Comments: Making Fair Use of cut-and-paste restricted PDF files

Seth, you rock.

I'm still mildly pissed because a "book note" *I* published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology is (a) online, but (b) in unprintable PDF. I remember flinging copious techie measures at it, eventually producing (with the aid of a cracker-esque friend) a printable version -- albeit ballooned to a 10+mb file. I think ghostscript was heavily involved. I did so (far to stubborn to call and explain to whoever is running that journal now that they really ought to send me an unrestricted version) in full awareness that I was violating the DMCA even though I actually own the copyright to the damn article.

I think those of us on the left need to start thinking more critically about fair use. Although it SHOULD be a "right," but I don't think it really is. It's more a "defense." Ie. "They can't punish you for doing it, but they're not required to make it easy."

As for your "circumvention" -- again, good for you. I really wouldn't worry though. I think they have better things to do than come after you for merely explaining what their code does. Really, that's all you did. (Don't take this as formal magic legal advice, of course, but you know that...) I really think that's different, as a matter of First Amendment principle, though I can't cite a case to support it. You didn't publish your own product, you just said "hey, public, here's the line of code in their software which blocks access!

That's a bit of a fine distinction, but if it's not meaningful, I think all really is lost.

Posted by Paul Gowder at January 14, 2005 10:59 AM

OMG, this should be so obvious.
You rock!
Let me see if my windows tools can do this.

Posted by Firas at January 14, 2005 04:13 PM

Ah.. failed.. got a non-restricted PDF but with nothing in it except an error message when printing to a (non-adobe) freeware PDF maker.

Posted by Firas at January 14, 2005 04:18 PM

xpdf + ghostscript did the trick. Nice.

By the way, by "well-known", do you mean a standard alogorithm? (eg. DES etc.?)

Posted by Firas at January 14, 2005 08:29 PM

Even easier if you're on a Mac. Grab a copy of Trapeze, drag and drop the "copy-restricted" PDF to it, and Presto! it's converted into your choice of text, rtf, or html. Easy.

Posted by Clark at January 21, 2005 10:16 PM