Intellectual Property - Digital Millennium Copyright Act
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On October 12, 1998, the U.S. Congress passed the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act giving content owners a powerful new tool
in the protection of copyrights and intellectual property existing on
the internet. A major part of the act makes the circumvention of
anti-piracy measures an illegal act. The DMCA also addresses Internet
Service Providers, stating that an ISP is not responsible for data sent
through them but is responsible for data stored on their severs. Some
recent victims of the act include:
- The rights of the end-user vs. the rights of the copyright holder.
- When is it ok to circumvent copy protections?
- Is a library considered an ISP (Internet Service Provider)?
- What constitutes fair-use?
- How much of a work can you copy or distribute without violating
The DMCA has been long awaited by the entertainment industries:
The DMCA has not been welcomed by all, even though it protects
copyrighted intellectual property. It has caused some unexpected
Study of Cases in Point
The Apple iPod has exploded in popularity as a portable
entertainment device. Initially, it was only a music player, but has
expanded now to include video as well. One of the biggest
controversies over the new video iPods concerns the right of end-users
to copy their DVD's to the iPod. Many people and consumer groups
consider this to be a right guaranteed by fair-use laws, but Apple has
been prevented by law (i.e. the DMCA) from including any DVD
capabilities in it's iPod software, iTunes. That being said, Apple has
also used the DMCA in order to
promote it's monopoly over the iPod/iTunes market.
DVDs have become the new standard in video distribution.
Most commercial DVDs have a security feature built in so that only DVD
players that pay a licensing fee can play them. The feature is
called CSS (Content Scrambling System). DeCSS is a program that
was written that decodes a DVD without a license. This
program would allow for people to view DVDs on Linux computers and
would also allow people to store DVDs to their hard drive. The
MPAA has sued the people involved with DeCSS stating that is a
violation of the DMCA.
- Does the DeCSS program constitute a program that is designed to
defeat anti-piracy measures or just another DVD player?
- Should people who link to
the source for DeCSS be held liable for breaking the DMCA also?
- Should reverse engineering a copyright system illegal?