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Prof: DCMA hurts developers

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is being used "to scare (software developers) away from innovating without permission," according to Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig.

Passed by Congress in 1998 to update copyright law for the digital age, the DMCA has, in fact, hobbled the vigorous development environment that powered the evolution of the Internet and Silicon Valley, Lessig said. The DMCA has been invoked in the prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov for his work in breaking the encryption of Adobe's e-book format.

"Employees at Smith & Wesson don't worry if guns kill police officers," Lessig said. "Some uses are illegal and some are not. But if you wrote code that could be used for good or bad, you're arrested and sent to jail...There's something screwed up about that."

Lessig advised Linux World's audience support the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is actively contesting the DMCA. Lessig is a board member of the EEF.

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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