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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":
http://www.cei.org/gencon/016,03239.cfm

My co-authored law review article from last year makes similar 
recommendations:
http://mccullagh.org/misc/articles/michigan.state.drm.0605.pdf

The Progress and Freedom Foundation, which calls itself a 
"market-oriented think tank," says this about supporters of Rep. 
Boucher's bill:
http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/ps1.7kelo.html
"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 
by government."

Now the Cato Institute, the world's most prominent libertarian think 
tank, is siding with DMCA reform. Keep reading.

-Declan



-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Cato News Release: Digital Millennium Copyright Act Hinders 
Innovation
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 15:43:14 -0500
From: Jim Harper <jharper@cato.org>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>



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.

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6025

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 
own.

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


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Contact:

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies, Cato Institute, 
jharper@cato.org, 202-218-4602
Tim Lee, policy analyst, the Show-Me Institute, 
tlee@showmeinstitute.org, 314-726-5655
Kristen Kestner, media relations manager, Cato Institute, 
kkestner@cato.org, 202-789-5212
Evans Pierre, director of broadcasting, Cato Institute, 
mailto:epierre@cato.org, 202-789-5204

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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