Unintended Consequences: Five Years under the DMCA
In practice, the anti-circumvention provisions have been used to stifle a wide array of legitimate activities, rather than to stop copyright piracy. As a result, the DMCA has developed into a serious threat to several important public policy priorities:
Section 1201 Chills Free Expression and Scientific Research.
Experience with section 1201 demonstrates that it is being used to stifle free speech and scientific research. The lawsuit against 2600 magazine, threats against Princeton Professor Edward Felten’s team of researchers, and prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov have chilled the legitimate activities of journalists, publishers, scientists, students, program–mers, and members of the public.
Section 1201 Jeopardizes Fair Use.
By banning all acts of circumvention, and all technologies and tools that can be used for circumvention, section 1201 grants to copyright owners the power to unilaterally eliminate the public’s fair use rights. Already, the music industry has begun deploying “copy-protected CDs” that promise to curtail consumers’ ability to make legitimate, personal copies of music they have purchased.
Section 1201 Impedes Competition and Innovation.
Rather than focusing on pirates, many copyright owners have wielded the DMCA to hinder their legitimate competitors. For example, Sony has invoked section 1201 to protect its monopoly on Playstation video game consoles, as well as their “regionalization” system limiting users in one country from playing games legitimately purchased in another.
Section 1201 Becomes All-Purpose Ban on Access To Computer Networks
Further, section 1201 has been misused as a new general-purpose prohibition on computer network access which, unlike the several federal “anti-hacking” statutes that already protect computer network owners from unauthorized intrusions, lacks any financial harm threshold. Disgruntled ex-employer Pearl Investment’s use of the DMCA against a contract programmer who connected to the company’s computer system through a password-protected Virtual Private Network illustrates the potential for unscrupulous persons to misuse the DMCA to achieve what would not be possible under existing computer access regulation regimes.
This document collects a number of reported cases where the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA have been invoked not against pirates, but against consumers, scientists, and legitimate comp–etitors. It will be updated from time to time as additional cases come to light. The latest version can always be obtained at www.eff.org.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: ANYTHING that makes reverse-engineering illegal, ought to be unconstitutional. Period.
In other news, we have an interview with Bill Joy:
There's no ideal time to leave a company, but I feel now that all the projects and strategies at Sun are in good hands. Sure, I could've found another project that needed incubation. We had one to design a new kind of network data-storage architecture that involved 20 or 30 people that I could've stayed involved in. It doesn't have a code name that starts with a J, though.
The problem with big projects like Java or rewriting Unix or designing the Sparc chip is that they require a five-year commitment. So when you come right down to it, I had to decide, "Do I want to push this big rock up a hill again?" Not this time.
Bill Gates faced a similar choice with his Longhorn project. He probably has a lot of great ideas and all these brilliant people, but he also has this antecedent condition he has to take into account—keeping it somewhat in sync with the old Windows. So the beautiful vision may fail because it has to be compatible. I've often wondered why they can't, for once, do something new. I mean really, really new? But then, when I asked myself that same question, that's when I knew I had to leave Sun.