Legal Issues

A Loathsome Sequel to the DMCA

Cryptome has helpfully posted the text of the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA) which may actually be MORE odious than the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

It appears to require that computer manufacturers install government-approved filtering software on their equipment in a hamhanded attempt to prevent the exchange of private or copyrighted material:

The SSSCA and existing law work hand in hand to steer the market toward using only computer systems where copy protection is enabled. First, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act created the legal framework that punished people who bypassed copy protection -- and now, the SSSCA is intended to compel Americans to buy only systems with copy protection on by default . . .

More from Wired, with thanks to the always helpful Politech. There is also an informative thread on the SSSCA over at Slashdot.

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EFF: Canadian DMCA in the Works

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has issued a call to arms regarding proposed changes to the Copyright Act that mirror many provisions
of the DMCA:

Canadian citizens, and others, are urged to contact the Canadian government and express their opposition to legislation, similar to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the U.S., that would outlaw circumvention of technological restrictions put in place by copyright holders. The Canadian government is accepting public comment until September 15, 2001 on its proposed \"Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues\" which considers such measures. . . Canada is considering adopting anti-circumvention legislation in response to the World Intellectual Property Organization\'s (WIPO) 1996 Copyright Treaty. This treaty, however, does not require enacting national legislation that outlaws technology with many lawful uses. Given the dismal US experience with the DMCA, other countries should learn from and steer clear of the U.S. Congress\'s mistake.

More with thanks to Politech. The public comment period on modifications to the Copyright Acts ends 9/15/01. My apologies in advance for the icon-related cultural imperialism displayed here ;)

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Important Court Victory Against the DMCA

Excite News is one place with The Story on EBay\'s victory in court this week.

This case tested just one provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the DMCA failed.

Judge Robert J. Kelleher dismissed Hendrickson\'s request for damages from eBay, saying among other things that the copyright infringement actually occurred offline. Although it may facilitate the sale of pirated material, \"eBay does not have the right and ability to control such activity,\" a standard required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the judge wrote.

Hopefully this will be the first in a long line of DMCA releated defeats.

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Can the Information Commons Be Saved?

What looks to be a very interesting article on the corrosive effects of emerging intellectual property laws on intellectual freedom:

One of the more confusing paradoxes of the Internet Era is that even as more information is becoming readily available than ever before, various commercial forces are converging to make information more scarce, or at least more expensive and amenable to strict market control. More than an oddity, this paradox may be an augury about the fate of the free information ecology that has long distinguished our democratic culture . . .

More from the Center for Arts and Culture, with thanks to Library Juice, which you should all bookmark right now :)

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Bookstore Refuses to Release Custumers\' Purchase Details to FBI

The US Attorney\'s Office in New Jersey has agreed not to pursue subpoenas of purchase details for Senator Robert Torricelli and seven other people. The Senator is the subject of a grand jury investiagtion. Subpoenas were served to three bookstores: Arundel Books in Seattle, Olsson\'s in DC, and Books and Books in Florida.
The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression is supporting the bookstore owners in fighting the subpoenas.From the Seattle Times.

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Librarians Criticize Copyright Office DMCA Report

This article appeared shortly after the Copyright Office report itself on 8/31, but I missed it:

\"Given the relative infancy of digital rights
management, it is premature to consider any legislative change at this time,\" the report states. The Copyright Office is required to issue the report to Congress so that lawmakers can decide whether there are holes or flaws in the digital-copyright law that need to be fixed. Library groups and scholars have long argued that the act\'s anticircumvention provision and nonnegotiable license contracts with software vendors have been undermining the first-sale principle. The anticircumvention provision forbids breaking the encryption on digital material. . .

More from the Chronicle of Higher Education, with thanks to LLRX.com.

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Copywrong

Salon has a Story on the U.S. Copyright Office report giving the Digital Millennium Copyright Act a passing grade.

\"Libraries could not exist without first sale. If they had to get permission or pay a fee every time they lent a copy of a book, they would have to stop lending. There would be no functional difference between a public library and a Barnes and Noble.


It\'s no secret that some big publishers have been waging commercial and legislative war on libraries for some years now. These publishers see every use of interlibrary loan as a lost sale. And the DMCA is a big ICBM in that war. These publishers would like nothing better than to be able to dictate the terms of use in libraries. And by moving all their content to digital streams, encrypted, tethered to specific devices and controlled by restrictive contracts, they can effectively squeeze libraries to death.\"

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U.S. Copyright Office: No Substantial Changes to D.M.C.A.

After a review of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the U.S. has concluded that offline copyright law does not apply to the digital world, and that the anti-circumvention clause does not merit further attention:

The study does give critics some ammunition to work with. It asks legislators, for example, to clarify whether temporary copies are legal, and advises Congress to give users of digital content the right to make archival copies. But the report also rejects the argument that offline copyright law should apply to the digital world, calling the analogy \"flawed and unconvincing.\"

The study also refuses to address the energetic public outcry over the DMCA\'s controversial anti-circumvention clause, which prohibits the creation and distribution of methods for getting around copyright controls. While it acknowledges that most of the people who criticized the law -- at public hearings and via e-mail -- \"expressed general opposition to the prohibitions on circumvention of technological protection measures contained in [the anti-circumvention clause section 1201], and noted their concerns about the adverse impact that section 1201 may have on fair use and other copyright exceptions,\" the Copyright Office, which falls under the authority of the Library of Congress, sidestepped public concern. . .

More from Salon (the free part.) The Copyright Office report can be found here.

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Constitutional Freedom to Read Recognized

Luis Acosta writes \"There is an interesting item in today\'s Washington Post\'s \"District Extra\" section (not to be confused with the Metro section) about a U.S. District Court decision that recognizes the freedom to read:
Full Story
The decision at issue in the story is posted on the web page of the U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia,
here.
While the defendant that lost is a public library, the decision recognizes the first amendment right to freedom to read/freedom of information, and therefore is good news.\"

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Lawyer Lessig raps new copyright laws

News.com has a nice little Piece on Stanford Law School professor and technology pundit Lawrence Lessig\'s keynote address at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo.

\"Employees at Smith & Wesson don\'t worry if guns kill police officers,\" Lessig said. \"Some uses are illegal and some are not. But if you wrote code that could be used for good or bad, you\'re arrested and sent to jail...There\'s something screwed up about that.\"

My analogy is this:My car goes about 100, which is totally illegal, and yet I bought this car, and it\'s legal, and I can make it go 100mph if I\'m so inclined.
Imagine if they passed a law that made it illegal for just Ford to sell cars that went over the speed limit.

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