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)