DMCA Out In The Wild, Seen Censoring Political Speech

Super interesting op-ed piece from Larry Lessig coming in this week from the New York Times on the extent to which the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is being increasingly used this election season to stifle political speech and debate. In his usual style, Lessig’s got some solid arguments about the extent to which the extremely strong provisions of the DMCA are being used to presumptively block content online which would be better protected under fair use.

In fact, as the article points out, the application of the DMCA in the realm of remixing for political uses doesn’t make sense at all, given the underlying rationale for copyright to provide incentives to generate creative works. He writes:

After all, a 95-year copyright on “Wall-E” may encourage Pixar to make innovative movies, but we can be confident our presidential candidates don’t require any first-to-the-market advantages before they agree to debate, nor is there a need to protect their answers as though they were record albums or new technologies.

Amusingly, even in cases in which the DMCA is not explicitly used as a tool for censorship, the unwieldy nature of the copyright regime continues to inhibit political speech and discussion. This has even tripped up the campaigns themselves, with the McCain campaign facing several takedowns of their videos after using clips from a CBS newscast. Their proposed (later rejected) remedy to gain special fair use privileges with regards to the law seems unfair in light of similar problems which have plagued regular users.

As Zittrain’s pointed out, the extent to which the Internet ecosystem continues to move towards a dense field of tethered wep apps and applications powerfully supports these kinds of activities, since it becomes possible for the owner of a system to remotely (and, sometimes, automatically) remove content en masse. However, the root of the problem here isn’t technological — indeed the law enables the kinds of censorship activity which leverages tethered services in precisely this way. In the end, any solutions that aim to merely tweak the digital environment will only treat the surface symptoms of the problem: it seems clear that fair use needs to be more strongly defined to more fundamentally secure civic engagement on the Internet.

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One Response to “DMCA Out In The Wild, Seen Censoring Political Speech”

  1. eBuster Says:

    I believe the DCMA is going too far and is being used to silence critics of corporations such as eBay who server a notice on my host because the site I run at ebuster,co,uk contains documents relating to wide scale fraud on eBay and as such it is important that pages that are displayed are not tampered with.

    This time I had some luck since eBay picked on a fake login page I displayed after I had asked eBay on several occasions to get the page remove and from what I can understand they are upset about the eBay log at the top of the pages but it’s not like the site trying to compete against eBay and provides hundreds of links back to eBay.

    The reason I present copies of pages is because eBay often remove pages where a dispute is involved so just how can anyone present case of wide scale fraud when it is becoming impossible to present evidence without have a gag order place on your host.

    Yes I understand the reason for the DCMA but using it’s powers in this manor strikes at the heart of democracy and is allowing eBay to do as it pleases and in some cases it is not possible to remove the logo as some of the pages displayed on the site have been hijacked by script injection using hexadecimal code to overwrite the original page and therefore making it all but impossible to remove the eBay tm logo and no I don’t have a zillion$ to get involved with eBays lawyers but I do have freedom of speech so if that involves moving the site offshore then that is what I will do

    eBay shame on you