DVD X-Copy

DVD X-Copy
Species: DVD X-Copy
Genus: DVD archiving program
Closest Surviving Relatives: DeCSS, libdvd, and more powerful CSS decryption utilities are liberally available online.
What it is: A DVD backup utility.
What it allowed you to do: Create backup copies of your DVDs, record fair-use excerpts of DVD movies.
Why it's extinct: Hollywood sued the company that made DVD X-Copy out of existence, successfully arguing that it violated the highly controversial "anti-circumvention" clause in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
What you can do about it: It's too late to save DVD X-Copy, but you can use EFF's Action Center to tell Congress that you support the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (DMCRA; HR 107) -- a bill that would amend the DMCA to restore your ability to circumvent copy protection to make legal, personal uses of your DVDs.

Replay TV 4000

Replay TV 4000 Series
Species: ReplayTV 4000
Genus: Personal Video Recorder (PVR)
Closest Surviving Relatives: TiVo's "Tivo-to-go" is heavily encumbered by DRM and its 30-second skip is hidden. Build-your-own PVRs like MythTV let you skip commercials and export files to your heart's content.
What it is: A personal video recorder with user-friendly features.
What it allowed you to do: Skip over commercials and send recorded TV programs to another ReplayTV device.
Why it's extinct: Former Turner Broadcasting CEO Jamie Kellner called skipping commercials "theft" -- and evidently the major motion picture studios agree. They sued the manufacturers of ReplayTV out of existence, and the company that purchased it buckled under and removed the contested features.
What you can do about it: EFF intervened in the case to fight for ReplayTV users' right to make perfectly legal, non-infringing uses of their PVRs, but we couldn't stop the subsequent settlement and sell-out. That means it's too late to save the original ReplayTV -- but by joining EFF as a member, you can support our efforts to stop the adoption of international trade agreements that would make it against the law in many countries to include ReplayTV-like features in new devices.

Streambox VCR

Screenshot of Streambox VCR
Species: Streambox VCR
Genus: Recorder for "time-shifting" RealAudio streams
Closest Surviving Relatives: Gizmos like the TotalRecorder, which can capture audio streams later in the path by emulating the soundcard device.
What it is: A software program for recording and playing back RealAudio streams.
What it allowed you to do: It allowed you to record and play audio streams that were originally intended to be played with a RealPlayer G2.
Why it's extinct: RealNetworks didn't want just any company to be able to interoperate with its closed system for content delivery. It sued Streambox under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), arguing that the program violated the law's "anti-circumvention" provisions when it mimicked Real's "secret handshake" to capture audio streams. Struggling under the weight of the lawsuit, Streambox eventually settled -- and when the dust cleared, the VCR utility was sentenced to life in an underground development lab.
What you can do about it: While versions of the Streambox VCR can sometimes be found roaming free on the Internet, its distribution is illegal -- and if US trade partners are forced to adopt DMCA-like laws, similar gizmos will outlawed worldwide. Join EFF today to help us halt the global export of overly restrictive copyright law.

Advanced eBook Processor

Screenshot of Adobe eBook Processor
Species: Advanced eBook Processor
Genus: Decryptor of Adobe electronic books.
Closest surviving relatives: DRM formats are cracked nearly as soon as they're introduced. Often, both decryptors for and decrypted versions of electronic content are widely available online.
What it is: Software to decrypt encrypted Adobe's electronic books.
What it allowed you to do: Open and read Adobe electronic books.
Why it's extinct: The FBI arrested Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov while he was attending a security conference in Las Vegas -- making him the first person to be criminally charged under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Adobe initially pressed the case, but after meeting with EFF called for all charges against Sklyarov to be dropped. There is no DMCA in Russia, and a jury eventually acquitted Sklyarov's company, ElcomSoft, of willful violation -- but only after the judge had ruled the software illegal.
What you can do about it:
  1. Join EFF to help us stop the export of DMCA-like laws to other nations via trade negotiations.
  2. Tell your representative you support the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (DMCRA; HR 107) -- a bill that would amend the DMCA to restore your ability to circumvent copy protection to make legal uses of electronic books.

Napster 1.0

Species: Napster 1.0
Genus: Filesharing software with central directory.
Closest surviving relatives: Napster 2.0 doesn't share much more than the name and kitty logo with its extinct cousin. File-sharing programs in general, however, have continued to proliferate in decentralized forms.
What it is: Software that allowed users to share files from their personal computers through a central directory search
What it allowed you to do: Share media files with other users; search for files in Napster's central directory.
Why it's extinct: Big entertainment companies sued Napster (and later, its investors) for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Napster's central directory of files gave its makers knowledge of and the ability to control its users' infringement. Unable to filter files from the network as the record labels would have liked, Napster 1.0 shut down and sold its name to Bertelsmann.
What you can do about it: It's too late to save the original Napster, but you can support EFF as we take our defense of Streamcast Networks, makers of the Morpheus P2P software, to the Supreme Court.


Total Recorder

Total Recorder
Species: Total Recorder
Genus: Virtual soundcards
Threat: Entertainment companies pressing for operating system-authentication of soundcard drivers.
What it is: A software program that appears to your computer to be a soundcard, but rather than sending an audio stream to your speakers, it saves it to a file on disk.
What it lets you do: Total Recorder allows you to record any audio that your computer can play.
Why it's endangered: Hollywood is pushing Microsoft and other operating system developers to make it so your computer will detect whether the soundcard software in use comes from a major manufacturer -- that is, whether it's been "tamed" and will do what Hollywood and the majors have agreed it may do.
How you can help save it: You can choose not to purchase or use computers/software programs that use a driver-authenticating scheme (like Microsoft's Secure Audio Path) or multimedia in formats that require it for playback. If you're an artist, you can choose to make your work available in open formats that are more fan-friendly.

D/A and A/D converters

converter chip
Species: D/A and A/D converters
Genus: "Analog hole" products
Threat: The entertainment industry, via behind-the-scenes negotiations in trade association groups like the Analog Reconversion Discussion Group (ARDG) and advocacy in Congress.
What it is: Unencumbered Digital-to-Analog (D/A) and Analog-to-Digital (A/D) converters.
What it lets you do: These little electronic components are at the core of modern multimedia recorders and players like the iPod. They convert between the analog signals of the real world and the 1s and 0s of digital. A digital camcorder uses an A/D converter to save your movies as bits and bytes; an iPod uses a D/A converter to turn bytes back into your favorite tunes.
Why it's endangered: Entertainment companies think that easy recording and play back of digital content is a bug, not a feature, because these gizmos could be used to make bootleg copies of music and movies. They'd like to turn every recorder and player into an embedded spy, made to watch for watermarks and to refuse to record or play the content if the watermark forbids it. Plus, the FCC has proposed restricting D/A converters in its software-defined radio docket.
How you can help save it:
  1. You may want to consider purchasing a high-quality soundcard or external card with a USB interface. These devices let you use the "analog hole" to your advantage, digitizing sounds without the encumbrances that may travel along with the digitally encoded version.
  2. Join EFF, where we're monitoring the developments in the trade association groups that shape future standards for these devices.

iPod + Linksys AP + Sony CD/RW

Species: Firewire drives, open WiFi access points, CD burner
Genus: Generic information technology products
Threat: The entertainment industry's push for laws like the proposed Induce Act [PDF] (Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act, or IICA).
What it is: Popular mainstream technology products.
What it lets you do: The suite of multimedia devices that you can find in the average gadgethound's home allows you to create, record, transmit, play back, and share music, movies, and other kinds of digital content.
Why it's endangered: In the last congressional term, entertainment industry lobbyists nearly succeeded in persuading Congress to pass the Induce Act -- a radical rewrite of copyright law that aims to make creators of new technologies liable for "inducing" copyright infringement. If that was the law back in the early 1980s, the VCR would have been killed in infancy -- and if the Induce Act or something like it passes this year, we'll never know what future innovations will never see the light of day. Complicating matters even further is the Supreme Court's pending review of MGM v. Grokster, the result of which could be a similarly radical rewrite of the rules for copyright liability.
What you can do: Join EFF's Action Center, where EFF supporters sent more than 30,000 letters and made 5,000 phone calls to members of Congress, helping to kill the bill for 2004. Despite the outcry over the Induce Act, Hollywood is making the inevitable sequel -- so we'll need your help to kill bill again.

pcHDTV card

HD 3000
Species: pcHDTV card
Genus: HDTV Tuner
Threat: The "Broadcast Flag" technology mandate.
What it is: A high-definition television (HDTV) tuner card with unrestricted high-resolution outputs.
What it lets you do: With one of these cards, you can build your own personal video recorder (PVR), a VCR updated for the digital age. Like a TiVo, a PVR lets you watch digital television the way you want: pause live TV, save recordings to DVD, remix "60 Minutes" so you're the new anchor.
Why it's endangered: The copyright cartel is lobbying Congress for a technology mandate (the "Broadcast Flag") that says companies may only create equipment that "obeys" the flag in digital broadcasts -- meaning that in many cases the cartel gets to decide what you can do with the broadcast content, regardless of whether that strips you of your fair use rights." How you can help save it: Join EFF as a member! We're fighting the Broadcast Flag on a number of fronts


Species: Morpheus
Genus: Filesharing software
Threat: Lawsuit from 28 of the world's largest entertainment companies.
What it is: Software that allows users to share files peer-to-peer from their personal computers.
What it lets you do: Share media files with other users in a decentralized, distributed manner.
Why it's endangered:
The big entertainment companies sued the makers of Morpheus and Grokster for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement, arguing that the software makers should be liable for the acts of their users.

Rather than answering this critical question, the Supreme Court ducked the issue, falling back on a new theory called "inducement." Unfortunately, continuing legal uncertainty just means that innovators end up spending more on lawyers and less on engineers.
How you can help save it: Support EFF as we take our defense of Streamcast Networks, makers of the Morpheus software, to the Supreme Court.


Sony Betamax VCR

Species: Sony BetamaxVCR
Genus: VCR
Descendants: Modern-day VCRs, followed by PVRs, DVRs, and DVD burners.
What it is: The first videocassette recorder.
What it let you do: Record and play back television programs and movies.
Why it was endangered: The major motion picture studios believed the VCR would bring about the demise of the movie business, and former MPAA head Jack Valenti famously compared it to the Boston Strangler. The studios sued Sony, arguing that the company should be held responsible for Betamax users' copyright violations.
How it was saved: Luckily, the Supreme Court ignored the hyperbole, ruling in "Sony v. Universal" that because the VCR was "merely capable of substantial non-infringing uses," Sony would not be liable for contributory copyright infringement. Today, not only is the movie business alive and well, the studios are making record-breaking profits -- fueled primarily by the home rental market that the legal VCR created. This "substantial non-infringing use" test (a.k.a. the "Betamax doctrine") paved the way for 20+ years of technological innovation.

Skylink garage door opener

Skylink remote
Species: Skylink Model 39 Universal Transmitter
Genus: Universal remote garage door opener
Threat averted: Overreaching claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
What it is: A universal remote-control transmitter for your garage door.
What it lets you do: You can program Skylink's universal garage door opener to open garage doors with electric motors and receivers made by a variety of other companies.
Why it was endangered: Chamberlain, manufacturer of the Security+ line of garage door openers, wasn't keen on having to compete with Skylink. The company sued, claiming that Skylink's universal opener violated the DMCA's "anti-circumvention" clause because it "circumvented" Chamberlain's rolling-code security mechanism.
How EFF helped save it:EFF filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Skylink, arguing that the DMCA is supposed to protect against unauthorized access to copyrighted works -- not stop homeowners from accessing their own garages. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the DMCA [PDF] shouldn't function as an anti-competition statute, and Skylink was permitted to stay in the universal remote business.

Refurbished printer toner cartridge

toner cartridge
Species: Static Control Components remanufactured Lexmark toner cartridge
Genus: Printer toner cartridge
Threat averted: Overreaching claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
What it is: A printer toner cartridge refurbished by Static Control Components, sold more cheaply than new Lexmark-branded cartridges.
What it lets you do: Toner cartridges are among the most expensive consumables of a laser printer. Lexmark's cartridges include chips with little bits of code that report back to the printer about toner-fill level -- but they also reveal whether or not the cartridge is "Lexmark authorized." The printer will refuse to print if the cartridge isn't "authorized," so Static Control replaced the chips so its refilled cartridges would work in Lexmark printers and report themselves "full of ink."
Why it was endangered: Lexmark wasn't very happy about competing with Static Control for cartridge sales. It sued, claiming that the cartridge-printer "handshake" was a mechanism protecting a copyrighted work, so circumventing the mechanism violated the DMCA. The copyrighted work in question? The "toner loader program" in the cartridge chip.
How EFF helped save it: EFF filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Static Control Components. We argued that the software was no more than a lock-out code, and that the DMCA explicitly permits the creation of interoperable software. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. [PDF]