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An anonymous gift of $1 million to Duke University in the US will be used to finance a new centre conductin research into curtailing recent extensions of copyright law.

James Boyle, a Duke law professor, said the centre is likely to take a close and critical look at laws like America's highly-controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

"This is an attempt to figure out the balance between intellectual property and the public domain," Boyle told CNET's Declan McCullagh . "If you want to have a rich culture and an innovative society, you have to leave a large amount of material freely available for all to use."

Boyle is not in favour of abolishing copyright, merely addressing the balance between the rights of copyright holders and the general public, which has got out of kilter, he suggests.

Congress has been too willing to swallow the views of the entertainment industry when considering copyright laws, rather than consider other perspectives on the issue, according to Boyle.

Duke intends to help fill this knowledge deficit, something that can't come a moment too soon after Congressman Howard Berman's soft-headed suggestion that copyright holders should be allowed to hack into and disrupt P2P networks with impunity.

In related news, Adobe - which initiated the first DMCA prosecution against ElcomSoft and Dmitry Sklyarov - has found itself scurrying off to the courts in hopes that it of confirming it hasn't run foul of the DMCA itself.

Claims of violations against the DMCA by Adobe came up during contractual disputes with font suppliers Agfa Monotype and ITC (International Typeface Corporation), whose technology is embedded in Acrobat. ®

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