Saturday, December 15, 2001

Digital Millennium Copyright Act news

fear of linking
A decision in Federal Court (NYTimes - free registration required) regarding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and hyperlinks that lead to a software code designed to circumvent DVD movie copy protection, has online journalists concerned about linking to pages that might contain illegal materials. The Judge tried to limit his ruling about including links to material that was illegal under the DMCA by creating a three part test, stating that there had to:
be clear and convincing evidence that the person responsible for the link (a) knew at the time that the offending technology is on the linked-to site, (b) knew that the offending technology is illegal under the D.M.C.A., and (c) created or maintained the link for the "purpose" of disseminating the tainted code.

Many online journalists, and free speech experts are concerned that this ruling will cause journalists to become overly cautious, and not link to pages where there might be newsworthy materials that may or may not be illegal under the DMCA.

criminal prosecution
Another story involving the first criminal prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) sees Russian software designer Dmitri Sklyarov released from U.S. custody with charges against him dropped by the United States. The article states that he will be supervised for a year during his release, which points towards a "probation prior to prosecution" disposition for the charge. Sklyarov was being held for creating software that would disable the security on Adobe e-books technology. Adobe's e-book software does not allow for the creation of a backup copy, and will only play the e-book upon the computer that it was downloaded upon. In Russia, it is illegal to release software that does not allow for the creation of a backup.

fear of music
Webcasting is something that many college radios stations have embraced fully. Yet they don't have the budget that large commercial stations have. Will a proposed Music Online Competition Act make a difference? Will college stations be forced to stop webcasting? Will they have to pay extremely large fees being applied retroactively? See Why college radio fears the DMCA.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has started a Campaign for Audiovisual Free Expression (CAFE), which has sections on online censorship and free expression; online content filtering, labeling, and rating; patents, trademark, copyright, and fairuse. A visit to their pages will quickly bring you up to date on some of the concerns many have regarding freedom of expression issues on the world wide web.
- William Slawski

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