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[dvd-discuss]Copyright or Copy Wrong - Editorial

In the December Edition of  "Test and Measurement World" The 
Editorial Director, Jon Titus, has a discussion of the DMCA, Felton, 
Sklyarov and Bunner cases.

"In effect the DMCA makes it a crime to distribute information 
someone can use to circumvent schemes that protect copyrighted 
machine readable material. The media industry defines the term 
"distribute" rather broadly".


Editorial: December 2001 
       Copyright or copy wrong?
       Jon Titus, Editorial Director

       In the US, we like to think we’re free to speak out on important issues. But recent laws have limited
       that Constitutional right. The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), for example, makes it a
       felony to publicly discuss the technology of, or any flaws in, digital copy-protection technologies.
       The Supreme Court has yet to rule definitively on what people can and can’t say under the DMCA.

       Original works deserve copyright protection, but at the same time, people must have the freedom to
       discuss technologies, even those that can thwart copyright-protection schemes. In effect, the DMCA
       makes it a crime to distribute information someone can use to circumvent schemes that protect
       copyrighted machine-readable material. The media industry defines the term “distribute” rather

       This past year, Edward W. Felten, a Princeton University professor, and his colleagues entered a
       contest sponsored by the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), which aimed to look for
       weaknesses in digital-music protection. But rather than accept the SDMI’s monetary prize and
       letting the SDMI keep its entry secret, Felten’s group revealed 
techniques that defeat protective
       “watermarks.” According to the Recording Industry 
Association of America, the scientists could face
       legal action under the DMCA for disseminating their 

       Such a suit has yet to occur, so the legal issues surrounding 
publication of weaknesses in the
       SDMI’s watermark technology remain unresolved. But imagine 
being jailed for publicizing
       weaknesses in copyrighted protocols used to secure financial 
transactions on a Web site. Such
       flaws deserve public disclosure.

       During the summer of 2001, the FBI arrested Dmitry Sklyarov 
after he presented a paper that
       revealed weaknesses in Adobe’s eBook Reader software. The 
flaws allowed a Russian company to
       produce code that could let people circumvent some of the 
encryption Adobe built into its materials.
       Neither Sklyarov nor the software company actually made 
illegal copies of eBooks, but the DMCA
       says you can’t even create the tools to do so. Using the same 
reasoning, a company that makes a
       CD writer, a VCR, or even a digital camera—even though the 
companies do no copying—could be
       guilty of violating the DMCA.

       Early in November, an appeals court in California ruled free 
speech covers publishing software code
       that could decrypt DVDs and make it possible to copy digital 
movies. The code is simply an
       expression of the author’s ideas, said the court. As long as 
people devise encryption techniques,
       others will work to overcome them. And in the process, they 
will reveal flaws that may temporarily
       weaken copyright protection schemes. The Constitution 
protects that right. The information
       businesses should reward people who discover a security 
weakness rather than try to stifle their
       ability to speak out about it.