Kill myself. Or commit an analogous act of legal self-destruction.

I'd like to tell you how to rip the songs on your new Dave Matthews Band, Foo Fighters, and Switchfoot CDs, so you can listen to them on your iPod.

I'd like to tell you how I got those full-length movies onto my Archos PMA 430 or Sony PlayStation Portable when I was testing them.

But if I did, I'd probably be in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and it just might become the high-visibility test case that has me, PC Magazine and Ziff Davis Media staring down the barrels of a lawsuit.

Everything you need to know is on the Web, of course, and pointing you to the links would be the courteous thing to do.

I'd planned to write a Solutions story on how to remove the driver that prevents your PC from ripping protected CDs, but I chickened out, because companies such as Sony and EMI have announced that they are upping their commitment to SunnComm and Macrovision copy protection on their releases.

This means that they're now after the little guys, in addition to the counterfeiters, bootleggers, and big file-sharing networks.

Under the DMCA, it's illegal to break encryption or copy protection. It's illegal to offer a tool that breaks encryption or copy protection, or to publish source code that demonstrates how the encryption or copy protection is done.

It's illegal to talk about how to circumvent copy protection. In your home, in your car, anywhere. Get the picture?

The anticircumvention provision, as it's called, is very broadly written, and it's widely reviled as one of the worst pieces of legislation in recent memory.

It negates several centuries' worth of "fair use" law and practice, as they relate to copyrighted works. The ban on discussing the algorithms and techniques used for encryption and copy protection infringes on the First Amendment.

Academics, computer scientists, and researchers have been sued, threatened with suits, and in one case arrested for exposing the weaknesses in some techniques and products.

As you can imagine, this has had a chilling effect on the very people we depend on to develop better algorithms and products.

You might not be surprised to learn that much of the DMCA, and this portion in particular, was written by music-industry lobbyists. Why? Because the music companies want to change the game.

The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 affirmed consumers' right to make copies of music for their own use but slapped a royalty tax on digital audio recording devices, which at the time meant digital audio tape.

Personal computers were not considered digital audio recording devices — I guess the record companies back then had never stumbled across a Mac, or even a PC with a Sound Blaster 16.

Emboldened by the DMCA, however, the music companies are foisting these "uncopyable" CDs onto the public. So if you want to load your iPod with tunes, Sony is basically saying, "Not from our CDs, fella."

Instead, you can buy another copy online — a compressed copy with limited fidelity.

If you want to store some movies on your laptop's hard disk for that next interminable business flight and leave the DVDs at home where they won't get lost or damaged, you're out of luck. And there's no movie equivalent to the online music stores — yet.

All these limitations run counter to what consumers actually want to do: watch or listen to the content we've purchased where we want, on whatever device we choose.

The DMCA has probably criminalized nearly as many people as the national 55-mph speed limit did back in the gas-crisis days.

Fortunately, the DMCA was enacted with a built-in review period, and it's time for the federal Copyright Office to review the anticircumvention provisions.

If you would like to comment online, you can do so at www.copyright.gov/1201/comment_forms/index.html.

Apart from the egregious exploitation by the music industry, I hope you care enough about the law's deleterious effects on First Amendment rights and on fair use to make your opinion known. You have until December 1.

(If you're reading this after December 1, you can still make your feelings known to your elected representatives.)

Of course, you'll want that opinion to be as informed as possible, so I strongly recommend that you read the exhaustive article on copyright legislation that PC Magazine contributing editor Don Labriola wrote for our sister publication Extreme Tech: go.extremetech.com/copyprotection.

I guarantee that afterward, you'll know more than the majority of our legislators do.

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