects if too much encouragement was given to open source software development.”

Nothing weird there. What is weird is, first, that such a letter has to be “leaked” (aren’t submissions to the EC a matter of public record?), and, second, the way in which the letter is made available on the TechWorld website. TechWorld gives you a link to the letter. The link states: “You can view the entire letter here.” And indeed, the link means what it says. You can ONLY view the letter. The PDF is locked so that it can’t be printed.

Is it really the case that copyright law would forbid a letter written to a government agency from being printed on a users computer?

Note, this is a simple restriction to get around (but is that legal?): If you’ve got access to Acrobat Professional, you can save a version and turn off the password security (apparently without the password, as I did).

(Thanks, Marten!)

  • http://www.digitalproductions.co.uk Crosbie Fitch

    Somehow, I’m reminded of the Outer Limits:

    There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We can reduce the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear.

    Perhaps this was subliminal programming designed by a cabal of IP maximalists a few decades ago, and it’s now paying off?

  • rkillings

    Amusing: the creator of this PDF disallowed printing but neglected to enter a document security password. What a pointless gesture.

    If a password had been entered, it could still be easily circumvented — thanks to Dmitry Sklyarov! Yes, six years later, the infamous Advanced eBook Processor program *still* cracks Adobe Document Security on PDFs.

  • http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/fosblog.html Peter Suber

    See Robert Gellman, Government should use DRM sparingly, in the current (October 9) issue of Government Computer News. It seems that many government agencies dislike this as much as we do but aren’t sure what they can do when a citizen submits a copy-protected comment as part of a public hearing. Excerpt from Gellman:

    “A similar issue came up years ago when I worked for a House of Representatives subcommittee. Someone submitted testimony for a hearing with a prominent copyright notice. Did that mean that the testimony could not be distributed or printed? No one was quite sure, but we took the easy way out. We ignored the copyright notice. The submitter never objected, preferring to influence and not anger the committee. With a DRM-restricted document, however, subsequent dissemination of that testimony could have been difficult or impossible.”

    One more reason to expand and clarify fair use.

  • Jeff

    pdftk FLOSS-letter-ISC.pdf output FLOSS-letter-ISC-printable.pdf allow printing

  • John

    If you have a Mac with Preview version 1.0, you can open it in that and print it from there: Preview 1.0 ignores the password protection…

  • Tom

    xpdf on my Linux machine handles this document properly. That is, it allows me to print it without asking for a password. That’s what any software written to respect its users would do. The problem is not with the document – the problem is that some people are using the wrong software.