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EFF takes on DMCA provision criminalizing open speech, indirectly forwarding ‘Right to Repair'

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has officially requested a federal appeals court to decriminalize certain provisions within the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The EFF reasons that these provisions violate the First Amendment (Right to Free Speech).

Specifically speaking, the EFF is going after Section 1201 of the DMCA, which currently makes it unlawful for people to get around the software that restricts access to lawfully-purchased copyrighted material. Essentially, the EFF feels that this section unnecessarily puts severe restrictions, and the fear of persecution, in the minds of people who wish to speak openly or access details about the software they legally purchased.

Section 1201 of the DMCA, was originally intended to protect artists who created creative content such as songs. However, the same has long been used to restrict people’s ability to access, use, and even speak out about copyrighted materials.

It is amply clear that the EFF wants to address the growing number of threats to the ‘Right to Repair’ movement. The law, as it currently stands, makes it a crime to create or share tools or even videos about products or software that is copyrighted. Simply put, even discussing or actively dismantling a legally bought hardware could be an act of crime under Section 1201 of the DMCA, indicated EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kit Walsh, while explaining the need to repeal the provision:

“Section 1201 makes it a federal crime for our clients, and others like them, to exercise their right to free expression by engaging in research, creating software, and publish their work. This creates a censorship regime under the guise of copyright law that cannot be squared with the First Amendment.”

This ban applies even where people want to make non-infringing fair uses of the materials they are accessing. To gain a waiver, there’s a lengthy and expensive process, held every three years, which involves petitioning the Library of Congress. Basically, there’s a dissuading and arduous process to seek an exemption on an individual and case-by-case basis, and the EFF wants to get rid of this problem in its latest appeal.

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