Final Project Ideas

Rather than filling this post with fluff, I’ll get straight to the point. While I am not entirely certain of the subject of my final project, I’m almost completely certain that I wish to use Flash as the medium. I have not been able to use Flash for a school project since 2005 (I was in 8th grade!), and I think it’s not only incredibly fun to work with, but it provides a simple way to create highly-interactive media, something that has been highlighted in this class. I emphasize the “simple” because while native web technologies like HTML5 and CSS can very often perform the same tasks as Flash (often even more efficiently), the whole nature of creating a Flash movie is much less convoluted. Familiar drawing tools, object concepts like buttons and movie clips, and the compilation of all of a movie’s media into a single movie file (opposed to spread among many documents) makes it the best way to focus on the creativity without technical barriers.

I have one subject in mind, and I think it would work very well with the Flash medium, but I may change it if I come up with something better. I would like to demonstrate one of the biggest, most unfortunate, and likely impossible-to-rectify flaws in copyright law, fair use, piracy, and the DMCA. Specifically, I want to take a look at a major event in the history of copy protection and fair use: the 1999 DeCSS lawsuit. Jon Lech Johansen, a Norwegian teenager at the time, successfully cracked the algorithm used to encrypt commercial DVDs so they may be played back on not only DVD players, but on computers, as well as copied onto personal media players, backed up, and just about anything else you could do with video captured from a camcorder. The lawsuit was filed in an effort to stop the inevitable spread of movie piracy due to the format have been cracked wide open. While the judge indicated that program code was not covered under the First Amendment, multiple computer science professors attested that not only is source code considered free speech and able to be published freely, but that it can be represented in countless ways. Is a sheet of paper bearing the printed code “illegal?” What about a poem describing the mathematical formula implemented by the code? David S. Touretzky, a professor at CMU, summarizes the issue in the best way that I can imagine possible:

“If code that can be directly compiled and executed may be suppressed under the DMCA, as Judge Kaplan asserts in his preliminary ruling, but a textual description of the same algorithm may not be suppressed, then where exactly should the line be drawn?”

I would use the Flash medium as an interactive gallery of representations of the source code to the DVD decryption algorithm in an effort to emphasize how ideals of intellectual property and free speech cannot coexist with significant “grey area” in the law, as well as how destructive that restrictions on new technology can be to our American rights. As I’m sure all of you are aware, as I’ve brought it up in class many times (it is truly an important issue in the wake of this new era of technology, and its outcome will set a precedent for years to come), that Sony has engaged itself in a lawsuit against some individuals who successfully cracked the encryption keys for the PlayStation 3. This lawsuit parallels the DeCSS suit in countless ways, and its outcome is expected by many to follow. By releasing a few strings of data that happen to keep the PS3 secure, the hackers are accused of copyright infringement. My Flash project will hopefully be able to clarify the severity of the validation of these claims.

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~ by n00neimp0rtant on March 28, 2011.

 
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