Among the many things in this world that I hate, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is certainly among them. I’m not a backer of unlimited, unregulated copyright infringement for the masses, but I do think the entire copyright system is horribly screwed up and the DMCA is its posterchild. Let’s face it, as it exists today, copyright is not designed to protect content creators, it’s there to protect the publishers and their distribution channels. The DMCA is just a way re-inforce all that. But like the Emperor tells Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, “We have a new enemy.”
As reported at Ars Technica, Wisconsin’s Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner Jr. has a follow-up act in the works that makes the DMCA look downright consumer-friendly: the Intellectual Property Protection Act; and yes, it’s just as bad as it sounds. If this is the first you’ve heard of it, you really should read the entire piece, but here’s a few snippets:
…a toughening of the DMCA which would make attempting to infringe on copyright illegal. In addition, no one would be allowed to “make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess” hardware or software that could be used to circumvent copy-protection mechanisms.
Criminal enforcement of copyright violations will be extended to cover works not registered with the US Copyright Office at the time of the violation. Also, asset forfeiture will be used as a weapon against those infringing on copyright… Other criminal penalties for infringement would be toughened, including up to 10 years in prison for posting copyrighted material online if its value exceeds US$1,000.
You can read the current draft resolution here. Draw your own inclusions, but I think it goes beyond offensive to consumers (like the DMCA), into a whole new realm of creepy.
Now it’s true that crazy-ass legislation that doesn’t see the light of day goes through Congress all the time, and usually I just read about this stuff with a skeptical eye, knowing it probably won’t go anywhere. But this one, which has the support of the Bush administration (surprise, surprise, surprise), seems likely to see the House floor for a vote and that’s a scary thought.