In a society where companies file lawsuits before they sit down and think (or talk), it's no big surprise that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is being widely abused.
A study from two California universities found that more than half of the DMCA claims were used as a scare tactic against direct competitors. Another 30 per cent of the claims that referred to the DMCA wouldn't stand up in court, 10 per cent of which should be discarded because the complaints were badly written.
The DMCA is widely criticised legislation that gives sweeping powers to copyright owners. The study focuses on the DMCA and publication of copyrighted materials, but the DMCA for instance also makes it illegal to 'reverse engineer' software. Reverse engineering is a useful technique to find out what software like the Sony XCP anti-piracy technology is actually doing or to hunt for security bugs.
Let's not forgot that the DMCA aims to serve the legitimate need for copyright owners like movie studios and record labels to protect their intellectual property. The industries were the main backers of the legislation, but a mere 6 per cent of the cases originated from there. The games industry accounted for about on quart of the claims, targeting publishers of cheat and authorisation codes (which enable illegal copies).
Every copyright owner is entitled to see his property protected. But this study hopefully will cause law makers to have a good look at the monster they created. Do the legit cases really justify the rubbish that comes with it?
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