April 25, 2014

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Tech Giants Support DMCA Reform

Big tech companies, including Intel and Sun Microsystems, and ISPs, including Verizon and SBC, will announce today that they have banded together to form the “Personal Technology Freedom Coalition,” to support Rep. Rick Boucher’s DMCRA bill (HR 107) to reform the DMCA, according to a Declan McCullagh story at news.com.

The Boucher bill would reform the DMCA to allow the distribution and use of circumvention technologies for non-infringing purposes. (As written, the DMCA bans even circumventions that don’t result in copyright infringement.) The bill would also create an exemption to the DMCA for legitimate research.

This bill has always been in the interests of technologists. The overbreadth of the DMCA has restrained both research and development of innovative, noninfringing uses of technology. The whole tech community – including users – would benefit from a narrowing of the DMCA.

So far, technology companies have been a bit shy about expressing their support for the Boucher bill, apparently out of a desire not to offend copyright maximalists. It’s good news that these companies are now willing to stand up for their interests and the interests of their customers.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about the Boucher bill in the coming weeks.

Comments

  1. The Importance of... says:

    Anti-DMCA Personal Technology Freedom Coalition to Launch

    Last week, on Copyfight, I noted Some Good News – Support for Anti-DMCA Increasing. Now, C|Net News has a couple of articles expanding on the good news (Tech heavies support challenge to copyright law and The Hill’s property rights showdow)….

  2. Ryan Tanner says:

    Cool. I’m glad that some powerful companies are starting to take action. After all, if the Bells can get what they want in the FCC, surely they can do it again with Congress.

  3. Seth Finkelstein says:

    So, when can we expect your *DMCRA* testimony appearance? 1/2 :-)

  4. Anonymous says:

    90% of the law has a bunch of nonsense about labelling CD’s, not a very important issue in my mind. The meat is buried in the last couple of paragraphs, and by far the most important and far-reaching part is the very last sentence, which would amend the DMCA to add,

    `(5) It shall not be a violation of this title to manufacture, distribute, or make noninfringing use of a hardware or software product capable of enabling significant noninfringing use of a copyrighted work.’

    As far as I can tell, this would mean that you could sell pretty much any copyright-defeating technology, because any such technology would enable significant noninfringing use. Can you suggest any counter-examples?

    If I am right, this amounts to effectively gutting the part of the DMCA that affects defeating copyright technology. It would still be illegal actually to disable a protection mechanism, but not to sell a device which did so. So you’d have to break into someone’s home and catch them in the act, enforcing the law piecemeal against private users. Needless to say, this would be an ineffective approach.

    Personally this is fine with me, but the point is that the DMCA was passed with powerful support. It may be possible to amend it and eliminate its worst excesses. But I think this bill is over-reaching in its ambitious attempts to undercut the principle enforcement power of the DMCA. Politically, this will be a non-starter and that provision will not be part of the final bill.

    Maybe the research exemption will stay in, and that would be good. And I don’t think anyone cares much what logos appear on CDs. But it would have been smarter to begin whittling down the DMCA a little more gently than the blunt language above.