San Francisco - Ten years ago Tuesday, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed into law. In a report released to mark the anniversary, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) documents the ways in which this controversial law has harmed fair use, free speech, scientific research, and legitimate competition.

"Unintended Consequences: Ten Years Under the DMCA" focuses on the most notorious aspect of the law: its ban on "circumventing" digital rights management (DRM) and "other technical protection measures." Instead of protecting against copyright infringement, this ban has routinely been used to stymie consumers, scientists, and small businesses. "Unintended Consequences" collects reports of the law's most egregious abuses over the last decade. In 2003, for example, Lexmark used the DMCA to block distribution of chips that allow the refilling of laser toner cartridges. In 2006, computer security researchers at Princeton delayed disclosure of a dangerous hidden program in some Sony CDs based on fears of DMCA liability. Meanwhile, the DMCA has not prevented digital piracy. DRM systems are consistently and routinely broken almost immediately upon their introduction.

"Over the last ten years, the DMCA has done far more harm to fair use, free speech, scientific research, and competition than it has to digital piracy. Measured from the perspective of the public, it's been a decade of costs, with no benefits," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "The music industry has given up on DRM, and Hollywood now relies on DRM principally to stop innovation that it doesn't like. It's time for Congress to consider giving up on this failed experiment to back up DRM systems with misguided laws."

For "Unintended Consequences: Ten Years Under the DMCA":

For more on the DMCA:


Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues