The DMCA and DRM are both short acronyms that can have a huge impact upon a person's life if they aren't careful. The DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This is a document that forms a basic, but fundamentally flawed, outline of how digital media can be accessed, copied, protected and pirated. DRM is the acronym for Digital Rights Management. DRM can be software-side or hardware-side protections on specific types of media.
The DMCA was signed into law October 28, 1998. It incorporated six international intellectual protection ides into one (flawed) document. These include, Two WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) treaties, the Copyright and Performances and Phonogram treaties; Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act; Computer Maintenance Competition Assurance Act; miscellaneous provisions newly introduced into the document; And the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act(all of this information was pulled from the PDF of the document). I'll not go into these too deeply, but, like in many cases, its a group of ideas that look good on paper but are terribly executed.
If one googles "Problems with DMCA" they get a whole host of hits. One in particular is quite good. In an article written by Tim Lee, he outlines many flaws that come with the DMCA. One glaring flaw is that "The DMCA errs because it focuses on a technological means-—circumvention—-rather than a criminal end—-piracy." (Anderson) This is a very important argument, because the DMCA imposes limitations upon a user's rights to express Fair Use (defined later in this paper).
"But the DMCA's anti-circumvention clause does not take into account anything but a person's actions. If you break the encryption on a DVD, you have committed a crime. It doesn't matter if you are exercising your fair use rights to backup the disc, it does not matter if you are trying to make a disc from Britain play in your machine, and it does not matter if you simply want to remove the non-skippable commercials. If you crack the CSS encryption, a crime has been committed."(Anderson)
The limitations put on Fair Use by the DMCA is almost criminal. But if the DMCA were to be repealed, would that necessarily create a state of "intellectual property anarchy[?] Prior to the DMCA's enactment, the courts had already been developing a body of law that strikes a sensible balance between innovation and the protection of intellectual property."(Anderson) This obviously begs the question, why have the DMCA in the first place?
Another important factor in the dance between fair use and intellectual property protection, is DRM. DRM essentially locks up your media, your programs, your CD's your DVD's. And once again, it takes steps to intrude upon your Fair Use Rights. One thing that DRM encroaches upon, which I find to be one of the most important things about the Internet, anonymity. DRM allows for music players or any other type of program to access a central database and essentially profile you so that on the surface, companies can force their product which suits your taste down your throat. But at the same time, companies could essentially gouge customers for prices depending on their liking. DRM is, in my eyes, the bane of a free market. DRM can (and in many cases does) limit what a user can use to view specific media.
So what's all this Fair Use that I keep speaking of. It is essentially a user's rights to, within certain boundaries, express certain rights reserved for copyright holders. There are four important factors in determining whether an action is protected by Fair Use. I'll not go into these, but they are actually quite extensive rights that you have over your own media.
With the advent of DRM and the DMCA, Fair Use rights are slowly being taken away; Primarily in the name of protecting a company's profit. And, in protecting a company's profit, it takes away from a community's rights of Innovation, Fair Use, and most of all Choice.
Anderson, Nate. "Cato Institute outlines problems with the DMCA." From The News Desk 22 march 2006 04 march 2008 .