Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) Sues the U.S. Government for “Unconstitutional” Use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”)

One of the most highly anticipated lawsuits, filed by EFF against the U.S. Government, on July 21, 2016 will, if successful, strike down one of United States’ most controversial technology laws which the U.S. has been pressuring the rest of the world to adopt.

The rule at issue is section 1201 of the DMCA of 1998, the “anti-circumvention” rule, which makes it illegal to break an “access control,” namely a “digital rights management” (“DRM”) or simply a digital lock, for copyrighted works. This act was lobbied by the entertainment industry along with larger tech companies.

The act allows users to lobby for “exceptions” but EFF claims “the rulemaking itself is an unconstitutional speak-licensing regime.”  For example, the Library of Congress allowed hackers to revive defunct games by circumventing copyright protection, unless the games involved a central server and unlocking cell phone was made legal in 2006, and then illegal in 2012 before Congress legalized it. And most recently, the Library of Congress denied petitions requesting permission to copy portions of movies for educational K-12 students for noncommercial filmmaking.

“As a result, it may be unlawful to circumvent an order to create a running critical commentary on a large portion of a political debate, sporting event, or movie, when where such activity would be a noninfringing fair use,” states EFF.

EFF will be met with strong contentions but won’t back down without a fight.  The government cannot broadly ban protected speech and then grant a government official excessive discretion to pick what speech will be permitted, particularly when the rulemaking process is so onerous,” said EFF Staff Attorney Kit Walsh. “If future generations are going to be able to understand and control their own machines, and to participate fully in making rather than simply consuming culture, Section 1201 has to go,” he added.