One of the many problems with the DMCA is the way that companies try to abuse it and twist it to stop competition. Thankfully, the courts have been pretty good
(but not perfect) about shutting down such attempts, but more companies keep trying. You may recall cases such as the time Lexmark tried and failed
to block competing ink cartridges from being used in their printers, by claiming that the cartridge violated the DMCA, by getting around a bit of software whose only purpose was to stop competing printer cartridges. The court correctly realized that this was not at all what the DMCA was supposed to cover. There was a similar case involving garage door openers
(though the losers in that case, have figured out a workaround via its terms
that effectively allows it to do the same thing).
The latest example of a company trying to abuse the law this way is... Microsoft. We've been following this story for a while. Back in 2009, Microsoft suddenly announced that it would break third party memory cards
for the Xbox, basically because it could. This pissed off a lot of people, and kicked off an antitrust lawsuit from Datel
one of the third party makers of such cards. That case is now moving forward, with Microsoft arguing there's no antitrust issue, because its merely blocking Datel and others because they're violating the DMCA's anti-circumvention clause
, in that third party cards have to get past some software used to block them.
If I had to guess, I'd say Microsoft is going to lose this case. It seems that courts are seeing through attempts to abuse the DMCA when it comes to stopping hardware competition. That's not the case when it comes to software
, where things get murkier, but this seems like a pretty obvious attempt by Microsoft to abuse the intent and language of the DMCA solely to stop third party competition of a physical product. Hopefully, the court recognizes this.