Project Launched To Fix The Anti-Circumvention Clause Of The DMCA

from the fix-it-now dept

While we were certainly happy that the White House came out in favor of allowing mobile phone unlocking, we were dismayed that they said the fix was to apply a narrow change to telco law. That's bizarre, because the whole problem came out of copyright law -- specifically the DMCA's anti-circumvention clause, 17 USC 1201. We've long argued that the anti-circumvention clause was a huge problem. It makes any attempt at circumvention of DRM or other "technical protection measures" illegal, even if the content being unlocked would not violate copyright law. That's really incredible when you think about it. Bypassing DRM on public domain material, for example, would still be considered infringing under 1201. Yikes!

So it's great to see a new campaign kick off, called FixTheDMCA.org, entirely focused on the problem of Section 1201.

While many in the tech community like to complain about the entire DMCA, it's important to remember that some of the DMCA was actually quite good: setting up things like clearly defined safe harbors that separate platforms and services from the actions of their users was a necessary step in creating the web that we know and love today. The problems with the DMCA are with both section 1201 and with the notice and takedown provisions (shoot first, confirm later), and both of those should be fixed. So it's good to see this effort under way, specifically targeted at the anti-circumvention clause.

Unfortunately, this may be the hardest part of the DMCA to fix. For reasons that still aren't entirely clear to me, Hollywood is obsessed with anti-circumvention clauses. They demand them in every new copyright law being put in place around the globe. It's the one part of Canada's new copyright law that was most troubling. Anywhere you see new copyright laws popping up, you're almost certain to see anti-circumvention clauses. It's one of those things that the entertainment industry insists on, and simply won't budge over. I still don't understand why they're so insistent on it, since it really seems to only harm legitimate buyers, and do next to nothing to stop actual infringement.

Hopefully, as people realize that Section 1201 leads to ridiculous situations like not being able to unlock your mobile phone, we can start to get Congress to recognize that the anti-circumvention clauses are a problem that needs fixing, and a site like FixtheDMCA is a good place to start.

Filed Under: 1201, anti-circumvention, copyright, dmca, exemptions, fix the dmca


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  1. icon
    Richard (profile), 11 Mar 2013 @ 7:45am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think it is more so that the some tech companies are giving them what they are demanding.

    and some have realised that there are advantages to be gained by giving in to the demands.

    Consider HDCP for example. It is supposed to provide protection to high definition content streams to reduce piracy. To be effective for the content companies it has to be secure (and AACS also has to be secure).
    Yet it was designed from the outset NOT to be secure. It could have been made (much more) secure for a relatively trivial cost (10,000 gates according to Ed Felten).

    So why not spend that extra for a better scheme?

    The answer is simple. With HDCP in place and the DMCA anti-circumvention measures (as well as similar measures in UK and europe) you cannot make any HD device unless you join the HDCP cartel. This costs serious money - 10000 just to join the interest group (that does NOT give you access to any crypto keys or the authority to make an HDCP compliant device - it just gives you access to enough information to (officially) know what is involved).

    To actually be allowed to make an HDCP compliant device costs far more and involves a series of legal commitments that you might not want to make.

    It is a simple restaint of trade put together by the equipment manufacturers, ostensibly for the benefit of content companies. However the only practical effect is to raise the costs of entry for prospective new equipment manufacturers.

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