May 12, 2004 10:05 PM PDT

Congress mulls revisions to DMCA

Congress has taken a step toward revising the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which has attracted extensive criticism over the past six years.

A House of Representatives subcommittee convened Wednesday for the first hearing devoted to a proposal to defang the DMCA, a 1998 law that broadly restricts bypassing copy-protection technologies used in DVDs, a few music CDs and some software programs.

Called the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act, the amendments are backed by librarians, liberal consumer groups and some technology firms. But they're bitterly opposed by the entertainment industry, including Hollywood, major record labels and the Business Software Alliance.

"It legalizes hacking," Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, said of the proposed changes. "It allows you to make a copy or many copies. And the 1000th copy of a DVD, Mr. Chairman, is as pure and pristine as the original. You strip away all the protective clothing of that DVD and leave it naked and alone."

Section 1201 of the DMCA drew fire after it was used to outlaw a utility permitting Linux users to watch their own DVDs, as well as threaten security researchers with lawsuits. Programmer Dmitry Skylarov was charged under the DMCA for writing a program that let owners of Adobe e-books export them to Portable Document Format (PDF) files.

The proposed amendments, sponsored by Rick Boucher, D-Va, and John Doolittle, R-Calif., would permit circumvention for "fair use" purposes. Selling pirated DVDs and other forms of copyright infringement would remain illegal.

"Without a change in the existing law, individuals will be less willing to purchase digital media if their use of the media within the home is severely circumscribed," Boucher said. "In addition, manufacturers of equipment and software which enable circumvention for legitimate purposes will be reluctant to introduce the products into the market."

It's unclear what the prospects are for the Boucher-Doolittle bill. It has a mere 15 co-sponsors in the House and no Senate version exists. What's more, the consumer protection subcommittee that convened Wednesday's hearing does not have jurisdiction over copyright law, making it unlikely the bill will be forwarded to the House floor this year.

Even some members of the subcommittee took a dim view of the proposal. "Theft is theft and property is property," said Rep. Butch Otter, R-Idaho.


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It isn't up to anyone but consumers...
Unfortunately, all of this falls in to the lap of the consumers. As long as consumers are so stupid that they continue to buy products that have protections in place that eliminate our fair use rights the music industry, software industry and movie industry as well as all of the other industries that rely on the DMCA to control consumers by the nose hairs will continue to do it. Not only that once they feel bold enough or manage to get enough crappy laws passed by politicians they will start ripping us off even more. Prices will stay high, we will have no return rights for crappy software, movies, music, etc. No warranties to protect us against them using cheap media so not only are we unable to back up our stuff, we will actually have to go buy it again if something happens to it. The worst is yet to come unless consumers stand up and say no more. To do that they need to stop buying this stuff sending a clear message to these rip-off industries that they will change or they won't get another cent from us. However, this won't happen because consumers are as dumb as stumps and twice as stupid. Otherwise they wouldn't be flocking to sites like iTunes to pay way to much for a single song and then have very little usage rights.

Posted by (336 comments )
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Media Industry shooting themselves in foot
I agree - in fact I and my family have curtailed purchasing any and all media - CDs. DVDs, Video Cassettes.

They cost too much and it is a matter of principle.

Would rather rent and share with other family in area on 5 day rentals or wait for it to show up on cable.

We have even pretty much lost interest in going to the movies.

Two 37 yr olds, 10, 13 and 17 yr old.

I am just a grain of sand at the beach - but I vote with my dollar just the same.

The there is this RFID issue.
Posted by hortnut (20 comments )
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Its' not just media either
Consumers are going to have to refuse to purchase equipment that restricts their fair use as well as the media. I purchased a DVD recorder that will distort viewable pictures if it set up with the pass through signal coming directly from cable to it, then my VCR and then the TV. I have to place it after the VCR in the chain. Isn't that ridiculous? Unless I hack the bios and become a criminal, I can't use it the way I want to.

Just to clarify, I am talking about viewing, not copying at this juncture. The Macrovision protection scheme interprets many signals as copy protected regardless of whether that is true or not. Thanks to Big Brother, consumers may not be able to successfully make copies of even unprotected media because nothing is perfect in software - duh. Will I purchase another recorder? Nope, not unless it is without the copy protection crap. When the broadcast flag is implemented, who will want one anyway? We won't be able to time shift, which is my main purpose in having a recorder with making backups of purchased media the secondary purpose.

Further, as long as government supports the insantiy of the majors to the detriment of the consumer, there has to be a concerted effort to get those lawmakers out of office. They are destroying not only an industry, but future technology. We are in an era that may as well be book burning because much of what would enter the public domain will no longer do so and millions upon millions of people will be deprived of works that would benefit all.

People (consumers) will either be so used to not being able to make copies that they will succomb to Big Brother, or will rebel with their wallets and underground operations. Either way, everyone will lose due to government's pandering to the greedy BSA, RIAA and MPAA. The value of entertainment media is gone if we cannot preserve it for ourselves.

Last thought: What happens to the art if the media is destroyed and is also out of print? With no archived copies, it is simply gone, as are so many of the classic films we loved. So shall we all become criminals and find a way to make copies of our purchased treasures anyway?
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Grass roots efforts work
It's a given that most consumers are not even really aware of the real issues with DMCA and copy protection. However, grass roots does work, but it takes effort to organize it. If everyone who does give a da** makes an effort to inform a couple of people and convince them to not purchase media, players or recorders that have restrictions, it cause serious ripples. It worked with Intuit. The publicity hurt them with Turbo Tax. The same effort applied to the entertainment industry and government could have an equal effect and maybe even cause congress critters to pass the bill.

However, this can't be just online. There are millions of consumers that don't bother to read up on issues online. They still watch the news and read newspapers. This is one grass roots effort that will require effort aside from the internet and a deluge on Congress.

Anti-copy mechanisms on equipment breaks functionality. Therefore, our government is forcing manufacturers to sell broken equipment to consumers. THAT should be illegal.
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