The excellent cyberlaw blogs at Stanford draw my attention (and thus now yours) to this interesting kerfuffle over iPods. Gorge Dubya Bush was doing one of those marvelously fluffy interviews about what he has on his iPod – and said that he had the Beatles.

So, what’s wrong with that? Well, quite famously, Beatles tracks are not available on the iTunes music store. In fact, Apple v Apple (that’s Apple Records and Apple Computers, just for the, um, record) is still in progress in the British courts (trademarks). So, as is being pointed now, that means that Bush (or one of his flunkies):

a) ripped the track off a CD,
b) downloaded it from a file-sharing service of some sort, or
c) purchased it elsewhere and cracked the encryption.

C is a bit fanciful….and B, while it would be hilarious, is also a bit of a stretch. So we’ll presume that it’s A – an act that, in an illustration of the follies of copyright-law-catching-up-with-technology-when?, is (probably) technically illegal – in the US and in Ireland and in other jurisdictions.

I’ve had some fun with this point in the recent past. I had a meeting with IRMA(the trade association for Irish record labels), who were trying to promote some God-awful software for mammies, daddies and schoolteachers to protect their computers from Illegal Files! which could then be made safe (translation: it was a glorified search engine that found all audio files and gave you a big delete button. Riiiight). I tried to get them to admit that this bit of the law was stupid and should be changed, which they declined. Then just a few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to sit next to the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, one Mr. Charles McCreevy (former minister of finance in Ireland) who was full of questions about iPods and how they worked. So I explained, and also pointed out how silly it was that the law was badly written in a way that mode-shifting of legitimately purchased CDs was even legally dubious. If there’s a European directive on this, iPod users, you can send your appreciation in the form of iTMS gift certificates.