This is nothing new, but it’s something that grinds my gears to no end, and that’s how the DMCA makes it illegal for me to use works that are completely in the public domain. Researching my previous post, I had occasion to download and read a PDF of the 9/11 Commission Report. This is a report created by the federal government and therefore has no copyright; it is in the public domain. Nevertheless, when I selected some text and and hit ⌘-C to copy it, I get this lovely message:
If I click to enter a password it tells me that I have permission to read and print the document, but not to copy from it. Because there is no copyright, the government has no right to prevent me from copying. I could circumvent the DRM on the PDF, but then it’s possible that I’d be violating the DMCA (not the way I read it, but I’d have to take the risk). Even if I’m not breaking the law by circumventing the DRM, how am I supposed to do that? I have no hacking skills; I’m just a non-profit lawyer trying to read a government document. Normally I’d buy some software utility that would let me do this, but such a utility is something the DMCA definitely prohibits. I better start writing my petition for a Copyright Office exemption next time they grant them in two years.