Proposed Freedom to Repair Act Seems Unlikely to Make Streaming Piracy Worse


Proposed Freedom to Repair Act Seems Unlikely to Make Streaming Piracy Worse

Passed almost a quarter of a century ago, the DMCA prevents citizens from repairing many of their own electronic devices. The proposed Freedom to Repair Act 2022 seeks to fix this problem by allowing circumvention in strictly limited circumstances. This week the proposal was labeled “pro-piracy legislation” but is that a fair assessment or an expected overreaction?

no-drmWhen Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, section 1201 outlawed circumvention of technological protection measures controlling access to copyright works.

The base concept is relatively simple. When technological systems are deployed by copyright holders (or on their behalf) to protect access to their copyrighted works, in most cases these systems cannot be circumvented without violating the DMCA. Section 1201 also prohibits trafficking in technology or services that facilitate the circumvention of such systems.

When enacting these provisions, Congress understood that technological protection measures would support new ways of distributing copyrighted materials. However, these provisions actually prohibit the very first step toward potential piracy, since copying content behind a protection measure is not required for a finding of illegal circumvention under the DMCA.

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