Monday, October 27, 2008

DMCA - The Law That Saved the Web

It was 10 years ago that a law was passed by Congress that was single handedly responsible for the explosion of the web. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA stated in the title) “criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as Digital Rights Management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works and it also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself” according to Wikipedia.

The DMCA was also an important step in the development of the DVD.

The DMCA created the separate notice-and-takedown provision which also aided the growth of the internet. The provision grants immunity to so-called "intermediaries" or ISP’s. What this means if for example the company YouTube receives a notice from the copyright holder to take down a video, YouTube must comply. Instead of just suing a company for stealing intellectual property, those companies now have a fair warning before that company is prosecuted.

The article then goes to talk about a couple of examples of the new takedown procedure. In one court case, Universal Music issued a takedown notice to YouTube over a Pennsylvania woman's 29-second video of her toddler dancing to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy." After YouTube had taken down the video, the mother of the toddler sued the company for misuse of the DMCA. The judge in the case stated that Universal Music should have reviewed the facts before acting up. The McCain campaign even took notice to the case. McCain, a supporter of the DMCA act, has been “called out” for reusing snippets of broadcast news footage in his online campaign videos, which have been taken down off of YouTube.

The next part of the act is aimed to prevent the circumvention of intellectual property. The law dictates that "no person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.” Over the years there have been exceptions added to the act. One of those exceptions allowed customers to switch phone carriers without buying a new phone.

Without the DMCA we would not be able to blog in our class. Everyone who has made a post on our blog (that includes myself) could be prosecuted. The DMCA allowed for the growth of creativity on the internet. It created popular sites such as Google, MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. If the DMCA act had not been created, I am sure that we would still be living a Big Brother society where we not be able to express ourselves over the internet.

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