Monolith, copyright hacking


Home taping has always been a common and private practice, almost ignored by copyright because of its domestic attitude. However, with the Internet, home taping has moved into the public realm, becoming victim of copyright defenders who has never stopped investigating since the Napster trial.Monolith is aimed to move back into the private sphere, using the oddities of digital information. According to its author, the American Jason Roher, the application in fact is a simple tool that takes two arbitrary binary files protected by copyright, called a Basis file and an Element file, and mixes’ them together to produce a Mono binary free from royalties. Even if the created file doesn’t contain any of the information present in the Element file, it is possible to get the go back to it combining the produced file with the Basis. Thus you can get the original codification, that corresponds to the copyrighted document, without breaking any rule, because now the original file comes from a freely distributed file. The cavil used by Roher’s experiment, a curiosity rather than a real solution for the copyright debate, is inherent digital technology nature, according to which everything is made of ones and zeros. If it is true that digital copies of analogic reality are finite sequences of bits, however there are infinite ways to represent them and the holder of the royalties can exercise his rights only on the content and not on coding and decoding algorithms. Agreeing with this difference that reminds the one suggested by Hjlmslev between form and substance of the content, we could say that on the Internet we don’t exchange contents but only sequences of bits, and the distribution of Mono files doesn’t infringe any law. However this is, according to Roher’s words, just ‘muddying the waters of the digital copyright debate’.

Valentina Culatti