Bad laws make for good outlaws|
By Eliot Van Buskirk
Regular readers of this column are used to seeing writings such as a comparison between the RIAA and the DMV or a list of my crazy P2P ideas. Invariably, I side with the music fan over the record executive, the Napster user over the copyright holder. But this week, I wanted to say something nice about the entertainment industry for a change. After all, I don't think that the people who write, record, and perform the music that we love should die penniless in the street. These people need to get paid for their music somehow. I wanted to write something that acknowledged the rights of copyright holders. But just as I was setting myself to the task, I came across a headline that got my dander up all over again. Salon.com reports that Time Warner cable cancelled a New York City Web developer and photographer's Internet access for a week. The reason? Time Warner alleged that her computer had been used to post copyrighted material to Usenet. A clause in the much-maligned Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows copyright holders (in this case, the MPAA) to force ISPs and hosting companies to block access to copyrighted materials available through their services. This happens before the victims are able to defend themselves from the allegation. There's no trial; they simply pull the plug on your Internet account, and that's that.
Read on to find out how the DMCA robs us of our rights to fair use and deputizes corporations to punish those who attempt to reclaim those rights.
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