Monday, June 04, 2007

Finish Court kills DRM

A Helsinki District Court ruled that, because it has been circumvented many times, the CSS (Content Scrambling System) now used in DVD movies is “ineffective” as the term is used in the Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, also know as the 2001 European Union Copyright Directive, and the law of Finland. The EUCD, in its article 6, requires EU member states to provide adequate legal protection against the circumvention of any “effective technological measures,” and s. 3 states that “[t]echnological measures shall be deemed ‘effective’ where the use of a protected work or other subject-matter is controlled by the rights holders through application of an access control or protection process… which achieves the protection objective [bold added].”
After Finland adopted the directive into national law in 2005, a group of Finnish computer hobbyists and activists created a website where they posted information on circumventing CSS, to then tell police that they had potentially violated copyright law. The Finish implementation of the directive says, in its s.50 a §, that it is prohibited copying works for personal use if the work is protected by an "effective technical measure".
A unanimous court ruled that CSS no longer achieves its protection objective because, since its first circumvention by a Norwegian hacker in 1999, end-users have had access to many kinds of decoding software on the Internet, some of it free, and accordingly, finding that CSS protection can no longer be held effective as defined by law, the court dropped all charges.
The decision can have enormous consequences throughout the EU and beyond because the term “effective” comes directly from the EUCD. The Directive makes clear that the word ‘effective’ must be defined by some sort of empirical test, such as whether a technological protection measure can be broken by technology experts or by random end-users, and the Finish court thought that clearly the second option applies. Beyond the EU, the decision may represent a headache for the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA), the California group that licenses CSS to DVD player manufacturers in Europe and Asia, because European device makers could refuse licences. Furthermore, taking into account that the decision appears to be technology-neutral, it could apply to other technologies as well, which may leave in shambles the whole DRM field…

PS: Andres just told me that Mikko Valimaki wrote an article about this case, which will come out in June's SCRIPT-ed

No comments: