Marybeth Peters, Register of US copyrights, still a corporate sycophant

She likes the largest multinational corporations and disfavors the smaller ones. Cory Doctorow on Marybeth Peters is illuminating:

Marybeth Peters, the US Register of Copyrights, has come out in favor of the controversial 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, saying “it did what it was supposed to do.” The DMCA makes it possible to sue companies that make music, video and ebook players that play back DRM file-formats without permission, giving Apple the right to sue Real for making its own music player to run on the iPod. This aspect of the DMCA is a form of “private law,” allowing companies to attach any conditions they want to their offerings, and criminalizing competition that gives you a better deal.

The DMCA also makes it possible to censor the Internet by sending “takedown notices” to web-hosting companies alleging that some of their content infringes copyright. This system has been widely abused — Diebold used it in an attempt to silence critics who’d published a whistleblower memo that showed that the company had supplied faulty voting machines in US elections; the Church of Scientology uses it to silence their critics; serial troll Michael Crook used it against websites that criticized him, and the Science Fiction Writers of America recently sent a notice that resulted in the removal of dozens of non-infringing works and works by authors whose copyright they don’t represent, including my own novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and a list of good sf books for junior high students. Andrew Burt, the Science Fiction Writers of America VP who sent out the list, has since characterized it as containing only three errors because only three people complained — but most people who receive DMCA takedown orders assume that they must be infringers and do not complain.

In this, she’s right—the DMCA did what it was designed to do: it gave the most powerful a new weapon to create new law which would stop competition from effectively interfering, exactly as it was intended to do. The lie about stopping “piracy” is just the foot-in-the-door the corporate copyright holders (and their corporate-funded Congressional representatives) use to get laws like this passed and justify treating people harshly. Combine this with a slick ad campaign and you can get a lot of customers to believe they are being done a favor by the largest corporate copyright holders (Apple, Sony-BMG, Microsoft, Blackboard, Lexmark, and Diebold to name a few recent beneficiaries). In the Diebold example, the remedy of bringing suit against abusive use of copyright claims wouldn’t have been necessary had nobody been given the power of takedown in the first place. In other words, had the DMCA not been made law there would be no need to remedy its numerous and widespread ill effects.

Read more about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the effect it has on freedom of speech, impeding competition, interfering with computer intrusion law, and more. The US is busy exporting DMCA-like laws around the world so Americans aren’t the only ones feeling the corporate pinch. Clearly the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions (if not the entire DMCA) and the look-alike laws in other countries should be repealed.