EFF's annual DMCA whitepaper gets a refresh

EFF has updated its annual(ish) white paper, "Unintended Consequences: ___ Years Under the DMCA" (currently standing at 12 years). This is one of EFF's most compelling pieces of policy writing, a huge, well-organized and tightly argued indictment of the 1996 US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a train-wreck of a copyright law that opened the door to censorship, surveillance, and widespread use of crippling software locks. If you want to read an unstoppable bulldozer of a white-paper, this is your lucky day.
* The DMCA 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, programmers, and members of the public.

* The DMCA Jeopardizes Fair Use.
By banning all acts of circumvention, and all technologies and tools that can be used for circumvention, the DMCA grants to copyright owners the power to unilaterally eliminate the public's fair use rights. Already, the movie industry's use of encryption on DVDs has curtailed consumers' ability to make legitimate, personal-use copies of movies they have purchased.

* The DMCA Impedes Competition and Innovation.
Rather than focusing on pirates, some have wielded the DMCA to hinder legitimate competitors. For example, the DMCA has been used to block aftermarket competition in laser printer toner cartridges, garage door openers, and computer maintenance services. Similarly, Apple has used the DMCA to tie its iPhone and iPod devices to Apple's own software and services.

* The DMCA Interferes with Computer Intrusion Laws.
Further, the DMCA has been misused as a general-purpose prohibition on computer network access, a task for which it was not designed and to which it is ill-suited. For example, a disgruntled employer used the DMCA against a former contractor for simply connecting to the company's computer system through a virtual private network ("VPN").

Unintended Consequences: Twelve Years under the DMCA



  1. I have to wonder. EFF has been doing this for seven years, there have been plenty of abuses documented…and we still have a DMCA. Has there been any kind of encouraging trend in the amount of meaningful opposition to it? Petitions signed by more and more people every year, for example? Attempts to repeal the worst parts co-sponsored by more and more legislators? Increasing number of court challenges?

    It seems to me the tactics used so far aren’t working particularly well. I’m hoping I just haven’t been watching closely enough.

Comments are closed.