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  New violators of the DMCA? Reuters, Yahoo.com, CNN.com, dozens of other publications, and us  
Wednesday May 22, 2002 - [ 05:59 PM GMT ]
Topic - Government
-  - By Grant Gross -
Updated Thursday at 10:12 a.m. EST
In yet another example of how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act could trample on the First Amendment, Reuters may have violated the U.S. law by describing in a story this week how Sony's "copy-proof" protection for CDs can be defeated with a magic marker.

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Of course, that would mean dozens of publications such as Yahoo.com and CNN.com, which carried the wire service's report, also violated the DMCA, and this very NewsForge article violated the DMCA by linking to the story.

What's this quaint notion about freedom of the press in the United States? Well, under the still enforced DMCA's anti-circumvention section, it's illegal to market information to the public on how to break copy protections, and the Reuters article did just that.

Under the 1998 law's sections 1201.2(a) and (c), it's illegal to "manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof" that is primarily designed to circumvent a copy protection. That's in part (a), and Reuters and its customers might be able to argue that the story wasn't "primarily" designed for that purpose.

But Reuters would have a lot of trouble getting around 1201.2(c). It outlaws the manufacture, etc., etc., of any "marketed" product or service that allows users to circumvent copy protections.

There's no question that Reuters marketed the story. Selling stories to its customers is the way it makes money, and several copyright lawyers suggest the "bad intent" language of those sections can easily apply to news stories. Reuters would have to be massively na´ve to believe that hundreds of music-sharing fans around the wouldn't test the magic marker technique on Sony CDs as soon as they read the story.

Read the Reuters description: "Monday, Reuters obtained an ordinary copy of Celine Dion's newest release 'A New Day Has Come,' which comes embedded with Sony's Key2Audio' technology. After an initial attempt to play the disc on a PC resulted in failure, the edge of the shiny side of the disc was blackened out with a felt tip marker. The second attempt with the marked-up CD played and copied to the hard drive without a hitch."

As pointed out on the Free Software law email list, here's how the penalties section of the DMCA reads:

"Any person who violates section 1201 or 1202 willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain ... shall be fined not more than $500,000 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both, for the first offense ..."

How can you argue that Reuters didn't receive financial gain from this story?

This potential violation of the DMCA was first pointed out on the Free Software law list today, and one Reuters employee on the list contended that it's a stretch to say Reuters marketed the story as a way to circumvent the Sony copy protection. Here's the headline from Yahoo.com, you decide if that's marketing or not: "'Copy-Proof' CDs Cracked with 99-Cent Marker Pen."

In addition, 2600 Magazine has been prohibited from linking to DeCSS, the program that allows people to decode DVDs and play them on their Linux machines. If 2600.com can't even link to DeCSS in a news story, how can Reuters publish the instructions on how to defeat Sony's copy protections?

We first pointed out how the DMCA conflicts with the First Amendment back in August 2001, practically daring the DMCA cops to come after us in an article called, "Does this article violate the DMCA?" We pointed out then that the DMCA, in the 2600 case and others, was pretty much pummeling the First Amendment.

Of course, only a few people care about a niche Open Source news site and 2600.com. Our objections so far have raised few mainstream eyebrows. But Reuters can't have made Sony happy by publishing its article, and this may be the chance to get some heavyweight lawyers involved in a First Amendment vs. DMCA cat fight.

You have to wonder if a fight is what Reuters was looking for by publishing the article. It's hard to believe that Reuters was totally ignorant of the DMCA, although the anti-circumvention sections are much more well known in Free Software and Electronic Frontier Foundation circles than in the mainstream press. Another scenario is that Reuters knows about the DMCA rules and is deciding to take its chances.

Here's hoping this DMCA "violation" doesn't slip by. I'm asking Sony and law authorities, please, please, please, don't let Reuters get off when 2600 Magazine has been dragged through court for an alleged violation that was seen by tiny number of readers compared to the Reuters report. Please, Sony, Reuters has shown millions of people how to crack your copy protection, and you must take action.

It's time for a true First Amendment vs. DMCA slug-fest. It's time to get all kinds of Armani-suited lawyers involved in a two-out-three falls cage match in some New York courtroom.

It's time for the DMCA to get the butt-whooping it deserves from the First Amendment. It's time for the DMCA to die, in a way that's as slow and as expensive to the entertainment industry it protects as only a prolonged court fight could be.


 

New violators of the DMCA? Reuters, Yahoo.com, CNN.com, dozens of other publications, and us | Login/Create an Account | Top | 31 comments | Search Discussion
The Fine Print: obscene, vulgar or off-topic posts may be deleted by Linux.com/NewsForge editors.

magic markers      (#13710)
by sloveless on 2002.05.22 13:55   | User Info |


"But Reuters would have a lot of trouble getting around 1201.2(c). It outlaws the manufacture, etc., etc., of any "marketed" product or service that allows users to circumvent copy protections."

If all we have to do is physically cover the data track, it seems like a lot of manufacturers and suppliers of certain "products" could be in violation of the DMCA. Does anyone else foresee an upcoming shortage of magic markers, ink, paint, and duct tape?
[ Reply to This | Parent ]

good bye DMCA!      (#13717)
by Anonymous Reader on 2002.05.22 14:22


I foresee a supreme court reveiw of the DMCA.
It will take months, but in the end the DMCA will be deemed unconstitutional.

Plus it goes against a high profile 1992 fair use law.
[ Reply to This | Parent ]

Must we rely on Sony?      (#13721)
by Anonymous Reader on 2002.05.22 14:58


IANAL, but, does it have to be Sony that pushes this 'case'? While Sony is the 'injured' party, the DMCA isn't a tort law, so can't other parties push the matter? After all, if a law is enforced in an arbitrary manner, injustice is inevetible.
[ Reply to This | Parent ]

ROFLMAO      (#13723)
by Anonymous Reader on 2002.05.22 14:59


Ahahahahahahahahaha...

That's too funny. This is good. Now the public is becoming aware of the copyright issues. Now everyone with a permanent marker is a potential cracker. Yes, jail everyone! Install government control cameras into every home! Install tracking chips into everyone's skull! Woo hoo, the future is here! Fight Sony, Fight!! We don't need freedom, we just need to make sure that all the RIAA, MPAA, and other high powered execs get their bonus paychecks. Oh yea, and Fritz Hollings needs to get his paycheck too, obviously.
[ Reply to This | Parent ]

Don't count on it.      (#13725)
by Anonymous Reader on 2002.05.22 15:03


I was involved in NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, in the 1970's. Most deeply-conservative American politicians, including Barry Goldwater, knew that the anti-drug laws are unconstitutional, for a plethora of reasons.

What good did it do us?

None. Judges can be bought. Even ones that seem honest.

Never count on petitions to pigs to get back your corn. Instead, make them realize it's in their worst interest not to.

It's hard to do; you have to vote them out, keep voting them out, and keep voting them out. You have to keep hiring honest cops and investigators that can root out corruption. There's no other way.

This doesn't involve life and limb. Lucky for the perpetrators of this legislation. But these so-called leaders have increased the level of mistruct to a ridiculous degree. What happens the next time food or shelter or clothing is involved?

I hope the Supreme Court proves me wrong. I really do.
[ Reply to This | Parent ]

next headline      (#13739)
by Anonymous Reader on 2002.05.22 16:31


Sharpie pens saw a spike in sales this week, and report they can't keep the stores stocked with thier product.

Of course, they'll need the extra revenue to fight the coming RIAA lawsuit. A high level Sharpie executive's comment on the lawsuit "uh... who?".

;)
[ Reply to This | Parent ]

Duh....      (#13740)
by Anonymous Reader on 2002.05.22 16:38


"Never count on petitioning foxes to get back your..." chickens. "Instead, make them realize it's in their best interest not to...."
...steal them in the first place.

Oy. Sometimes the brain and the fingers don't communicate....or something like that....

[ Reply to This | Parent ]

If you didn't vote Libertarian, you ASKED FOR THIS      (#13755)
by Anonymous Reader on 2002.05.22 20:49


Anyone who voted Democrat or Republican, shut up and go sit on the sidelines.

You've already demonstrated that you want an intrusive, activist government, you have no room to complain now. You ASKED FOR THIS.

Bob-


[ Reply to This | Parent ]

Consider the other side      (#13763)
by Anonymous Reader on 2002.05.22 23:21


I can't believe my fellow Americans would rather have fair-use rights than to contribute to the founding concept of our nation: Money, and lots of it!

You can listen to your music and you're still not happy. You need to delete all the ads and things that generate revenue for these hard working companies (RIAA, MPAA, et al) just to get gratification. You make me sick.

If it doesn't hurt your precious eyes, open the curtains to your basement window, turn off the PC and get a life! And a job wouldn't hurt either! Maybe even sign up for service in the military and contribute to our great nation for a change instead of bitching about fair-use rights for a bunch of bits and bytes on your PC.

My 2 cents
A hard-working guy
[ Reply to This | Parent ]

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