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DMCA - as bad as you think?

by tachyon (Chancellor)
on Jul 19, 2001 at 05:27 UTC ( #97960=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Not guilty your honour

At these nodes PerlApp decompile? and A real challenge fellow monk chinman was helped out by the monks. In the discussion of the morality and legality of this here the provisions of the DMCA (in PDF format) were raised with a suggestion that what was done was in breach of them.

As an Australian I had been blissfully unaware of this law so, being the inquisitive type, decided to have a look. There are apparently a number of exceptions to the DMCA spelt out here:

DMCA Exceptions

Finally, the prohibitions contained in section 1201 are subject to a number of exceptions. One is an exception to the operation of the entire section, for law enforcement, intelligence and other governmental activities. (Section 1201(e)). The others relate to section 1201(a), the provision dealing with the category of technological measures that control access to works. The broadest of these exceptions, section 1201(a)(1)(B)-(E), establishes an ongoing administrative rule-making proceeding to evaluate the impact of the prohibition against the act of circumventing such access-control measures. This conduct prohibition does not take effect for two years. Once it does, it is subject to an exception for users of a work which is in a particular class of works if they are or are likely to be adversely affected by virtue of the prohibition in making non-infringing uses. The applicability of the exemption is determined through a periodic rulemaking by the Librarian of Congress, on the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, who is to consult with the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information.

The six additional exceptions are as follows:

1. Non-profit library, archive and educational institution exception (section 1201(d)). The prohibition on the act of circumvention of access control measures is subject to an exception that permits non-profit libraries, archives and educational institutions to circumvent solely for the purpose of making a good faith determination as to whether they wish to obtain authorized access to the work.

2. Reverse engineering (section 1201(f)). This exception permits circumvention, and the development of technological means for such circumvention, by a person who has lawfully obtained a right to use a copy of a computer program for the sole purpose of identifying and analyzing elements of the program necessary to achieve interoperability with other programs, to the extent that such acts are permitted under copyright law.

3. Encryption research (section 1201(g)). An exception for encryption research permits circumvention of access control measures, and the development of the technological means to do so, in order to identify flaws and vulnerabilities of encryption technologies.

4. Protection of minors (section 1201(h)). This exception allows a court applying the prohibition to a component or part to consider the necessity for its incorporation in technology that prevents access of minors to material on the Internet.

5. Personal privacy (section 1201(i)). This exception permits circumvention when the technological measure, or the work it protects, is capable of collecting or disseminating personally identifying information about the online activities of a natural person.

6. Security testing (section 1201(j)). This exception permits circumvention of access control measures, and the development of technological means for such circumvention, for the purpose of testing the security of a computer, computer system or computer network, with the authorization of its owner or operator.

It would seem that what was done is permitted under clauses 2, 3 and 6. This is not to say that you could not easily have your life made miserable and be sent broke defending yourself in court against a well funded corporate legal attack.....but that, as they say, is a different story.




Edit 2001-07-19 ar0n -- Moved to Meditations (from Discussions)

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
(Ovid - yes, it is) Re: DMCA - as bad as you think?
by Ovid (Cardinal) on Jul 19, 2001 at 07:57 UTC

    tachyon, excellent information. As a US citizen who has worked for large corporations, I have a typical US slant on the law. You wrote:

    This is not to say that you could not easily have your life made miserable and be sent broke defending yourself in court against a well funded corporate legal attack.....but that, as they say, is a different story.

    That reminded of an incident I was involved with that may shed some light on the US attitude. I worked for a company that posted the firewall logs that our firewall retained for "unauthorized accesses". These logs were posted to our internal Web site and I discovered certain individuals in our company were trying to get to sites that were, to say the least, rather compromising. I'm not just talking about *pr0n* (sic) sites. I'm talking about sites so potentially offensive that, were word of these individual's interest to get out, could permanently destroy careers.

    I immediately went to one of the people involved and insisted that the logs be taken down (which was rather amusing as I was a junior programmer in a company of over 5,000 people). I was told that (paraphrasing) "since our company policy forbids this behavior and since the individuals in question signed agreements that they would not violate these policies, our lawyers have assured us that we are not violating any laws and will win any lawsuits." My reply:

    Do you know what a Pyrrhic victory is? How much will it cost us to win a lawsuit?

    He sat there stunned (I wish I had that effect more often!) and then said "Good point". The logs were taken down the next day.

    One of the things that I do not care for about my country is that one can sue for anything. I, for one, am rather concerned about these things being on Perlmonks. Perhaps I am overreacting, but living in the US has made me paranoid.


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      Good point, Ovid! Here in Europe most people have the impression that in the US, anyone can sue anyone about anything, however unimportant the issue may seem. Living in Switzerland, I don't think I can really judge the truth-value of such a statement.

      I can see the point of defending your property when someone else gains profit from it without really doing anything to it. I am partly a freelance worker, and thus I can understand the arguments in this node very well. same goes for this thread here. Still, I think we should always keep an eye on the appropriateness of legal action.

      Of course this goes only for cases where we are at the "right" end. Things look radically different when we are at the wrong end of legal action, especially if the prosecution (is that the right word?) is a huge company with seemingly unlimited financial possibilities.

      The only thing that I can't quite see is how things work out on an international community site like this one here. As tachyon says, being an Australian he didn't know about the DMCA - and being Swiss, neither did I. So does it apply to this site? And if so, on what grounds? Is it the palce where the site is hosted that counts, or is it the nationality of the monks the contribte to th discussion?

      I think this is one of the major problems with any such case on the internet. Laws usually are just not made for such a high grade of itnernationality (except for international laws and treatises, obviously).


Re: DMCA - as bad as you think?
by footpad (Abbot) on Jul 19, 2001 at 07:48 UTC

    I admit that I don't like DMCA; I think it's the wrong law for a good idea.

    We have already seen some rather *cough* creative arguments made in various cases that invoke different elements of DMCA.

    I'll let you choose for yourself. Here are a few links:

    Personally, I am all for artists, writers, actors, and all content creators getting fair pay for their work. (D'uh: I'm an actor and a published writer; I understand the concepts of residuals and royalties.) However, I do not believe that this is terribly different than the Universal Studios vs Sony time-shifting case. Artists should benefit from commercial proceeds, but (I believe) there is more money to be made by allowing consumer-driven word of mouth access while protecting commercial redistribution. I am not saying, "Copy the Perl CD to the 'Net and then walk away."

    I am saying that it is in the Studios' best interest to back off and allow a little leeway for "fandom" and grass roots efforts. After all, look at the success of the "Blair Witch Project," success that would not have happened if not for the word of mouth campaign.

    In this case, however, I suspect that the reason no one is going to get sued under the DMCA is pretty simple: who can afford the lawyers? Is it strictly illegal? I suppose that depends on what country, state, and region you're in. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to argue for "fair pay for fair play." I should be able to show you things outlining why I like a certain work, I should not be able to give you a wholesale copy for free.

    Pretty simple, in my book...of course, I'm an actor playing a programmer by day. What do I know?


Re: DMCA - as bad as you think?
by petral (Curate) on Jul 19, 2001 at 08:34 UTC
    Hey guys, if you want to duplicate a DVD you take a copying machine, put the original in one side and a clean disk in the other and push the button. During the trial of the Norwegian kid on Centre Street for the DeCSS code, there were hawkers in front of the courthouse selling pirate dvd's on the sidewalk.


      I do not get your point, petral. I know it is easy to stole info on DVD, and many are doing that. These 'hawkers' have nothing much to lose. But tachyon and Ovid are concerned about our online community -- PerlMonks -- and we all have enough to lose.
      What will happen if some company decided to sue PerlMonks on some issue? Who will pay the bill?
      Unfortunatelly, it is known tactics from big companies in USA to sue critics, and it works. And we want to avoid it.


      To make errors is human. But to make million errors per second, you need a computer.

        My point is certainly not to disagree that the law sucks. Just that it has nothing to do with preserving artists' "rights to an income".
        update:  Sorry, a lot of general discussion was going on and I didn't address your specific point. I'm sure we can link to places a lot closer to the source before we come close to being at any kind of risk. The links here are so "safe", I can't really see worrying about it.


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