November 29, 2022

Online Lecture

The video of my Princeton President’s Lecture, “Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue: Technology, Politics, and the Fight to Control Digital Media” is now online. The lecture, which lasts about an hour, is a layperson’s introduction to the technology/copyright wars. I gave it on October 12. The first six minutes of the video consists entirely of introductions, which can safely be skipped.

UPDATE (Nov. 22): This entry has been updated to point to a new page for the lecture, which includes a Creative Commons license for the lecture video, and will eventually link to the lecture in more formats.

Princeton offers a great set of lecture videos on the net.


  1. J.B. Nicholson-Owens says:

    My error — the MIT talk was obviously not in New York but in Boston, where MIT is located. I was confusing the cited MIT talk with another talk at NYU.

  2. J.B. Nicholson-Owens says:

    Thanks, Professor Felten, for licensing high-quality recordings under a Creative Commons license. This is a genuine help to people like me who share talks with friends and broadcasts them on local community radio. However, there is a problem: the codecs used are all non-free and/or patent-encumbered. Does anyone have this talk in a format that can be read with free software such as Ogg Vorbis or Ogg Vorbis+Theora (visit or for details)? I am not running Microsoft Windows nor am I interested in installing non-free software or obtaining a patent license to legally operate an MP3 player.

    Perhaps someone would be willing to transcode a high quality copy using Ogg Vorbis for just the audio? I would love to air this on my show (“Digital Citizen” every other Wednesday night at 8p-10p on WEFT 90.1FM in Champaign, Illinois).

    It is ironic that this talk about “the Fight to Control Digital Media” is being shown exclusively in non-free (even patented) formats. RMS had a similar problem with a copyright talk he gave in New York some time ago, and he explained why this was a concern. MIT wanted to webcast the talk using only RealAudio. Obviously, nobody would take his message seriously if the only way to hear the webcast was to use non-free software; his actions would be opposed to his words and he would undermine his effort. (see

    To rebut a previous poster:

    “While Real’s reputation is justifiably bad, they’ve never included anything malicious in their Mac versions, and v10 is actually quite solid.As for “system stability”, it’s not installing any kernel extensions, so unless you’re still on OS 9, you’re not going to affect the overall system at all.”

    I believe reputation is best established by distributing software we have the freedom to inspect, share, and modify. RealPlayer, Apple’s software, and Windows Media Player are both non-free programs. Also, plenty of destructive work can be done without a kernel extension because the player program’s secret code would run under my login and it is ridiculous to try a technical means of working around the lack of software freedom.


  3. A question about the copyright in the video. In the lecture, you say that you own the copyright in the lecture. The web page at says that “the video is copyrighted by Princeton University.” Does that mean that you own the copryight in the text of your remarks, but that Princeton owns the copyright in the video, and hence to use the video in ways that go beyond the CC license would require both your permission and Princeton’s? Is the copyright in the video actually jointly owned by you and Princeton, as a joint work (“a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole”), and Princeton is wrong in its copyright statement? Is the video camera work creative and original enough to warrant its own copyright protection in the first place?

  4. links for 2004-11-24

    Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue: Technology, Politics, and the Fight to Control Digital Media Ed Felten Fish Highway (The links are at the top) Christian Guide to Small Arms Online v.1.0 Just plain crazy. Jews for the Preservation of Firearms…

  5. has anyone posted a transcription of this lecture?

  6. Manuel Lanctot says:

    I’m currently using Linux without X, which means I cannot watch videos. Anybody planning on releasing the script of the video? It would be great to at least read it, since I am stuck in stone age.

  7. Robin Datta says:

    Thanks for an excellent talk. Summarizes and reviews a wealth of information. Also raises so many questions that only time will answer. But I come away with the impression that ultimately the control by the consumer will triumph, and those producers who adjust to this will prosper; these who resist will become extinct.

  8. Fantastic!

    I have recently dismantled Windows Media’s Digital Rights Management on U2’s online promotion tracks. I have detailed very thing here:

    From U2, I have learned How to Dismantle Windows Media’s Digital Rights Management (DRM)



  9. Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue

    La charla del siempre maravilloso Ed Felten en las lecturas de Princeton sobre copyright y technology, “Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue: Technology, Politics, and the Fight to Control Digital Media” está disponible en la Red. Como dice Cory, una fantástica introdu…

  10. Jakub Safar says:

    unhappy with streaming? find address of stream in HTML source, download (dump) stream with help of mmsclient

  11. Thank you very much for this material.
    In case anyone is interested, I post my conferences on these (and related) issues on my website ( under Public Domain (not only free to distribute, but you can even do it for profit too!). Only “catch”: it is in Spanish (I teach at a University in Valencia – Spain), but there is a recording of a conference I gave at Stanford University last summer in English.

  12. “Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue: Technology, Politics, and the Fight to Control Digital Media”

    “Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue: Technology, Politics, and the Fight to Control Digital Media” heisst der Titel eines Vortrages von Ed Felten, Professor an der Princeton University, der u.a. das interessante Weblog “Freedom to Tinker” betreibt.

    Der ca. ei…

  13. Thanks for posting this, this is becoming a hot topic down at Temple U, and while much is being said, there are still a number of misconceptions about use and rights, both in general and regarding digital technologies. It’s a really complicated issue, I suspect mainly because the fight isn’t over, and nobody is sure what the whole truth is or will be.

    Also, to Alexander: WIMP is not that bad a technology, even if it is Microsofty. Some people are going to distribute in the format, so you might as well install the player. At least it’s free.

  14. Alexander: You really should try out RealPlayer 10. While Real’s reputation is justifiably bad, they’ve never included anything malicious in their Mac versions, and v10 is actually quite solid.As for “system stability”, it’s not installing any kernel extensions, so unless you’re still on OS 9, you’re not going to affect the overall system at all.

  15. Thanks for posting this lecture! This will be great if I ever need to refer a layperson on these issues.

    A tangential aspect of DRM systems that is rarely discussed: copyright expiration. To my knowledge, few or no DRM systems will automatically disable themselves when a work passes into the public domain. I see this as a serious deficiency of DRM technology. (what will happen 100 years from now if the only remaining copies of today’s digital works are protected by “timeless” DRM systems, whose keys have long since become impossible to obtain? Notwithstanding advances in DRM-cracking techology – which might be hindered by future legislation – the protected works would be just as lost to humanity as those old celluloid films that have crumbled to dust).

    In a more contemporary example, consider an online video store that goes out of business, rendering all of its customers’ purchases unplayable. (assuming the player needs to “phone home” in order to play purchased media, as most legitimate on-line video stores require).

    I think there is a case to be made that all DRM systems be required by law to implement an expiration feature, if they are to receive anti-circumvention protection. (whether it is possible to implement expiration securely is open to debate… you might need a miniature Geiger counter triggered by radioactive decay of a tiny source…)

    Continuing with the out-of-business video store situation – can you really say you have “bought” anything from such a store? It seems like modern DRM systems are turning a “purchasing” process into more of a “licensing” process – entering a non-obvious licensing agreement rather than simply buying goods. Do we need a “bill of rights” or perhaps an industry standard for these licenses? Or will each digital media vendor have its own slightly different conditions?

  16. Alexander Wehr says:

    why is this not in divx or some more open format.

    even windows media 9 is more useful than .asf .asx formats.

    i refuse to install real player on my mac, it is even more proprietary, restrictive, and potentially destructive to system stability than windows media player.

  17. Yes a very nice lecture. In fact I had the pleasure of listening and viewing it on my linux box using the xine media player.

    I did want to touch on the DMCA for just a moment. I think that the DMCA will prove to be the worst piece of legislation that have come out it some time for two reasons. #1) Aspects of it are so unenforceble that the effect of the law is to reduce peoples willingness to obey this law, and thus it diminishes all law. When you have unpopular laws that the majority of people disagree with all you do is increase the attitude that the law is something to be ignored or gotten around. #2) Because this law is so overbroad that companies are using this law for anticompetitive mesuares that have nothing to do with protection of copyrighted material. And the resulting legal decisions that will be handed down will become a weight upon the law that will again further highlight the level that this law is absurd.

  18. Ed Felten copyright lecture online

    Ed Felten has made a copy of his Princeton President’s Lecture, Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue: Technology, Politics, and the Fight to Control Digital Media available from his Freedom To Tinker web site. The lecture lasts about an hour and serves as a “laypers…

  19. For those interested in learning for learnings sake, I recommend This site archives many (over 2000) lectures given at the National Institute of Health. All of these are explicitly stated to be in the public domain.

  20. nice lecture: been blogging around, and live in far off north jersey.

    thanks for making this stuff available to us ordinary folk who just want to learn something for learning sake.


  21. I’m an undergraduate at JHU studying cognitive science. I’m also teaching a mini student-to-student course this Intersession at JHU to raise awareness of the current copyfight. You can read my course description about three-fifths the way down this page:

    Since I’m charging $11 for the course, your CC-nc license may not cover my use of your materials. I would be flattered if you would email me so we could discuss showing your lecture to my class, perhaps on the first day to set the tone.


  22. Copyright Wars 101

    Edward Felten, who can make any complex, obscure technical topic lively and accessible, has posted a new lecture that will likely do the same for the current battles over intellectual property online. It’s entitled “Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue: Technology, Pol…