San Francisco - Fifteen years after Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and just as legislators and the public are debating the law's dangerous impact on consumers who want to unlock their cell phones, the evidence of much broader negative effects continues to mount. In its latest update to the comprehensive white paper, "Unintended Consequences: Fifteen Years Under the DMCA," the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) catalogs how content owners have misused the DMCA to threaten fair use, free speech, research, competition and innovation.

EFF's research highlights how the DMCA's prohibition on "circumventing" digital rights management (DRM) and "other technical protection measures" has been used to intimidate scientists and inventors and stifle fair uses, harming both business and consumer interests. The latest update to the chronicle of DMCA overreach includes new case studies, including several that illustrate how the law impacts engineers working with video-game consoles.

"It is great to see the new awareness of the issues with cell phone unlocking, but phones are just the tip of the iceberg of problems the DMCA has created," EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry said. "It kills aftermarkets, interferes with legitimate research, and squelches creativity in new media."


• In 2010, Sony sued a group of researchers, including hacker George Hotz (a.k.a. Geohot), who had helped expose security flaws in the Playstation 3 that would enable users to run Linux on their machines again — something Sony previously supported but then tried to prevent.

• In 2011, Sony threatened the Norway-based website, an online collaborative space for the open-source community, when its users initiated projects involving the Playstation 3 console. Citing a lack of resources to fight Sony, Gitorious not only removed the projects, but it also blocked search requests for "playstation," "sony " and "ps3."

• In 2011, Activision threatened hacker Brandon Wilson when he published research on the workings of a scanning device that was part of one of the company's video games. Activision's claim that Wilson's research would allow users to unlock game content without purchase was unwarranted, but it nevertheless succeeded in pressuring Wilson to remove his research from his blog and to abandon his work on the project.

"Section 1201 has done a lot more harm than good," McSherry said. "It's long past time to fix it, or, even better, get rid of it altogether." Outraged users can go to to find out how they can help.

The white paper is available here as a pdf.


Corynne McSherry
   Intellectual Property Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

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