Does The DMCA Still Matter?

from the you-better-believe-it dept

Kevin Donovan writes in to point to law professor Tim Armstrong wondering if the DMCA is still relevant at all, now that so many content providers are dumping DRM. He also notes that we're seeing fewer DMCA-related cases. Kevin supplies his own excellent response talking about the legacy of the DMCA, including the anti-circumvention clause, noting that it's still holding people hostage. For example, he points out that everyone who bought an HD DVD player (picking the losing side in the battle) now would be breaking the law if they merely wanted to move the HD DVD content they legally purchased over to a more usable format. He also points to the importance of the DMCA's safe harbor provisions, which protect service providers from copyright infringement by their users. Both of these are good points. Also, I find Armstrong's first point, about fewer DMCA cases, unconvincing. All it really means is that many of the larger points related to how the law should be interpreted have been decided by the courts. That doesn't change the chilling effects that those rulings have left behind. The law itself is still very, very relevant -- mostly for unfortunate reasons.
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Filed Under: copyright, dmca, relevancy

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  1. identicon
    Joe Harkins, 6 Mar 2008 @ 11:56am

    The comments so far are looking at DMCA in a very narrow, self-interested way. I admit I bring that same lack of broader vision, but like those other comments, my position is just as valid.

    Speaking as a freelance writer and web site developer, I can cite more than a few specific examples where I, and others in similar circumstances, have used the Safe Harbor provision to cause a hosting service to shut down access to pages, and even entire web sites, selling unlicensed copies of my work. Without DMCA, I would have had to mount expensive, long term legal actions against a variety of large business.

    Thanks to the DMCA, in one case I can cite, a group of about 40 developers each were earning modest but helpful revenue from selling $15 and $25 mods to online eCommerce shopping carts and similar apps. One day, some wise guy, bundled them all onto one site, using the same shopping cart, and started selling the copyrighted codes.

    It took a single letter from one of those developers, and less than 12 hours, to shut down the thief at his first host and the same, a few days later, when he tried again at another host. That was two months ago and he has not tried again.

    So don't think of DMCA simply in terms of big corporations. Unintended consequences are not always negative. In this case, DMCA empowers a little guy to stop theft in its tracks with one carefully configured notice of copyright violation.

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