The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is far more trouble than it’s worth. On the one hand, I can understand the entertainment industry’s desire to preserve its business model. It would be foolish to expect otherwise, but the subsequent costs to society are dire. The unintended consequences of this act are the lawsuits that threaten to turn copyright into monopoly and the infringement of personal and community rights especially fair use and free speech.
Eric Corley has been sued for posting software, but disturbingly for linking to other websites and posting source code. The former is a weakening of fair use and the latter is basically a dangerous weakening of the First Amendment. It should be legal for licensed owners of copyrighted material to be able to backup this material, esp. if its of high value. PlayStation games are a great example. Getting a $1.00 DVD-R scratched up is far less costly than a $40 game disc. But this is almost a non-issue standing against the infringement of speech. And this is affecting our educators, who are barred from teaching certain topics because of the issues with copyright law, e.g. studying how DeCSS works. The consequences of this are quite troubling. Once industry can impose its will on academia on what can and cannot be taught, we are in serious trouble.
At the same time, there seems to be no way out but for the gradual extinction of movie studios and recording companies as we know them. They provide an information good (music, movies, software) in an era where information is nearly costless to copy and distribute. This has been their bread and butter for decades. Yet information in a free society wants to be free, as hackers readily attest. And on a more cynical note, consumers don’t want to pay for information, at least as much as they have been in the past. Witness the MP3 music industry revolution. Apple et al. has shown that the light at the end of the tunnel is to allow fair use and reasonable profits (economic rents) for the industry. Sadly, this hasn’t translated to other industries such as movies.
Even worse for business are the unrelated litigation resulting from the DMCA. I don’t think lawmakers even intended the law to help printer manufacturers to create a supply monopoly for their printers, for example. As a result, some have seen the light.
Basically it all adds up to more trouble than the law is worth. Congress should make an effort to understand better what it regulates before writing such sweeping legislation that has such far reaching negative effects.