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SJ Mercury: Digital Copyright Act comes back to haunt consumers

Aug 29, 2000, 14:18 (1 Talkback[s])

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"Two years ago, Congress passed a law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Many people warned correctly that this legislation was an abandonment of constitutional principles and the public interest -- a grossly unbalanced law that would give the owners of intellectual property vast new authority, simultaneously shredding users' rights."

"The New York ruling, in particular, reinforces a reality Congress tried to wish away in its deliberations over the DMCA. The law, a virtual land grab of massive scale, all but discarded the concept of "fair use" -- the ability to quote small parts of protected works for other purposes, including scholarship and research."

"Kaplan's ruling in the New York case was sweeping and deeply troubling for anyone who cares about fair use and, ultimately, the First Amendment. He likened software code to a disease, implying that the people who used it were acting like agents of germ warfare. He seemed to acknowledge the radically anti-free speech nature of his banning of hyperlinks in this matter, but then went ahead and did it anyway."

"There's little doubt at this point that the courts will continue to rule in favor of the entertainment industry in these kinds of cases. The DMCA, which has some temporary exceptions that the industry wants to eliminate, is one of the most anti-consumer acts of recent times. But it's the law, unless the higher courts re-read the Constitution and restore some balance."

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