Grassroots digital activists are looking for a new another sweet, sweet hit of political success. After successfully lobbying the White House with 100,000 petitions to overturn a law related to cell phone carrier choice, fiery young activist Sina Khanifar is demanding broader copyright reform. And, this time, he’s bringing friends: FixTheDMCA.org brings together a host of influential digital activist organizations, such as consumer watchdog group, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and popular content aggregator, Reddit.com, to make aggressive changes to section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Originally “passed by Congress to protect music labels and the movie industry from piracy, Section 1201 is now being used to prevent Americans from making fair use of the things we buy,” writes the new grassroots hub of the movement, with tools to get friends involved and contact legislators.
The DMCA has long served as an evil totem for open-information hawks, who support greater permission for tinkering and data access, at the expense of tools that could prevent piracy. Most disturbing, says the group, it oddly gives the Library of Congress authority to determine exemptions for consumer copyright issues.
Recently, section 1201 of the DMCA was interpreted by the Library of Congress to ban users from “unlocking” their cell phones to switch between carriers. In the past, it’s been used to go after academic researchers, such as Princeton Computer Science Professor, Edward Felton, who cracked an audio security technology for preventing piracy. Felton, who was responding to a public challenge to explore its vulnerabilities, was threatened by industry groups to cease his presentations.
The winds of change seem to be at the backs of the audition activists. Changing the DMCA means going to political war with well-funded industry groups that care more about preventing piracy than broad information-sharing. But, if the success of the White House petition is any indication, nerds have come to power in very high places, and may not be swayed by lobbyists.