Technology companies join fight against DMCA

July 12, 2004

Some of the world’s most influential technology companies are taking on the Hollywood establishment on the issue of copyright protection. The target is the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), now being reconsidered by Congress.

The tech companies are forming the Personal Technology Freedom Coalition, a group whose purpose is to coordinate lobbying efforts in opposition — at least initially — to the most controversial section of the DMCA.

Currently, that hot-potato provision in the anti-copyright law broadly says that no one may bypass a copy-protection scheme or distribute any product that is “primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing” copy protection.

The motion picture/television industry, record labels and many software publishers are fiercely protective of that section of the law, saying that digital rights management, or DRM, systems backed up by the law are necessary to reduce piracy.

However, members of the new coalition, including BellSouth, Gateway, Intel, Qwest, SBC, Sun Microsystems, and Verizon Communications are supporting a proposal by Rep. Rick Boucher, (D-Va), to rewrite that part of the DMCA. Boucher’s bill says that descrambling utilities can be distributed, and copy protection can be circumvented as long as no copyright infringement is taking place.

One participant in the coalition, who spoke on condition of anonymity to CNet News, said its members already have met with representatives of more than 20 congressional offices. Their sales pitch: Beyond harming “fair use” rights, the DMCA also endangers computer research vital to national security.

Other members of the new coalition include: American Foundation for the Blind, the American Library Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Consumer Electronics Association, Consumer Electronics North America, the Consumer Federation of America, the Consumers Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Philips, Public Knowledge, and the United States Telecom Association.

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