Constructive Challenges to DMCA

Stephen Wildstrom

The flap at Digg over the posting of an HD-DVD encryption key has gotten more than enough attention. But no one seems to be talking about more practical ways to deal with the underlying problem than the rather silly civil disobedience of online posting posting of strings of numbers that 99.99% of the public have no idea what to do with.

How about fixing the extreme tilt toward content owners in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), along with John Doolittle (R-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), has introduced HR 1201, which would fix some of the worst excesses of DMCA Section 1201. This is the part of the Copyright Act that prohibits circumvention of technical means of protecting content.

HR 1201 was crafted to meet the most strenuous objections of the entertainment industry to the 2005 version of the bill and many will feel that it does not go far enough. But it does create a fair-use exemption from the anti-circumvention provisions for non-infringing uses. And it writes into law some temporary exemptions granted by the Library of Congress, including those covering research and the needs of people with disabilities.

If you want to see DMCA changed, showing support for HR 1201 could be a lot more productive than a flame war on Digg. Digital Freedom,an ad hoc group backed by Public Knowledge,the Consumer Electronics Assn., the Electronic Freedom Foundation, and others, is leading the lobbying effort.

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