A gathering of experts last Friday at a University of California at Berkeley conference on the law and policy of digital rights management seemed to produce a consensus: The DMCA is being used for purposes far afield from Congress's original intention and is doing more harm than good:
- "There has to be a way between the lunatics at the two extremes," said Larry Lessig, a law professor at Stanford University and well-known opponent of the DMCA. "We need to build a layer of reasonable copyright law on top of this background of unreasonable extremism."
For the most part, Lessig and others seemed to have more problems with the law than with the technology behind digital rights management, which regulates what people can do with information. The Stanford professor has created an organization called the Creative Commons to offer alternatives to strict controls backed by laws such as the DMCA. He and other experts taking part in the two-day policy debate, even those sympathetic to the plight of copyright holders, could cite several cases where the DMCA has been used to exert control in a way never intended by the creators of the law.
On Friday, a Kentucky court granted a preliminary injunction to Lexmark International against a company that makes generic replacement cartridges for Lexmark printers. The court found that a chip in Lexmark cartridges that identify the refills as "official" could be protected under the DMCA, and thus, cannot be cloned.
Misapplication of the law
Even RealNetworks, a company that has a digital-rights management system for protecting video and audio delivered over the Internet, found fault with the ruling. "This is a travesty," said Alex Alben, vice president for the Seattle-based firm. "This is not what we intended when we created the DMCA."