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EFF Calls For DMCA Reform Support

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-03-20

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A bill before the House would reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and ensure protections long enjoyed by consumers for lawfully using digital content continue to exist.

Arguments over issues of importance to the technically inclined can divide them into fiercely bitter camps, each advocating one technology over another ("Vi!" "No, emacs!"). Few issues unify techies and other with an interest in fairly using digital content they purchase like the reviled Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently issued a call for support for House Resolution 1201, the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act. Congressman Rick Boucher (D-Va) introduced the bill in March 2005.

Specifically, the bill focuses on music sold on compact discs. Many labels sell their CDs with some type of digital copy-protection scheme. Those schemes frequently prevent users from playing a CD on their computers, a limitation that infuriates music lovers who spend a lot of time working from or on their machines.

HR 1201 calls for prohibiting the labeling, advertising, or invoicing of a digital music CD as an audio CD. CDs must be labeled "in words that are prominent and plainly legible" the minimum requirements for playing or recording a CD on a computer; any restrictions on the number of times a song can be downloaded to a hard drive; and the return policy should the CD not play in a device capable of playing an audio CD.

Further, HR 1201 contains "fair use amendments." Fair use would be restored to the US Code to permit users to "manufacture or distribute a hardware or software product capable of substantial noninfringing uses" unless direct infringement of copyright would take place.

The fair use amendments would decriminalize circumventing "a technological measure in order to obtain access to the work for purposes of making noninfringing use of the work." Followers of the exploits of DVD Jon, the programmer who created a method of permitting the playback of DVDs on a Linux platform, will likely see this provision as a positive development.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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