If You Think You Should Actually Own Products You Bought, Now Would Be A Good Time To Call Congress

from the call-in-time dept

We recently wrote about a bill being introduced in Congress that would help fix the DMCA by making a very minor, but important, set of changes to the anti-circumvention clauses of the DMCA. As you may recall, Section 1201 of the law says that it's against copyright law to circumvent "technological measures" designed to prevent you from accessing something, even if the purpose of bypassing those measures is not to actually infringe on any copyright. That's why we end up with crazy situations like it being illegal to "unlock" your mobile phone. A bipartisan group of Representatives have introduced this new bill, the Unlocking Technology Act (HR 1892), which makes it clear that if you circumvent technological protection measures to do something that doesn't infringe, then that, itself, is not a violation of copyright law. This doesn't "weaken" copyrights in any way. Those who break DRM to infringe are still violating this clause. All it does is stop the absurd situation where you are found to "violate" copyright law despite not infringing on anyone's copyright.

It's difficult to think of any reason why this bill shouldn't become law.

And, of course, because of that, there's an uphill battle to get Congress to actually support it. FixTheDMCA -- the group that first put forth the petition that got the White House to agree that you should be able to unlock your mobile phones -- is now running a call-in campaign, asking people to call their Congressional representatives, to let them know that they should support the bill.

It's a pretty simple question: do you actually own the products you buy? Most people think that they do, but under the current text of Section 1201, the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA, you don't. Here's a chance to fix that basic premise and to make it clear you own what you buy. Seems like something Congress should easily support, so now might be a good time to let them know that.

Filed Under: anti-circumvention, copyright, dmca, freedom to tinker, ownership, section 1201

Reader Comments

The First Word

AJ is just excited that he found something that appears to prove his point. If only he weren't begging the question fallaciously every time he'd almost have made a valid point. By the way, using a fallacy while accusing someone else of a fallacy is called irony.

Let me explain. The basic premise of your argument is wrong. You are saying that removing the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA weakens the rights of copyright holders because removing the anti-circumvention clause weakens the rights of copyright holders. This is a logical fallacy known as "begging the question" (as opposed to the common use where it means creating a question). Repetition of your fallacy does not improve it's validity.

The second part of your statement must be argued for the initial postulate to be valid. In other words, you must first explain how making circumvention of protections for non-illegal uses of copyrighted material in any way affects the rights of copyright holders.

For example, let's take another set of laws. It is illegal for you to break into my house. It is not illegal for you to enter if I give you permission, and it is always legal for me to enter my own house barring something like a restraining order. Let's imagine it is also illegal to climb into a house through a window since that is circumventing the security of the house.

Now, as a homeowner, I have the right to prevent unauthorized entry to my home. If I accidentally lock myself out of the house, and climb in through a window, should I be prosecuted for breaking and entering under the clause of the law that states going through the window is illegal? And if that law were removed, so it is now legal for *me* to enter my house, but still illegal for an intruder, does that diminish my homeowners rights in any way? Either way the right to enter my house is unaffected...someone entering illegally is illegal, regardless of the method, and someone entering legally should not be a criminal for entering through an "illegal" method.

So what Mike stated is correct...the actual copyrights of copyright holders are unaffected by this change. The ability to take legal activity and treat it as illegal simply due to the method would be removed. This may help reduce the abuse of copyright law for non-copyright purposes but does nothing to diminish the copyrights themselves.
—JP Jones

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    average_joe (profile), 21 May 2013 @ 12:49pm


    You miss the point. Under the current law, it is illegal to circumvent certain access controls. This is so even if once circumvented, the person does not commit copyright infringement. Under the change that Mike supports, it won't be illegal to circumvent those same measures even if the person does not commit copyright infringement. Thus, the very same act that is currently illegal under copyright law would become legal under the proposed change. This is clearly a WEAKENING of copyright law; the rights held by copyright owners will be weakened. That Mike is pretending that it's not a weakening is priceless. I'm not saying that it's a good idea or a bad idea. I'm merely pointing out the irrefutable fact that this would weaken copyright law.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.