QuoteThe backstory on the case involved, Blueport v. United States, borders on the absurd. It started when Sergeant Mark Davenport went to work in the group within the US Air Force that ran its manpower database. Finding the existing system inefficient, Davenport requested training in computer programming so that he could improve it; the request was denied. Showing the sort of personal initiative that only gets people into trouble, Davenport then taught himself the needed skills and went to work redesigning the system.
Although Davenport did his development on a personal system at home, he began to bring beta versions of his code in for testing, and eventually started distributing his improved system within his unit, giving the software a timed expiration. A demonstration to higher-ups led to a recommendation for his immediate promotion, but that was followed by demands that the code for his software be turned over to the USAF.
Davenport responded by selling his code to Blueport, which attempted to negotiate a license with the Air Force, which responded by hiring a company to hack the compiled version by deleting the code that enforced the expiration date. Blueport then sued, citing copyright law and the DMCA.
QuoteBut the court also addressed the DMCA claims made by Blueport, and its decision here is quite striking. "The DMCA itself contains no express waiver of sovereign immunity," the judge wrote, "Indeed, the substantive prohibitions of the DMCA refer to individual persons, not the Government." Thus, because sovereign immunity is not explicitly eliminated, and the phrasing of the statute does not mention organizations, the DMCA cannot be applied to the US government, even in cases where the more general immunity to copyright claims does not apply.
It appears that Congress took a "do as we say, not as we need to do" approach to strengthening digital copyrights.