Time to Dump the DMCA

Is there anyone or anything untouchable by the DMCA?

Its only January and already, theres been enough activity surrounding the notorious Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to last a lifetime. Just this week, Verizon Inc. was ordered to give-up the identity of a customer who reportedly used its network to make unauthorized copies of several hundred songs available online.

Then theres the Chamberlain Group, an Elmhurst, Ill., automatic garage door opener manufacturer, which is trying to use a provision of the DMCA to force Skylink Technologies to stop distribution of a universal garage door remote. Chamberlain claims Skylink is circumventing a security code system that controls access to the software in its products.

Is there anyone or anything untouchable by the DMCA?

Congress has at least two good chances to right this wrong. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) announced intentions earlier this month to reintroduce the Digital Choice and Freedom Act of 2002. The bill would allow consumers to bypass technological copy protections built in to copyrighted work if the intent is to make a copy for personal use. And, on January 7, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) reintroduced the Digital Media Consumers Rights Act, which he is co-sponsoring with Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), and Spencer Bachus (R-AL).

Reps. Lofgren and Boucher arent the only ones taking a stand. Last week, advocacy groups and technology giants including Microsoft Corp., Dell Computer Corp., and Motorola Inc., announced the Alliance for Digital Progress, a new lobbying organization formed to combat Hollywood in its attempts to control all digital media. The organizations take is that requiring anti-copying technology in digital entertainment devices will crimp product innovation. Naturally, consumer rights are what these companies are fighting for. Keeping product sales up has nothing to do with it.

Its too early to place bets on what other wild misuses of the DMCA companies will come up with. But Im not expecting that computer and consumer electronics companies find a way to handle the distribution of online and physical media that protects the rights of both the copyright holder and consumer anytime soon. What I do hope, though, is that all parties will realize that violating online privacy by forcing the release of customer information is not the answer.

Frantically trying to remember what you downloaded off KaZaA? Tell me about it. Write to me at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.