Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


Alicia Hoffer


In the last decade, several federal circuit courts have applied the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to determine what forms of unauthorized access to copyrighted work are prohibited. Courts have considered Digital Rights Management (DRM) disputes concerning access to both copyrighted digital-media and manufactured products. The Second and Ninth Circuits have applied the DMCA in digital media cases to protect the owners of digital copyrighted works. The Fifth, Sixth, and Federal Circuits have applied the DMCA in manufactured-product cases, holding that bypassing DRM controls does not violate the DMCA under certain circumstances. These differing conclusions stem from the circuits’ interpretations of the need for a nexus between DRM circumvention claims and copyrighted work; the prevailing view is that the DMCA applies in the context of copyrighted digital works but not more traditional manufactured goods. This Article outlines the DMCA provisions applying to DRM and assesses the protections DRM controls can be expected to provide for digital media compared with manufactured products.

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