Fair Use

Translating Copyright Law from Legalese into English

Statutes, legal treatises, and judicial opinions are often disparaged as wordy, dense, and unnecessarily convoluted – and with good reason. It can be difficult for a non-lawyer to grasp the kernel of knowledge he seeks from the reading. Compounding this issue are the myriad of articles and websites that misinform, misdirect, or otherwise perpetuate misunderstood concepts. This problem is prevalent with U.S. copyright law: especially in regard to copyright creation, ownership, and use.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Limits on Fair Use

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted in 1998 in an attempt to curb the piracy of copyrighted works in the new digital age.  The most important provision, commonly referred to as the anti-circumvention provision,  makes it illegal to circumvent a technological measure that controls access to a copyrighted work or to distribute tools for others to do so. This means it is illegal to bypass DRM or other security measures. On its face this sounds very reasonable. However, this provision has had what were, hopefully, unintended consequences on fair use.

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