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A divide among libertarians on DMCA: Cato says get rid of it
Small-L libertarians broadly agree on many things, including the need
for individual rights, limited government, contracts, and low taxes. But
a few areas have internal rifts: Abortion and intellectual property
number among them.
That brings me to the DMCA and Rep. Boucher's bill to amend its
currently quite restrictive "anti-circumvention" sections.
The libertarians at the Competitive Enterprise Institute like that idea,
saying "such a step seems to make sense":
My co-authored law review article from last year makes similar
The Progress and Freedom Foundation, which calls itself a
"market-oriented think tank," says this about supporters of Rep.
"Their precise goal is to abolish IP rights in favor of some mystical
commune wherein all IP is free as the air and creators are compensated
Now the Cato Institute, the world's most prominent libertarian think
tank, is siding with DMCA reform. Keep reading.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Cato News Release: Digital Millennium Copyright Act Hinders
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 15:43:14 -0500
From: Jim Harper <email@example.com>
To: Declan McCullagh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
March 21, 2006
Media Contact: (202) 789-5200
Digital Millennium Copyright Act Hinders Innovation
And exasperates consumers
WASHINGTON - Why won't iTunes play on Rio MP3 players? Why are viewers
forced to sit through previews on some DVDs when they could have
fast-forwarded through them on video? Why is it impossible to cut and
paste text on Adobe eBook? In a just released study for the Cato
Institute, Tim Lee, a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute, answers
these questions and more.
The problem at the root of all of these annoyances, writes Lee in
"Circumventing Competition: The Perverse Consequences of the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act," is Congressional interference in the market
for digital rights management technologies.
The courts have historically done a good job of protecting copyright
without stifling innovation. For example, in 1984 the Supreme Court
rejected Hollywood's argument that the VCR should be outlawed as a
piracy device. But the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
changed all that. It tied the courts' hands by outlawing all devices
that tamper with copy protection technologies.
Congress intended to shore up the rights of copyright holders, but Lee
shows how the primary beneficiaries of the DMCA have been technology
companies such as Apple, Real Networks, and TiVo. They have used the
DMCA to exclude competitors from building products compatible with their
According to Lee, the greatest victims of the DMCA's restrictions are
likely to be hobbyists and small startups that lack the clout to
negotiate with incumbent technology companies for permission to build
compatible products. That, he warns, will make it difficult for
innovative new companies to compete effectively with entrenched incumbents.
Lee has a solution: Congress should undo the damage it did with the DMCA
and leave the courts to deal with the issue. Judges are better able to
apply the principles of intellectual property in a rapidly changing
technological environment, he concludes.
Policy Analysis 564: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6025
Click here to receive Cato's Daily Dispatch, news releases and event
Jim Harper, director of information policy studies, Cato Institute,
Tim Lee, policy analyst, the Show-Me Institute,
Kristen Kestner, media relations manager, Cato Institute,
Evans Pierre, director of broadcasting, Cato Institute,
The Cato Institute is a nonpartisan public policy research foundation
dedicated to broadening policy debate consistent with the traditional
American principles of individual liberty, limited government, free
markets, and peace.
Posted by Declan McCullagh on Mar 28, 2006
in category intellectual-property
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