by Michael Riskin
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) made a number of
changes to copyright and how copyright enforcement works in the age of the
internet. To say that the DMCA has a mixed reputation would be an
understatement. One controversial provision prevents consumers of lawfully
purchased music or movies from making legal copies because doing so would
involve circumventing copy protection measures. An example of this would be the
copying of a DVD to a portable device like an iPod. The provision that
criminalizes the mere possession of circumvention tools such as DVD copying
software is equally controversial.
Sometimes the controversy is caused by the misuse of the DMCA by companies inappropriately invoking its provisions to unfairly limit consumer choice. This was done by Lexmark, an inkjet and laser printer manufacturer who tried to use the DMCA to prevent third party ink makers from competing with Lexmark’s high priced refills. Their efforts failed in court.