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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The DMCA turns 10

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the passing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In commemoration of the event, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a new report titled, “Unintended Consequences: Ten Years Under the DMCA”. DMCA has not always been well received by higher education, and as the EFF notes in their report, there have been a number of specific instances where the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was not used against copyright pirates but instead against legitimate activities conducted by consumers, scientists, and businesses. Over the years, EFF has fought against many DCMA suits in the name of free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights. However, a posting on the Wired Blog provides a different perspective on the DCMA saying that it is often misunderstood and although it has caused problems and abuses, the internet would not be where it is today if it were not for the law. The posting notes,

“Blogs, search engines, e-commerce sites, video, and social-networking portals are thriving today thanks in large part to the notice-and-takedown regime ushered in by the much-maligned copyright overhaul.”

The posting goes on to say that even Google which also owns You Tube credits the DMCA for its success.

In the future, Congress could reopen the DMCA which will create an opportunity for reform but also an opportunity for the MPAA and RIAA to influence the law. We have already seen instances where the RIAA has influenced recent legislation, such as the reauthorization of the higher education act, which will now require institutions to perform some of the policing function for content providers that they have previously avoided. A reopening of the DMCA could have significant implications for DRM, and digital course materials. This presents both opportunities and challenges for the college store community, as well as much of the rest of higher education related to digital content and intellectual property.

Information on the basics of the DMCA, as well as links to the DMCA itself, are available through the UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy, as well as other sources.

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