Friday, May 25, 2007

CSS DRM ruled ineffective by Helsinki Court

A court in Finland has produced a very interesting decision on drm. From Ture Legal (via Ian Brown):

"In an unanimous decision released today, Helsinki District Court ruled that Content Scrambling System (CSS) used in DVD movies is “ineffective”. The decision is the first in Europe to interpret new copyright law amendments that ban the circumvention of “effective technological measures”. The legislation is based on EU Copyright Directive from 2001. According to both Finnish copyright law and the underlying directive, only such protection measure is effective, “which achieves the protection objective.”"

It's important primarily because most drm is lousy IP security snake oil. The anti circumvention laws like the DMCA and the EUCD have been a licence for drm vendors to sell easily breakable digital locks to the entertainment industry. It didn't matter that the locks were useless, when it was the act of getting past them that was illegal. Now, at least in Finland, the fact that the drm is crap could easily be a legitimate defense to circumventing it.

"The background of the case was that after the copyright law amendment was accepted in late 2005, a group of Finnish computer hobbyists and activists opened a website where they posted information on how to circumvent CSS. They appeared in a police station and claimed to have potentially infringed copyright law. Most of the activists thought that either the police does not investigate the case in the first place or the prosecutor drops it if it goes any further. To the surprise of many, the case ended in the Helsinki District Court. Defendants were Mikko Rauhala who opened the website, and a poster who published an own implementation of source code circumventing CSS.

According to the court, CSS no longer achieves its protection objective. The court relied on two expert witnesses and said that “…since a Norwegian hacker succeeded in circumventing CSS protection used in DVDs in 1999, end-users have been able to get with ease tens of similar circumventing software from the Internet even free of charge. Some operating systems come with this kind of software pre-installed.” Thus, the court concluded that “CSS protection can no longer be held ‘effective’ as defined in law.” All charges were dismissed."

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