Tell Congress to Fix the DMCA

Do you know what your cell phone, your car, and your medical devices have in common? They are all electronics that you may not be allowed to fully use even if you own them, because--oddly enough--of a copyright law.   

An overreaching copyright law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal to bypass digital locks that are placed on copyrighted works. These locks exist even if you have every legal right to use that work in the first place. Those works don't just include movies and music, but also software that's necessary to run many devices. This means it can keep people from making repairs to the equipment in their car, accessing data from their blood glucose or heart monitors, using their cell phones with a new phone company, and more.

But the law wasn’t intended to do this. It’s intended to make it harder for people to make illegal copies of movies, music, and apps, not keep people from using generic toner cartridges or accessibility software for eBooks. That’s why every three years, the Copyright Office and the Library of Congress come out with a list of exemptions to the law. The latest list was released this week.

While many exemptions were granted, the process itself is broken. In less than three years, advocates for blind readers, medical device patients, and 3D printer users will need to present their findings before the Copyright Office again, and engage in these same debates again, and wait to see if their exemptions are granted again. These are just a few of the burdensome and unnecessary locks that consumers should be able to circumvent.

Congress has stepped in before to change this law. In 2014, Congress reversed the decision to prevent phone unlocking, and since then several bills have been introduced to allow consumers to use what they own, so long as they aren’t infringing copyright. This process must stop. Use the tool below to contact Congress and tell them it’s time to reform the DMCA.

Contact your representative in Congress and tell them to stop this unnecessary three-year cycle and fix the DMCA once and for all.

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To learn more, check out our latest blog posts discussing the exemption decisions for DVD copies, 3D printing, and medical devices, listen to our latest podcast episode about the process, and read our growing page of quotes from advocates about the need for reform.

Homepage image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Brion Vibber

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