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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

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March 21, 2006

Don't Miss Cato vs. the DMCA

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Posted by Wendy Seltzer

When organizations all around the political spectrum can agree a law is broken, you'd think that would lead to quick passage of the bill to fix it. Unless that law is the DMCA's anticircumvention.

The Libertarian Cato Institute has released a terrific report (PDF link) documenting ways the Digital Millennium Copyright Act hinders innovation.

Why won't iTunes play on Rio MP3 players? Why are viewers forced to sit through previews on some DVDs when they could have fast-forwarded through them on video? Why is it impossible to cut and paste text on Adobe eBook? In a just released study for the Cato Institute, Tim Lee, a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute, answers these questions and more.

The new legislation’s most profound effects will be on the evolution of digital media technologies. We have grown accustomed to, and benefit from, a high-tech world that is freewheeling, open-ended, and fiercely competitive. Silicon Valley is a place where upstarts like Apple, Netscape, and Google have gone from two-man operations to billion-dollar trendsetters seemingly overnight. The DMCA threatens to undermine that competitive spirit by giving industry incumbents a powerful legal weapon against new entrants.

Sound copyright policy has obvious attractions for advocates of small-government and deregulation. Copyright has become more regulatory, and more market-crippling, as it expands, and the DMCA is a case in point. As Lee describes, the DMCA has been (ab)used to prevent competitive development of audio and video players, cable boxes, and even, for a time, printer cartridges. Instead of a free-market rush toward the best technology to meet public demand, we get a trickle of major-label "approved" devices that must be bug-compatible: region-coded DVD players and can't-record cable boxes.

I don't agree with Cato on everything, but this report is spot-on. Let's hope it inspires more in Congress to join Reps. Boucher, Doolittle, and Barton in support of the DMCRA.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies | Kudos


COMMENTS

1. Thomason on March 24, 2006 8:16 AM writes...

I dropped off reading Lee's article, because of its firebrand style - but I think I got his point.
Arguably, the DMCA is legislation beyond the contemplation of the Copyright Clause, since these technological devices hardly qualify as "writings." Perhaps that intersection between copyrightable and patentable subject matter should define the next chapter of comprehensive laws that governing the "exclusive" rights to be enjoyed by authors and inventors.
Today, someone invents the violin, and tomorrow another someone authors musical notation. If these two aren't willing to be joint venturers, then that'd end that. Also, should it be decided by law whether or not that copyrighted music can be played on that patented violin? These are the private (contract) and public (rights protection) components of the issue. Nothing in the law tackles all of those. DMCA is just a policing provision, which does nothing to "promote" the arts or useful articles.

Permalink to Comment

2. Sarah Lai Stirland on April 24, 2006 11:04 PM writes...

Cato will be holding a 1/2 day conference on the DMCA on Weds, one panel of which I'll moderate. If anyone is in the area, please drop by!

see:

http://www.cato.org/events/060426conf.html

Permalink to Comment

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Redmond reorg (and Cheney rider) from Computerworld Blogs
Welcome to today's IT Blogwatch, in which Microsoft reorganizes, Scoble keeps schtumm, and bloggers smell a rat. Not to mention the Vice President has a rider, just like his rockstar friends... [Read More]

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