International Day Against DRM: It's Time To Fix U.S. Copyright Law

April Glaser and Corynne McSherry | Electronic Frontier Foundation | May 6, 2014

At EFF, we think you should have the right and ability to make full use of your stuff – to tinker, reuse, re-sell, improve, break, and lend. That’s why EFF has been fighting against DRM for more than 15 years.

What is DRM?

DRM stands for “digital rights management,” a bit of technology that hardware and software manufacturers, publishers, and copyright holders use to control the way we use the devices and media that we own. The idea is to limit users’ ability to copy the content without permission, but DRM does much more: it shapes how people tinker with and share devices, software, music, movies, etc. they legally paid for. Have you ever unsuccessfully tried to copy music you “bought” from your computer to your iPhone? Attempted to download an ebook from Amazon only to discover it isn't “compatible” with your device? That’s DRM at work.

DRM and the DMCA

Of course, technologists and everyday users often choose to circumvent DRM, for perfectly lawful reasons, such as making back-up copies of software or CDs, lending materials in a library, or using media and technology for artistic or educational fair use purposes. What they may not realize, however, is that when they break the DRM “lock” they may also be breaking the law. That’s because section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act imposes penalties for bypassing digital rights management technology and/or helping others do the same. But there's no proof of this claim, and it’s merely assumptive...