New Bill Calls for Drastic Changes to DCMA
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the brainchild of the Big
Five American record labels and enacted to serve them, the movie studios and
book publishers, will be radically amended to protect users if US
representatives Rick Boucher (D-VA), John Doolittle (R-CA), Spencer Bachus
(R-AL) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) have their way.
"The fair use doctrine is threatened today as never before," says
Boucher. "The Digital Millennium Copyright Act dramatically tilted the
copyright balance toward complete copyright protection at the expense of the
Fair Use rights of the users of copyrighted material."
Boucher, Doolittle, Bachus and Kennedy have re-introduced the Digital
Media Consumers' Rights Act, originally put forward by Boucher and Doolittle
last fall, to, "assure that consumers who purchase digital media can enjoy a
broad range of uses of the media for their own convenience in a way which
does not infringe the copyright in the work," Boucher says.
It addresses key provisions of the 1998 DMCA which prohibit the
circumvention of a technical protection measure guarding access to a
copyrighted work - even if the purpose of the circumvention is to exercise
consumer Fair Use rights.
Supporters include Intel, Verizon, Philips Electronics North America
Corporation, Sun Microsystems, Gateway, the Consumer Electronics
Association, Computer and Communications Industry Association, the
Association for Computing Machinery, the Computer Research Association and a
variety of trade associations representing technology companies, the
American Library Association, the American Association of Universities, the
National Humanities Alliance, the Digital Future Coalition, the Consumers
Union, the Home Recording Rights Coalition, the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, Public Knowledge, the National Writers Union and, "other
organizations representing the public interest and the consumers of digital
The new bill would limit the scope of the prohibition to circumvention
for the purpose of copyright infringement. Circumvention for the purpose of
exercising Fair Use rights would be permitted under the legislation.
"A person who is circumventing a technical measure solely for the purpose
of using that material under classic Fair Use principles should be free to
do so," Doolittle said.
The bill also amends the provisions of the 1998 law which prohibit the
manufacture, distribution or sale of technology which enables circumvention
of the protection measures.
Under the current law, trafficking in those technologies is a crime if
the technology was primarily designed to be used for copyright infringement.
However, under the new bill, legislation would instead focus on whether or
not the technology had "substantial non-infringing uses" and if it did, the
manufacture, distribution, and sale of the product would be lawful.
"Without a change in the law, individuals will be less willing to
purchase digital media if their use of the media within the home is severely
circumscribed and the manufacturers of equipment and software that enables
circumvention for legitimate purposes will be reluctant to introduce the
products into the market," Boucher says.
The new law would also would direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to
require that "copy-protected CDs" be properly labeled.
"The few copy-protected CDs which have been introduced into the US market
to date are inadequately labeled and create broad consumer confusion,"
Boucher believes. "We are not proposing to outlaw the introduction of
copy-protected CDs. We, however, want to ensure that if copy-protected CDs
are introduced in larger volumes, consumers will know what they are buying,"