Digital Copyright Law Up for Challenge
WASHINGTON--As the deadline approaches for public comment on the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, experts are offering advice on how to persuade the feds to allow exemptions that change access controls on digital media.
The Copyright Office is
The office received 235 comments in 2000 during the first review of the
Seth Finkelstein, a computer programmer from Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote one of those successful proposals. He targeted Internet filtering programs that contain secret blacklists of Web sites the software intends to block. The federal law prohibits circumventing the encryption that hides the banned sites, and his request allowed access to the censorware blacklists.
Finkelstein says the Copyright Office is most likely to respond to comments that cite specific lawsuits and applications. "I had an extremely detailed and factual case," he says.
The law says an exemption from the DMCA must be based on proof that users are "adversely affected in their ability to make noninfringing uses due to the prohibition on circumvention of measures that protect access."
Finkelstein plans to apply for another exemption during this review, and says his argument this time may be even stronger because he can cite new cases.
"Litigation has exploded," he says. The
Companies that make Internet filtering programs were caught off guard last time, but they will be watching the challenges in this review period, Finkelstein says. He expects companies like SurfControl and Websense to respond to the proposals during the second round of this comment period, in January.
Finkelstein encourages individuals and businesses to take advantage of
the opportunity to voice their concerns about DMCA provisions. He offers
Officials in the Copyright Office also urge people to follow the format for comments. These public comments will be posted on its Web site after the deadline. In January and February, the office will accept comments that reply to the initial round of public input.
Based on the comments and their evidence, the Copyright Office will provide suggestions to the librarian of Congress, who can accept or reject the requests. Judgments are expected in October 2003.