Past time to amend the DMCA

English: BBC DRM protest imageThe Digital Millenium Copyright Act, enacted on October 12, 1998, made it a crime to bypass digital rights management (DRM) applied to copyrighted works, among other things. Thus, as an example, if you purchased a commercial DVD, it would be a crime to rip the disc as you can an audio CD. Recently, as a result of a decision by the Library of Congress, the DMCA made it illegal to unlock a cellphone to move it to another carrier, even after the full term of the contract with the original carrier expired. Ridiculous.

Many have argued that when a customer purchases a product the customer should be entitled to service it, copy it, and manage it, even if doing so would break DRM. And now, finally, this might well change:

New legislation sponsored by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Jared Polis (D-CO) takes a broader approach to the issue. In addition to explicitly legalizing cell phone unlocking, the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 also modifies the DMCA to make clear that unlocking copy-protected content is only illegal if it’s done in order to “facilitate the infringement of a copyright.” If a circumvention technology is “primarily designed or produced for the purpose of facilitating noninfringing uses,” that would not be a violation of copyright.

For example, Lofgren’s bill would likely make it legal for consumers to rip DVDs for personal use in much the same way they’ve long ripped CDs. It would remove legal impediments to making versions of copyrighted works that are accessible to blind users. And it would ensure that car owners have the freedom to service their vehicles without running afoul of copyright law.

More info, and a way to take action, here.