Below is the text of Free Software Foundation's comment to the United States Copyright Office in regard to their DMCA anti-circumvention provisions. Because we have submitted it to the Copyright Office, the comment is no longer open for co-signing. For more background information on this comment and the FSF's position, please see our blog post on DefectiveByDesign.org.
On December 29th, 2015, the United States Copyright Office (Copyright Office) released a public call for comment, Section 1201 Study: Notice and Request for Public Comment (Docket No. 2015-8) in order to assess the operation of Section 1201, Title 17, including the triennial rulemaking process established under the DMCA to adopt exemptions to the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. In response to this call, the Free Software Foundation submits the following comment.
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a charitable 501(c)(3)
corporation, founded in 1985, with the mission to expand and defend computer user freedom. The
FSF is the largest single contributor to the GNU operating system
(used widely today in its GNU/Linux variant) and the FSF's GNU General
Public License (GPL) is the most widely used free software license,
covering major components of the GNU operating system and tens of
thousands of other computer programs used on hundreds of millions of
computers around the world. The FSF has inspired and significantly
influenced numerous other initiatives focused on creating free
licenses and free works, including Creative Commons and Wikipedia.
The FSF's Licensing & Compliance Lab is the preeminent resource of
free licensing information for developers and publishers of free
software and free documentation. The Licensing and Compliance Lab
provides numerous resources and public services including: no-cost
licensing consulting for developers of free works; continuing legal
education workshops for the legal community; and myriad educational
publications on choosing and making use of free licenses.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) anti-circumvention provisions should be repealed, and the exemptions process ended. Technological protection measures and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) play no legitimate role in protecting copyrighted works. Instead, they are a means of controlling users and creating "lock in". Companies use this control illegitimately with an eye toward extracting maximum revenue from users in ways that have little connection to actual copyright law. In fact, these restrictions are technological impediments to the rights users have under copyright law, such as fair use. DRM enables companies to spy on their users, and use that data for profit. DRM requires the use of proprietary software, which exposes users to security vulnerabilities, as was the case in 2005 when Sony infected users' computers with a rootkit as part of their music album DRM system.
That other government agencies are seeking to use the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions to enforce rules unrelated to copyright demonstrates that DRM is about restriction. During the 2015 round of exemptions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter to the Copyright Office urging that restrictions on access to vehicle software be maintained. In this letter, the EPA did not base its argument on the enforcement of copyright; it was asking to restrict users to enforce unrelated regulations which had no basis under the DMCA.
Much like the EPA, companies seek to use DRM to lock down and control users, using potential copyright violations as an excuse. DRM is frequently used to spy on users by requiring that they maintain a connection to the Internet so that the program can send information back to the DRM provider about the user's actions. DRM is used to restrict the ability of users to switch to a competing piece of software on their devices, or to prevent them from switching to a competing digital store for the purchase of software, movies and music. Even if it were about enforcing copyright law, the power given to companies by DRM and the DMCA is unacceptably over broad. We should not give companies the authority to pursue criminal charges against users seeking simply to have full control over their own computer systems and security, just because some users might use that control to violate copyright law.
The exemptions process was supposed to address some of these concerns, but it does not. Exemptions are of no value if they cannot be practically enjoyed by average users. Sharing tools and asking third parties for assistance are always required for ordinary users to be able to exercise their rights. The 1201(b) restrictions on sharing tools necessary to exercise their rights should be rescinded, so that users can help each other break free of the control imposed by DRM. Users should be free to ask third parties to disable DRM on their behalf.
The FSF is the copyright holder for much of the software that comprises the GNU/Linux operating system, one of the most ubiquitous operating systems in the world. FSF-copyrighted software is found in thousands of devices, from wireless routers to the web servers that run much of the Internet. The FSF faces numerous copyright violations every day on the software to which it holds copyright, but has never employed and never will employ DRM. Thousands of other free software developers likewise do not utilize DRM, and are harmed by the DMCA's anti-circumvention rules, which grant anti-competitive advantages to developers who chose to harm their users. Free software has spread all around the world, enriching the lives of users and the bottom lines of developers who understand the value in respecting the rights of everyone by avoiding harmful DRM.
All DRM is a violation of the rights of users. The exemptions process as outlined by section 1201 is completely broken beyond repair. No amount of exemptions, except a permanent exemption for all uses, can rectify the situation. Requiring users to continually fight for exemptions in order to maintain them is inherently unfair. The ultimate solution to the problem is not to try and fix a broken process, but to end it. It is unethical and harmful for the law to treat all users as criminals -- which is exactly what DRM does. The DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions do too much harm and should be repealed, so that users may once again enjoy their rights under the law without interference.
Joshua Gay & Donald Robertson, III
Free Software Foundation
After you submit this form, you'll receive an email from us that asks you to confirm your signature before we add it to the statement. Please note that signing does not put you on the general FSF mailing list; unless you have opted to receive mail from the FSF from other purposes, we will only email you about this particular issue. Once all of the signatures have been collected, your first name, last name, city, and state (but not your email address) will be appear publicly as a listed co-signer on our Web site as well as on the the comment that will be published publicly and submitted to the the Copyright Office.
This version of CiviCRM contains modifications made by the Free Software Foundation, Inc. Complete source code