Digital Copyrights Challenged
WASHINGTON -- Consumers are demanding the Copyright Office unlock the gates of copy-protected entertainment, in its periodic review of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
They're particularly unhappy that some DVDs bought abroad won't play on U.S. machines--the subject of about half of the 270 the comments during the legally mandated evaluation of the controversial copyright law. Also, 55 people are protesting DVDs that won't let you skip the advertising--many of them specifically citing Disney products.
Every three years, the federal Copyright Office
The current round of requests are now posted on the
Steven Metalitz and Eric Schwartz, lawyers representing a number of film and recording industry associations, have filed a
Programmers and civil rights groups point out that the bar is set high with respect to access exemptions. In its first review of the DMCA, the Copyright Office granted only two exemptions after receiving 235 comments.
Seth Finkelstein, a freelance computer programmer from Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote one of the successful proposals. He shares his experience in
"I think there are extremely sound policy arguments against the DMCA. The question is whether the copyright office is going to want the responsibility of making those decisions," Finkelstein says. "Nobody wants to face the wrath of copyright protection companies."
Adam Thierer, a policy analyst at
"[The Copyright Office has] never liked to get involved to this degree in these sort of cat fights between various interest groups," Thierer says. "If we really want to get at this and not have this fight come up every couple years, we ought to just eliminate the DMCA altogether."
Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are trying to clear up DMCA static for good.
Representative Rick Boucher (D-Virginia),
Earlier this week, Silicon Valley Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California),
"[Piracy] is something that needs to be stopped, but individual consumers are being denied their legitimate rights in the digital age," Lofgren says. "We can solve this problem, but lawsuits and locking down content are not the solutions."
Her office acknowledges the bill faces an uphill fight. Its initial version didn't even get a hearing last session. And the Business Software Alliance and Motion Picture Association of America have opposed her efforts.
Meanwhile, the Copyright Office
As part of its required three-year review process, the office must decide by year's end which, if any, access immunities will be granted.
The Copyright Office will not analyze the comments until after the hearings, says Rob Kasunic, senior attorney.
"For us, they're all hot issues; we're going to be looking at everything that's proposed," Kasunic said.