Unintended Consequences: Twelve Years Under the DMCA

Electronic Frontier FoundationTwelve years after the passage of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the law continues to stymie fair use, free speech, scientific research, and legitimate competition. A new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) collects reported examples of abuses of the DMCA and the ongoing harm the law continues to inflict on consumers, scientists, and small businesses.

The U.S. Copyright Office is currently mulling proposed exemptions to the DMCA’s ban on “circumventing” digital rights management (DRM) and “other technical protection measures” used to restrict access to copyrighted works. The Copyright Office is empowered to grant exemptions to the law every three years to mitigate the harms that DRM otherwise would impose on legitimate, non-infringing uses of copyrighted materials.

The triennial Copyright Office rulemaking, however, has not been enough to prevent abuses of the DMCA. EFF’s report details the numerous harms stemming from the DMCA’s ban on circumventing DRM, including Apple’s attempts to lock down the iPhone and force users into its App Store. Also new in this year’s report is the account of hobbyists threatened by Texas Instruments for blogging about potential modifications to the company’s programmable graphing calculators as well as the story behind the legal attacks on Real DVD and other products that create innovative new ways for consumers to enjoy DVD content they have legitimately purchased. Continue reading

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