Sunday, March 12, 2006

French Court bans private copying hostile drm

Here's an English language report at Indicare on the French case I mentioned recently where the court took a hostile view to drm that interfered with French consumers' private copying right. Abstract:

"France is one of the European countries where a particularly vivid public discussion about DRM and the private copying exception took place. This is thanks to the efforts of French consumer organisations that initiated a number of court cases dealing with complaints of consumers about CDs and DVDs that could, among others, not be copied and ripped because of technical protection measures in place. This article discusses the latest DRM decision in France, a decision that went one step further than its predecessors when dealing with the difficult question of the relationship between DRM and private copying."

The defendands had argued that the plaintiff had no legal standing to bring the case, that there was no right to private copying, and that it was futile to expect a producer to label their products noting that they include drm because technology is changing all the time! That last one is pretty good - just imagine a food manufacturer saying you can't possibly expect them to include a label on the packaging saying 'this contains poison' because technology is changing all the time. In any case the court didn't accept any of it:

"Thankfully, the Paris Court dealt rather curtly with the argument of a lack of legal standing of UFC Que Choisir (not accepted) and the argument of lack of playability (accepted). It then ventured, without further delay, bravely onto a terrain that causes grown-up politicians and law makers to mumble excuses, look in a different direction or at their shoes and do their best to change the topic. I am speaking of Article 6 (4) of the European Copyright Directive. Article 6 (4) of the European Copyright Directive is the provision in the European Copyright Directive that addresses the conflict between DRM and copyright's exceptions. I say "addresses" and not "solves", because all that Article 6 (4) of the EUCD does is to determine rather vaguely that "Member States shall take appropriate measures to ensure that right holders make available to the beneficiary of an exception or limitation … the means of benefiting from that exception or limitation."

Court says: Users of DRM have to respect private copying exception
The Tribunal de Grande Instance Paris, after having defended once again the private copying exception and explaining patiently why it was not in conflict with the three-step-test, stressed the need to interpret French law in the light of the European Directive (see already Court of Appeals, Paris, 2004). The court's interpretation of Article 6 (4) of the EUCD led it to the conclusion that technological protection measures must respect certain exceptions, including the private copying exception. With the understatement that is so characteristic of French judges, the court then expressed in a few words the essence of much scholarly writing and ranting over the past years by observing matter-of-factly: "the application of anti-copying protection devices by phonogram producers causes the statutory limitations of the authors' exclusive rights to authorise or prohibit reproductions to fade"" [ie. DRM bypasses the law] "("La mesure de protection adoptee par le producteur du phonogramme fait disparaître la limite fixée par le législateur au droit exclusif de auteurs d'autoriser ou d'interdire la reproduction de leurs oeuvres"). Indeed.

The court continued with admirable straightforwardness to conclude that it is task of the DRM user, here: the phonogram producer, to make sure that private copying remains possible, despite the application of technological protection measures."

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