DMCA Blasted as Anti-Competitive, Ineffective

Rhett Pardon
WASHINGTON — The Digital Millenium Copyright Act is under attack by a U.S.-based think tank that says the federal law reduces options for consumers and scales back competion for media companies.

The Cato Institute, in a report entitled “Circumventing Competition: The Perverse Consequences of the DMCA,” said that the copyright industry is exerting increasing control over playback devices, cable media offerings and Internet streaming.

The DMCA was introduced in 1998 essentially to remove the courts from the role of fashioning balanced remedies for the copyright challenges created by new technologies with an outright ban on technology capable of circumventing DRM. After nearly a decade on the books, however, it’s hard to find any evidence that the DMCA has reduced piracy.

The Cato Institute slammed federal legislators with instituting laws that aren’t feasible.

“In passing the DMCA, Congress short-circuited that evolutionary process. It threw out the accumulated wisdom of legal precedent and replaced it with a rigid and sweeping anti-circumvention rule,” the report said.

Specifically, the think tank draws the conclusion that the DMCA is anti-competitive.

“It gives copyright holders and the technology companies that distribute their content the legal power to create closed technology platforms and exclude competitors from interoperating with them," the report said. "Worst of all, DRM technologies are clumsy and ineffective. They inconvenience legitimate users but do little to stop pirates."

Further, the Cato Institute believes that a repeal of the DMCA would not lead to 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,” the report says. “That body of law protected competition, consumer choice and the important principle of fair use without sacrificing the rights of copyright holders.”

“And because it focused on the actions of people rather than on the design of technologies, it gave the courts the flexibility they needed to adapt to rapid technological change.”