Hit & Run

Taking Down the DMCA


Proponents of fair use have found 20 congresspersons willing to sponsor a bill to repeal the DMCA and make CD and DVD copying for noncommercial purposes possible again.

"Congress crafted fair use to be case-by-case," said Fred Von Lohmann, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has sent Congress about 30,000 letters and faxes from Americans supporting HR107. "The problem with the DMCA is that those debates are never going to happen."

Von Lohmann said the DMCA treats all unauthorized copying as a crime, rather than letting courts decide what constitutes fair use -- in a nutshell, a legal concept that allows people to copy other people's creative works if they intend to use it for noncommercial purposes, like teaching, criticism or journalism. Congress tried to codify these concepts with the 1976 Copyright Act.

"The DMCA has supplanted the balance of the Copyright Act over the last century," Von Lohmann said.

The bill isn't expected to pass this year, but at least there's some momentum out there.