Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Paper summarizing arguments about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

Let me suggest that the visitor study a recent paper on the Ditigal Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), dated March 21, 2006, by Timothy B. Lee. The link is on Cato's site and is this.

The paper starts with an executive summary about Digital Rights Management, which protects not only content but attempts to regulate the technological tools with which content can be made available to others, even for purposes that could be legal according to fair use doctrines of copyright law. Mr. Lee compares the DMCA to making it against the law to jump over a fence specifically, when trespass law would already protect legitimate property rights.

The political danger is that the DMCA could increase the barriers to entry for newcomers in various digital media enterprises. It could put practical barriers in place for newbies to publish their content and make them available to readers for lower prices. Therefore, the DMCA raises questions not simply about copyright in the usual sense of an intellectual property right, but also in terms of political turf protection. It is an expression of a "pay your dues" view of life.

Mr. Lee spoke at a forum on April 26, 2006 at Cato in Washington DC: "Copyright Controversies: Freedom, Property, Content Creation and the DMCA, summary link here.

The conference raised basic philosophical questions about the extent to which copyright protection protects and encourages new content development. Within the writers community, there is somewhat of a cultural rift between those who write on assignment for others and are paid mostly by specific contracts (which often deny the writers electronic reproduction income, they say), and those who are motivated to produce content (often given away in an open source model) by their own ideas or passions.

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