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Opinionated Summary

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is widely regarded as being one of the most idiotic pieces of technology legislation to come out of the US in recent years. Among other things, the prohibitions it places on any activity which might possibly be interpretable as an attempt to defeat copy-protection or encryption are truly ham fisted:

  • Any "technology that can circumvent measures taken to protect copyright" is now illegal under the DMCA; this includes such sophisticated items as magic markers, which can be used to defeat certain CD copy-protection schemes, and t-shirts displaying the DeCSS algorithm (less than one page of C code).
  • A Russian programmer was arrested, after giving a talk at a U.S. programming conference, for developing software to allow Adobe eBooks to be read aloud (which was not illegal in Russia)
  • Cryptology research is now seriously hampered by the fact that existing encryption methods may no longer legally be reverse-engineered for analysis. [1]

Although it did establish some useful rules, the primary impetus behind the DMCA seems to be media companies trying to prevent anyone from circumventing their encryption-based copy protection.

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