12-31-2002, 07:21 PM
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<h2><font color=#003399>The Truth About the DMCA</font></h2>
If you believe the buzz, you'll conclude that programmers, academics and engineers should be scared witless about being sued under the DMCA.
In effect for nearly two years, the law sets protections for the codes that are wrapped around certain copyrighted content such as DVDs and electronic books.
An attorney for the Computing Research Association, representing the computer science departments of some 200 universities, claims that "professors are afraid to study information systems or to publish their research."
Edward Felten, a computer scientist at Princeton University, and his colleagues postponed a presentation of their co-authored paper for four months after receiving DMCA threats.
A careful look at the DMCA shows that, far from prohibiting all security research, the law does not regulate as many activities as people seem to believe.
"The risk that a researcher could go to jail for giving a speech at an academic conference is essentially zero," says Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University and a former prosecutor for the Justice Department.
"Opponents of the DMCA want to dramatize its effects, so they want people to believe that the law is incredibly broad," Kerr says.
A company seeking to sue a researcher could argue that the DMCA covers such an act, as eight movie studios did when successfully suing the magazine 2600 for distributing a DVD-descrambling utility.
In a report accompanying the DMCA, Congress stressed that research could not be targeted: "The committee believes it is very important to emphasize that (this section) is aimed fundamentally at outlawing so-called 'black boxes' that are expressly intended to facilitate circumvention of technological protection measures for purposes of gaining access to a work."
For a while, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers required authors writing for its science journals to certify that their papers were DMCA violation-free--until cooler minds prevailed and IEEE recanted.
"They succeeded in creating a kind of chilling effect in the scientific community because of the kind of fear-mongering they were engaged in," says Allan Adler, vice president at the Association of American Publishers (AAP).
Among the AAP's members are MIT Press, Princeton University Press and Stanford University Press.
"Such a reading of the statute (to include restrictions on research) is a clear stretch given its constitutional implications and the absence of any supporting legislative history.
For its part, the EFF points to the potential chilling effect of even unfounded DMCA threats, saying that "nastygrams" can halt a lot of legal acts--and most people are not willing to risk being right at the cost of civil fines that swallow their kids' college funds.
Any type of publishing carries risks, including possible suits for libel, copyright infringement or invasion of privacy.
Full Article <font color="red"><u>Here</u></font>