In the early 20th century, Congress finally decided to enforce the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, nine months after three-fourths of the states had ratified it.
In the late 20th century, Congress acceded to corporate demands and prohibited “production and dissemination of technology designed to circumvent digital copyright protection.”
“Prohibition,” the act of forbidding people to do something that brings pleasure, rarely achieves conformance unless, perhaps, there are guns involved.
Congress overruled President Woodrow Wilson’s veto of the Volstead Act on 28 October 1919. In so doing, Congress directed the Treasury Department to enforce the “prohibition” on the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes.”
The original prohibition lasted … how long? On 05 December 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the repeal of the 18th Amendment.
President Bill Clinton signed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on 28 October 1998.
DMCA resulted not from Puritan sentiments but from global treaties. Thus its life and scope have far exceeded that of alcoholic prohibition. However, protections exist almost exclusively for major corporations (read that as movies and music). Digital social spaces are fertile ground for copyright infringement despite the “share” button and software that could easily flag the violation.
Although the treaties focused on the technology, Congress focused on individual behavior. As TechDirt noted in 2021:
We’ve talked far too many times about how the DMCA takedown processes across internet industries as they stand are wide, wide open for abuse. From churches wielding copyright to attempt to silence critics engaging in protected speech, to lawyers using copyright to try to silence critics engaging in protected speech, to freaking political candidates abusing YouTube’s DMCA notice process to silence critics engaging in protected speech… well, you get the idea. The point is that we’ve known for a long, long time that the current method by which the country and companies currently enforce copyright law tilts so heavily towards the accuser that it’s an obvious avenue for misuse.
This year, Mashable showed us how copyright claims have been “weaponized” against actual copyright owners.
Dirty Bubble Media, a newsletter hosted on the writing platform Substack, has been covering the shadiest aspects of the crypto industry since the beginning of 2020… a company called “Mevrex” filed three separate DMCA takedown requests claiming that Burgersburg plagiarized their original work on one of their online properties, UNFT News….
Burgersburg did not plagiarize UNFT News’ work. In fact, the opposite happened. UNFT News copy-and-pasted Burgersburg’s reporting verbatim. They then claimed it as their own by simply backdating the post on their website so it appeared on their website as being published before Burgersburg posted it.
“[C]opyright is a monopoly right on expression that has been granted by law … which gives unprecedented ability for people to take things down without a court order, [making it] an incredibly effective tool for censorship,” Katharine Trendacosta, representing the Electronic Freedom Foundation, told Mashable.
Repealing prohibition in 1933 generated a complex web of state law and a lucrative tax base.
There is no such incentive for Congress to act on DMCA. The big bucks lobbyists are happy. Small fry are left to fend for themselves.