Journal of Intellectual Property Law, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Fall 2002), pp. 33-58


The thesis of this Article is that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) in the United States is a modern version of the Licensing Act of 1662 in England. The English censorship statute is sufficiently obscure to merit an explanation of why the similarity and why it makes a difference. The reasons can be simply stated. The statutes are similar because they represent the same goals: the control of access to ideas. The similarities make a difference because a legal construct to control public access to ideas undermines -- and will eventually destroy -- the right of free speech, the foundation of a free society. The Licensing Act and the DMCA are such constructs with one major difference. Under the Licensing Act, the persons given the power to determine what materials could be made accessible to the populace were public officials acting for the government; under the DMCA, they are private copyright holders acting for themselves as the beneficiaries of the copyright monopoly.