This week the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a brief in support of videogame accessory company Datel, which accused Microsoft of using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to take down the competition in the Xbox 360 memory card market.
Microsoft filed a lawsuit in May alleging that Datel’s SD-card-based memory cards violate the DMCA’s provision against "technologies that can circumvent digital protections," adding that they could possibly be used to change gamer profiles and manually change Xbox Live Achievements. The EFF legal brief argues that the DMCA provision being used by Microsoft was intended to prevent piracy and copyright infringement, and not to block competitors who want to sell compatible products.
"Letting Xbox owners use a third-party memory card does not put Microsoft at risk of copyright infringement," EFF intellectual property director Corynne McSherry said in a statement. "Microsoft is misusing the law in order to sell more accessories and control customers’ use of the Xbox. The DMCA is supposed to be a shield against piracy, not a weapon to smash competition and consumer choice."
The DMCA case came about after a federal court refused to dismiss an earlier antitrust suit Datel brought against Microsoft when the console maker updated the system’s firmware to be incompatible with Datel memory cards. That case is still pending.
Microsoft is also suing Datel for patent infringement over a controller that it says is similar to its standard Xbox 360 controller design.
Microsoft regularly uses the DMCA to prevent Xbox 360 owners from modding their consoles with chips that enable the systems to run pirated and homebrew games. That action certainly makes more sense than the lawsuit against Datel.