Can Someone Explain Why Circumvention For Non-Infringing Purposes Is Illegal?

from the please-explain dept

A few months back, Public Knowledge released its five ideas for copyright reform, and we asked people to defend why any of them didn't make sense. Oddly -- despite the vast number of copyright system defenders who populate the comments around here -- not a single person suggested any reason why the five suggested reforms didn't make sense. Some people suggested other ideas for reform, but the regular defenders of the system miraculously disappeared when asked to defend the current system. I'd say it was funny... but, really, it's just sad.

PK is now drilling down deeper into each of the five topics, and the latest one is the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA, which makes circumventing any kind of "technical protection measures" illegal -- even if you are doing it for perfectly legal reasons. It also makes it illegal to make or distribute tools that can be used to circumvent DRM. In PK's rewrite, those specific problems are fixed:
To remedy the situation, PK proposed two simple changes to the DMCA. First, Section 1201(a)(1), which now bans circumventing a technological protection measure which that "controls access" to a copyrighted work would should be changed "to allow circumvention for the purpose of making a non-infringing use of the protected work."

Second, Section 1201(a)(2) and Section (b)(1), which ban the making and distribution of circumvention tools, should be amended to permit the making and distribution of tools capable of enabling substantial non-infringing use of a work, in order to give those making lawful uses the practical ability to circumvent.
So, once again, I will ask the copyright defenders among the community here: what's wrong with this proposal? I'd like to understand a defense of an anti-circumvention law that makes the tool, rather than the uses, illegal -- and which makes a perfectly legal action illegal just because of the method used. Because, frankly, I've never understood how either provision in today's law makes sense, and I'm sure there must be someone out there who thinks they do make sense.

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  1. icon
    Just Another Moron in a Hurry (profile), 14 May 2010 @ 2:03pm

    Devil's Advocate

    The creator of a work should be able to decide how their work is being consumed and used. This change will undermine that ability, and take that ability to decide out of the creators hands.

    If a creator wants to distribute his work in a way that restricts the use, then that is his right, and it is not our place to strip that right from him.

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