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Salon.com: The Worst Law Ever? (Two on the DMCA)

Aug 31, 2001, 17:31 (21 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Damien Cave, Katharine Mieszkowski)

[ Thanks to certron for this link. ]

"For computer geeks and civil libertarians, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is one of the most despised laws of the land. But the 3-year-old law passed a major test on Wednesday: To the dismay of critics, the U.S. Copyright Office evaluated the effects of the DMCA without calling for a complete revision.

Specifically, the 200-page study judged whether the new Net-focused law violated two relevant sections of offline copyright law: the doctrine of "first sale," or the right to resell or make personal copies of a copyrighted work without a publisher's permission; as well as a copyright law that permits the owner of a computer program to make a backup copy.

The study does give critics some ammunition to work with. It asks legislators, for example, to clarify whether temporary copies are legal, and advises Congress to give users of digital content the right to make archival copies. But the report also rejects the argument that offline copyright law should apply to the digital world, calling the analogy 'flawed and unconvincing.'"

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"EnviroLink Network , a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit Internet service provider, took offline two Web sites belonging to the animal-rights activist group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. The action came in response to a letter sent to the ISP earlier in the week by Huntingdon Life Sciences , a British medical research firm. Citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Huntingdon accused the activists of violating its copyright. Although no charges have yet been filed, under the terms of the DMCA, Envirolink was forced to remove the sites to avoid potential legal liability.

'It's very clear that Huntingdon Life Sciences just wants to shut them up,' says Josh Knauer, the founder of Envirolink, which provides free Web hosting to nonprofits. The animal-rights group's U.S. site has been replaced with a single page explaining the conflict, while the main site redirects to another ISP, allowing it to remain up for the moment. A notice on the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty Web site taunts: 'If you read this HLS realize that you will never shut us up and we are as determined to destroy you now as we were in November 1999 when this campaign began and destroy you we will.' Calls to legal counsel for Huntingdon Life Sciences were not returned. Huntingdon's response is hardly the first legal skirmish between Huntingdon and its critics; most recently, the company brought suit against Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty and other animal-rights groups last April using racketeering law to fight the activist's allegedly radical tactics, including 'violence, intimidation and harassment'; the law suit is still pending."

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