Help Limit the Digital Millenium Copyright Act

This post is for my US readers, so for all of you outside our borders, my apologies. You can disregard this (or not, if you’re of that kind of mind).

I’m not one to push my political agenda, and certainly not on my blog, but some things just call for it. This issue hits home for a lot of us, I think.

There’s a bill on the Hill, HR 1201, which will limit the very evil Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). It’s called DMCRA, or Digital Media Consumer’s Rights Act, and it removes the copy protection circumvention powers when it comes to fair use acts. The DMCA is just flat-out bad for our country… so use this handy EFF form and contact your representative. They will ascertain who to contact based on your address, and they even provide a form letter urging reps to support the bill.

But, judging from my experience in DC, interns and lackeys who read the majority of senators’ email don’t give two hoots about form letters. Take 5 minutes, stand out, and write your own. If you need some inspiration, here’s what I wrote. And yes, it’s a bit cheesy, but these folks don’t have the same sense of humor that we do.

Note: I don’t like the EFF’s example of “backing up DVDs,” because it reeks of piracy. Who really backs up their movies? Just about nobody. The other things, on the other hand…

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I’m one of your constituents, and I’m writing to urge you to support the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act or DMCRA (HR 1201).

This bill will limit the DMCA, which makes it criminal for people to circumvent copy protection for legal things such as academic research into copy protection and cryptography, using screen readers, printing documents they purchased, backing up music purchased online, and so on. These are fair and fundamental uses for things which we have legally paid for, and they should not be illegal under any circumstances!

The founding fathers clearly thought that the copyright and patent controls should be limited, and I agree, even though I make my living creating things which are copyrighted (designs, books, art, code!) which could in theory be “ripped off” and destroy my livelihood. There are things which are more important than the potential loss of a small amount of revenue, and one of those things is the right of individuals to modify and secure their legal property. And the right to investigate and study technologies which shape the world (see the story of Dmitri Skylarov for an example of an academic researcher being attacked, and jailed, for fair use behavior).

I believe that this country was one made for the people, not the corporations. I believe that capitalism is the best economic system in the world, and I think that it’s clear that this kind of corporate protectionism does nothing to aid capitalism, and even undermines it.

Please endorse HR 1201 and bring rights back to us, the people.

And for clarification, I think capitalism plus free health care is the best system in the world (when it’s actually capitalism; what we have now isn’t any more), but I chose not to push that particular button.

No Comments

  1. floyd says:

    Maybe it’s different in DC (And from rep to rep), but in my experience wroking as a legislative intern for a seattle city councilmember, they really don’t care if it’s a form letter or personal letter when it comes to issues up for vote (ie not complaints/grievances and other special case correspondence). What they care about is numbers. After a set number of notificiations from constituents the councilmember received extra briefing on the issue and usually issued a statement regarding his position to everyone that emailed/mailed him). With all the time I had to spend keeping track of how many people had emailed regarding which issues, I didn’t give a crap what special language people used, I just wanted to know what they wanted, as painlessly as possible, so I could file it in the appropriate place. Representatives–rightly–do their own independent research (or their assistants do), and I highly doubt they are ever or should be swayed by good writing. In fact, I suspect that the only nuance they are attuned to is anger.

  2. Amy Hoy says:


    I can’t say it’s unilaterally true, or even very true, but that’s just how it seemed to me when I worked in DC. At least with regards to technical issues — so many members of govt just do not understand the dense thicket of copyright/tech legislation. They don’t understand the ramifications. At least, I don’t think they do.

    As long as personal letters don’t hurt, and maybe help, I’ll definitely advise writing them. But I’ll be sure that I always state clearly what I want at the top. Thanks for the info. :)

    I like your site design, BTW!

  3. floyd says:

    Thanks, but I didn’t design it. All I did was tweak the header to fit my needs. Real credit goes to the creator of the pragmatica theme…but I’ll take your words as a compliment to my taste, which, weirdly is also a compliment to you since I visit and link your site. Stop complimenting yourself so much. :)

    On a side note: I don’t know why he didn’t include a credit in his template–I guess I should add one…

  4. Nice letter. I agree about the "backing up DVDs" bit, but on the other hand, it illustrates how a fair use and an illegal use sometimes has as much to do with intent as it does with the action itself.

    By the way, it’s Sklyarov. I think more people misspell his name than mine. :-)

  5. Steve says:

    I noticed your comment about backing up movies as essentially BS, and it got me thinking. I love to advocate the devil, so I’ll play the part:

    Yeah, currently, most cases of backing up movies is complete baldurcrap, but laws for technology should be future proof like software and sites should be. There’s already rumors of iTunes selling entire movies through their store, which could make the idea of storing movies on a media-center computer rather likely in the future granting the regularly scheduled increases in hard drive capacity. Media center computers are already becoming rather popular and it’s not inconceivable to have a terabyte or more of RAID storage anymore.

    While I get plenty annoyed at people claiming backup as a coverup for piracy, it’s not that far-fetched that disallowing DVD backup could kick media center people in the ass later on.

    In most of these cases, I don’t think a large section of government even understands the intent of copyright let alone something as alien as technology. Proof enough of disregard for copyright can be evidenced in that people can practically make a living from lawsuits over one or two one-hit-wonders and do nothing else. Copyright was only meant to grant a temporary monopoly on artistic work, and not to allow people to practically buy the public domain rights. I think the government needs a monolithic dose of education in serving the people instead of the corporations.

  6. Sean Bryant says:

    My letter will be heading toward my rep. I’ll be sure to give you a trackback on my blog. Not that I have that many readers (I never update).

    Backing up DVD’s may have the stench of piracy but I know I’d keep an image around especially if I knew the movie would be used a lot. And these things are not kept on the internet but on my personal storage server / media center machine. I keep all my music and images backed up as well. I mean I’ve spent quite a lot of time and money on my media. Shouldn’t I be able to ensure they stay with me?

  7. Curt Hibbs says:

    As always Amy, you are insightful and articulate.

  8. Curt Hibbs says:

    Oh yeah, I left out "entertaining"!

  9. Push the button!

    I’m all for abolishing / limiting as much as possible the DMCA. And true capitalism. Free health care kind of goes against capitalism, but I understand the appeal.

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  11. Basically nothing seems worth thinking about. I haven’t been up to much these days. I just don’t have much to say right now. I can’t be bothered with anything , but whatever.

  12. I haven’t been up to anything recently, but so it goes. Such is life. What can I say? Pretty much not much exciting going on to speak of. I haven’t gotten much done lately, but I don’t care.

  13. Thanks for the write-up :)

  14. I think it would be usefull for other users also…

  15. Gonna have to give it a try!

  16. Gonna have to give it a try :(

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  19. My life’s been basically bland today. More or less nothing seems worth thinking about. My mind is like an empty room. I’ve more or less been doing nothing to speak of. Not much on my mind recently.

  20. I haven’t been up to much lately. I’ve basically been doing nothing , but it’s not important. I can’t be bothered with anything recently. I’ve just been letting everything happen without me lately.

  21. I haven’t gotten anything done today. I feel like a fog, but what can I say? I’ve just been letting everything wash over me lately, not that it matters. Shrug.

  22. I had and the fix I found :(

  23. I was very dissapointed of this!

  24. There is some strange behaviour with this…

  25. I just don’t have much to say recently. Such is life. I’ve basically been doing nothing. Basically nothing seems worth bothering with. Oh well.

  26. I use Firefox in Ubuntu!

  27. Rbc Funds says:

    Gonna have to give it a try.

  28. I just don’t have much to say recently. Such is life. I’ve basically been doing nothing. Basically nothing seems worth bothering with. Oh well.

  29. I use Firefox in Ubuntu!

  30. I just don’t have much to say recently. Such is life. I’ve basically been doing nothing. Basically nothing seems worth bothering with. Oh well.

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  32. Thanks for the write-up…

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  35. There is some strange behaviour with this.

  36. I thout to do it in my local version.

  37. Well done, nice instructions…

  38. There is some strange behaviour with this :(

  39. Thanks for the write-up…

  40. I can’t be bothered with anything these days, but such is life. I don’t care. So it goes. More or less nothing seems worth thinking about. I’ve just been hanging out waiting for something to happen, but that’s how it is.

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