Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently filed a lawsuit challenging Section 1201 of the US's Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which provides legal reinforcement to the technical shackles of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). Defective by Design applauds this lawsuit and agrees with the EFF that Section 1201 violates the right to freedom of speech. We hope that excising Section 1201 from US law can be the beginning of the end for DRM.
DRM is regularly cracked, or "circumvented," by skilled technologists. Many of them make tools to automate the process, which, in the hands of the public, can be used to defang DRM on a mass scale. Frustrated by this challenge to their authority, the media lobby and their friends in government created anti-circumvention laws like Section 1201 and others around the world, to make it illegal to circumvent DRM or share tools for circumventing it. Since the 90s, these laws have propped up DRM. Hopefully, when 1201 is gone, circumvention tools will spread more widely and it will be so difficult to restrict users with DRM that companies will just stop trying. To make this a reality of course, others around the world will have to take up the torch from EFF and eliminate anti-circumvention laws that play the role of 1201 in their own countries.
While 1201 comes under fire, it is important to remember that eliminating anti-circumvention laws is only a stepping stone to ending the injustice of DRM. Even when it is not backed by the force of law, DRM disempowers and insults users by turning their computers against them. All of its ill effects—broken security, limited accessibility for people with disabilities, remote media deletions, incompatibility with free software, and more—will still exist when anti-circumvention laws are gone, albeit in a weakened form that is easier for users to avoid. In the long run, for people to enjoy complete digital rights, every user must have full control over everything running on their computers, down to the source code.
Defective by Design and our parent organization, the Free Software Foundation, are active in the movement against anti-circumvention laws. We have petitioned the US government to repeal Section 1201 at every opportunity, supporting every proposed exemption to the law and going to the Copyright Office in person to deliver public comments we collected from the anti-DRM community. We will be on the lookout for future opportunities for the Defective by Design community to support the EFF in what is sure to be a long struggle to eliminate Section 1201. In the mean time, you can take part in our advocacy campaigns against DRM from our action area.