DMCA and my life of crime; part 1

I printed a page off the BC Safety Authority website that showed details of inspections on a permit on a customer’s job. Customer wants copies of relevant paperwork. Using ‘print to file’ the web page produced a postscript file. I don’t think most people can readily read a postscript file so I tried to convert it to PDF. My ps2pdf gave an error about the file being produced from an encrypted PDF and so cannot be ‘redistilled’ whatever that means. I’m not trying to make ethanol (yet), I’m trying to make a PDF! So I opened the file in an application and tried to print to PDF. Same error! What the heck?!

So I had a look at the postscript and found a line that read “Removing the following eleven lines is illegal, subject to the Digital Copyright Act of 1998” followed by a bunch of lines (11 I suppose) of weirdly encoded stuff that apparently was telling programs that the file could not be made into a PDF. Why would someone do that? Anyway, it’s my permit and my customer and the customer’s house and the file is on my computer. I can view the file, could send a postscript version, can print and mail a paper copy. There are no privacy or copyright issues here and the Digital Copyright Act of 1998 is a U.S. law so pee on that nonsense! I deleted the lines and the file converted to PDF with no further troubles.

Unfortunately I suppose this means that in the U.S. I’m some sort of criminal now so dare not cross the line even if I did have a passport. What a loopy world we live in.

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Update: Under legislation making it’s way through the House of Commmons this month (September 2011) my making a PDF of this file to email to my customer might be an illegal act in Canada too. The code that prevented the file from being printed as PDF would, I think, qualify as a digital lock. So I suppose in future I’ll have to mail customers a paper copy or break the law! I’m sure this law makes sense somehow….

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