San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court Wednesday to block Microsoft Corporation's attempt to misuse copyright law to thwart a competitor offering memory cards for the Xbox gaming system.

Datel Holdings is a British company that sells memory cards that compete with Microsoft's own memory card product for the Xbox, and Microsoft and Datel are in the middle of court battle over the legality of the product. As part of the case, Microsoft claims that Xbox users violate U.S. federal law -- the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) -- if they use third-party cards. In an amicus brief filed Wednesday, EFF explains that the DMCA was aimed at preventing access to copyrighted material by non-paying customers, not at blocking competitors or policing users' behavior in regards to their own property.

"Letting Xbox owners use a third-party memory card does not put Microsoft at risk of copyright infringement," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Microsoft is misusing the law in order to sell more accessories and control customers' use of the Xbox. The DMCA is supposed to be a shield against piracy, not a weapon to smash competition and consumer choice."

If Microsoft were to prevail on this point, it could give the software giant the ability to use the DMCA to prevent competitors from selling Xbox-compatible accessories, like memory cards, controllers, and headsets. Such a ruling would have wide-ranging ramifications for hundreds of other consumer products where content such as computer code or users' game play progress is involved.

"Congress did not intend to grant manufacturers the power to eliminate competition for replacement parts, accessories, or repair services," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Abigail Phillips. "That's bad for consumers and bad for innovation."

Jason Schultz of the Samuelson Law Technology & Public Policy Clinic and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, working with clinic students Joby Martin, Sam Edwards, and Kevin Krisiloff, was co-counsel on the brief. Public Knowledge also joined Wednesday's filing.

For the full amicus brief:


Corynne McSherry
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Abigail Phillips
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation