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'Prohibition On Circumvention Of Technological Measures'
By Jon Newton,
(more articles from this author)
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Music Industry News - as it happens
Source: Mi2N/ - October 12, 2002

If you know what this is and you've got something to say about it, you'd better speak up before December 18. Because that's the cut-off date for doing so stipulated by the US Copyright Office.

"The initial round of comments (due December 18, 2002) is restricted to comments proposing exemptions for specific classes of works," it says on its web page here. "Reply comments (due February 19) may be submitted in opposition to or in further support of exemptions proposed in the initial comments.

All of the above refers to the DCMA's (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) anti-circumvention clause which theoretically stops people from circumventing (cracking) "measures that control access to copyrighted works," as well as making and distributing tools that'll do the same thing - as Norway's Jon Johansen knows only too well.

CSS (Content Scrambling System) is a piece of software which stops people from copying DVDs. Or it did. But then - along came Jon.

Jon - Jon Johansen - was only 15 when he wrote and distributed DeCSS, a software app which unlocks DVD's and also lets users fast-forward (through commercials, for example) or copy for educational purposes. Jon came up with it so he could view his own DVD's on his Linux box. This was in 1999 and within weeks, DeCSS was everywhere on the Net.

Ironically, Jon won Norway's prestigious "Karoline Prize," awarded annually to a Norwegian high school student with excellent grades who makes a significant contribution to society outside of school. And you don't have to be a genius to guess what he won it for.

He'd published DeCSS as part of LiVid (Linux Video) aimed at building a DVD player with consumer-friendly features (more so than existing commercial product) for the Linux O/S. The MPAA CSS' licensing section, DVD Copy Control Association (DVD-CCA), flatly refuses to license CSS to projects such as LiVid, an open source project with collaborators on the Net working together to build interoperable software tools.

Why won't it? Because LiVid's independently created DVD software would almost certainly break the movie industry's grip on the multi-million-dollar DVD player market. Consequently, with its DVD profit-line wobbling, the movie industry is going blind trying to sue anyone and everyone who's linked to, or who's posted, the code online and thus told its Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to contact the ØKOKRIM - Norway's economic crime unit - demanding a criminal investigation into Jon and his father, Per, who owned the system on which the DeCSS software was posted.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) entered the fray because, as Robin Gross staff attorney says, Jon shouldn't be prosecuted for breaking into his own property - which is what ØKOKRIM chief prosecutor Inger Marie Sunde is trying to do. She indicted Jon for violating Norwegian Criminal Code section 145(2), which outlaws breaking into another person's locked property to gain access to data that one is not entitled to access, says the EFF.

This is the first time the Norwegian government has tried to punish individuals for accessing their own property, says the EFF. Previously, Norway used the law only to prosecute someone who'd violated someone else's secure system in a bank or telephone company system, say.

And Hollywood is still using the law to keep DeCSS software off the Web.

In another case brought under US federal law last year, a New York Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling ordering 2600 Magazine to remove DeCSS from its online publication, including hyperlinks. Jon Johansen testified in this case. This year, it also spurred the FBI to arrest Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov who'd been instrumental in developing technology able to crack Adobe Systems' e-book protections.

In the meanwhile, if you want to comment, you can do so starting on November 18 by going to go to the Copyright Office website - where you'll be able to file your comments electronically. The Copyright office states: "The format requirements of comments and reply comments differs from those of the previous (2000) rulemaking. In the initial comment phase, all initial comments must identify the particular class of works for which an exemption is proposed, must follow this identification with a summary of the argument, and must then provide the factual and legal argument that supports this proposal of a particular class. For every class proposed, this format of class/summary/facts/argument should be sequentially followed. Every comment itself must also contain the name of the commenter and affiliation, if the comment is submitted on behalf of an organization. The Copyright Office prefers that all comments be submitted through the Office's website via the form page during the dates specified below."

Related News from Mi2N:
» Triennial Rulemaking Proceeding On Exemptions From The Prohibition On Circumvention Of Technological Measures

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