The DCMA turned ten last month, and if it weren’t for the wisp of prairie wind whipping past my ears, I’m sure I could hear movie and record executives celebrating all the way from Beverly Hills.
Signed into law on October 28, 1998, by US President Bill Clinton (don’t forget, Democrats can be evil too), the DCMA has been notoriously employed to beat upon consumers, rather than its supposed target, pirates. (And no, not the oil stealing, seafaring kind, but I bet they’d try to smack those guys around with the bill if they could.)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has commemorated this decade by releasing a report entitled Unintended Consequences: Ten Years Under the DCMA. A collection of disturbing real life stories, the report reads like “a trip down memory lane for those who have followed digital freedom issues over the past decade”.
The highlights include:
- In 1999, Sony sues Connectix over the Virtual Game Station, which let you play your legit Playstation games on your Macintosh.
- In 2001, Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov is arrested after speaking at Defcon, accused of building software for his employer, ElcomSoft, that converted Adobe e-books to PDF.
- In 2003, Lexmark uses the DMCA to block distribution of chips that allow refilling of laser toner cartridges.
- In 2004, Hollywood succeeds in shutting down 321 Studios’ DVD X Copy software, which allowed people to make backup copies of their own DVDs.
- In 2008, Hollywood targets Real Networks over RealDVD, software that allows you to copy DVDs to a hard drive for later viewing.
And while managing to accomplish all this and more, the DCMA has failed at doing what it was intended to do—prevent digital piracy. A solemn celebration, indeed.
What do you think the next decade of digital rights repression will bring? Or will an Obama administration do something to fix this mess? Given his penchant for appointing Clinton-era advisers, I’m skeptical.