Homemade Hardcovers: Yet Again, Anti-Circumvention Interferes With Fair Use

from the bound-by-law dept

Font blogger Thomas Phinney writes in to tell us about his concerns with the DMCA anti-circumvention clause in relation to creating home-printed versions of digital books. Phinney prints, stitches and binds his own books at home, producing fancy hardcovers for purely personal use from legally-purchased PDF ebooks. This, alone, is a clearly protected case of fair use -- even if it runs afoul of the overreaching copyright notices found in so many ebooks. The problem is that making nice, bound editions takes some extra work, and anti-circumvention laws get in the way:

Making a really high end hardcover from a document such as a PDF involves rearranging the pages (“imposition”) in order to print them in sets on sheets with more than one page per side, so that you can fold them and sew them in groups (“signatures”).

Commercial e-​​books sold as PDFs are often encrypted with flags on the PDF permit printing, but not modification. Nor do they permit “document assembly” which is exactly what I need: the ability to rearrange, add and delete pages in the PDF. Unfortunately, common approaches to doing imposition involve generating a modified PDF: one in which the pages are at least rearranged and put more than one to a (now larger) page. So far, it looks like many (perhaps all?) imposition apps do it this way and don’t work with PDFs that have restrictions on modification (perhaps on PDFs that have *any* access restrictions?).

Now, I can easily break the encryption on a PDF, if that PDF allows opening but just has restrictions on specific uses like modification. If I do that, I can then use imposition software on a PDF that allows printing but not modification, and make a fancy book.

But (at least as I understand it, and admittedly I’m not a lawyer) the Digital Millenium Copyright Act says that circumventing an access restriction is always illegal, regardless of why I do it. That makes me a criminal if I do that, even if for the sole reason of making a pretty hardcover book. Even when printing the pages out normally and slapping glue on the spine, like a typical softcover “perfect-​​bound” book, is permitted and legal.

The inherently nonsensical nature of the anti-circumvention clause strikes again: the ends are fair use, but the means are illegal. Of course, since circumvention software itself is illegal too, this raises questions about the applications that are available -- but breaking PDF protection is so trivial that the law seems futile. MacOS even ships with a system tool (ColorSync Utility) that inadvertently removes PDF passwords (an old graphic designer's trick for clients who have lost their source files). This kind of thing is inevitable when you have a law that targets the tools instead of the actual activity, since it's a near-universal truth about tools that they can all be used for both good and bad purposes.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Drew (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 3:56am

    This is where you use some decent ocr "optical character recognition" software where you don't have to break any protections whatsoever.

    E-books with perfect text it would have no issues at all. Setup a macro to do it all while you're fast asleep.
    Wake up have some coffee 4-5 cups sit down at your pc and say PDF KISS MY ASS! I just copied you without breaking any laws of messing with your shitty ass encryption methods that a 5 year old could bypass.

    Yeah that sounds pretty damn stupid to have to be in the clear. All that just to print a book for personal use?
    Da Fuck?
    "Waits for post about lawsuit against ABBYY FineReader"

     

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    •  
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      DinDaddy (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 11:35am

      Re:

      The analog hole!

      This is somewhat analogous to ripping your bought and owned DVD/BD for digital device use. With the difference that you can retain full "quality" with text a little easier.

      The discussions below about providing a service to others that does this will run into the same thing as DVD ripping services would, though. Industry will probably tolerate individuals doing this on their own behalf, if only because of logistical problems inherent in preventing it, but no way will they allow anyone to profit from "format" shifting of "their" content as a service.

       

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      Chargone (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:13pm

      Re:

      alternatively, print, scan as text, use the scanned version (it's encryption free, and you didn't bypass the encryption in the first place) to set things up for your book.

      of course, that probably takes more effort, needing a decent (at least) quality printer and scanner and using at least twice as much paper and ink in the process, but hey, now you've got two copies :P

       

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  •  
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    Bergman (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 4:18am

    The Copyright Act specifies a number of rights, both those belonging to the copyright owner, as well as those to the end consumer.

    If it's a violation of the law to copy when you shouldn't, how is it not a violation of the law to make it impossible to exercise a right guaranteed by the law?

    Can you sue a publisher for DRMing your rights away?

     

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    •  
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      Hugh Mann (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:54am

      Re:

      In US copyright law, fair use is generally not viewed as a "right" that is "guaranteed". It is a defense to an allegaton of infringement. So, as a result, if you're able to make the copy, the fair use doctrine keeps you from having to pay damages, but it's not something that an author has to proactively enable.

      HM

       

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    •  
      identicon
      JEDIDIAH, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 9:17am

      Big fat double standard.

      > If it's a violation of the law to copy when you shouldn't,

      What about MY rights? What about MY property rights? What about MY rights to use or dispose of MY property in any manner I choose.

      That includes the copy of something I bought from some "artiste".

      "Artistic Megalomania" is not supposed to be the goal of copyright.

       

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      •  
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        The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 1:52pm

        Re: Big fat double standard.

        Didn't you know? You don't own anything with DRM on it, you just have an extremely limited license to use it.

         

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    •  
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      DinDaddy (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 11:39am

      Re:

      "Can you sue a publisher for DRMing your rights away?"

      Not necessary. You have your lobbyists write a new law criminalizing that behavior, have congress pass the bill, and then you sit back while the government prosecutes the publisher.

      Much simpler and more effective.

       

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        Chargone (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:17pm

        Re: Re:

        and consistant with the current pattern. it's illegal to make a copy unless under a set set of situations where it IS legal to make a copy, but it's illegal to use the tools to bypass the encryption even if it Would be legal to make that copy but, in this case it would be illegal to encrypt it in the first place so it's fine...

        if you keep it up long enough eventually one side or the other will manage to make it illegal to have laws passed to subvert other people's rights, previous laws, and/or other people's property, and if you're Really lucky the whole thing will be such a mess the government will spend years gutting the whole unmanageable system down to something far more reasonable... or lock up completely and be ignorable :D

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 4:20am

    and the idiot politicians strike again. why the hell dont they keep out of things they know nothing about instead of folding to 'incentives' and/or 'interested parties' demands!

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:24am

      Re:

      "idiot politicians"
      You say this as if there is any other kind.

       

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      •  
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        Chargone (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:18pm

        Re: Re:

        oh, no, there are smart politicians.

        they're just either even MORE dangerous, due to being evil rather than just stupid, or not terribly effective due to the horribly corrupt nature of the system.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 4:35am

    Another Business Killed

    It is all very well for Phinney, who has the skills to make his own hardcover books. Suppose someone wanted to set up a business providing that service to others. They might offer fancy options like acid-free paper, leather covers, customer choice of font, customer choice of font size, gold lettering on the outside, etc. What chance would the business have of surviving, given present copyright law? There are plenty of people who like beautiful hardcover books and would be happy to pay for them. But those books can never exist because the businesses which could be providing them, have been killed by the threat of a lawsuit, before ever getting off the ground.

    Promoting the progress? Not so much.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 4:59am

      Re: Another Business Killed

      I'm one of said people, I would love to have beautiful covers of my favourite books. A service like this would be god-sent since I don't have the energy or time to spend on creating such covers myself.

       

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        Chargone (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:19pm

        Re: Re: Another Business Killed

        in theory, the point of publishers is to provide this sort of thing in the first place... printing and book-binding.

        in reality... not so much.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 4:50am

    One more guy that could be making some money and would not be able to do so because of granted monopolies.

    If anybody looks why, monopolies are vilified throughout history look no further than this example, the guy made a work and should benefit from the fruits of his labor that is being applied to others works that was already paid for but he can't, he is now labelled a criminal and that is what that BS IP laws are good for to harm everybody, diminish the pool of opportunities for everyone.

    It affects everyone, people who want a job will have to deal with less employers and have to accept raw deals to work.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 6:11am

    Open the PDF in PhotoShop.
    Save the pages as TIFFs (grayscale or CMYK, depending on color use) at 300 ppi or better.
    (For 150 dpi printing, 300 ppi should be fine)
    Use InDesign or Quark to import TIFFs into printing imposition signatures.
    Print.

     

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  •  
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    RonKaminsky (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 6:53am

    Phinney is confused, understandably

    the Digital Millenium Copyright Act says that circumventing an access restriction is always illegal, regardless of why I do it
    Not exactly. The DMCA criminalized helping a third party to circumvent an access restriction for any reason --- circumventing it oneself in order to exercise personal fair use rights is still legal.

    Confused? If you aren't, you should be. That part of the law is a total piece of crap.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:02am

    But (at least as I understand it, and admittedly Im not a lawyer) the Digital Millenium Copyright Act says that circumventing an access restriction is always illegal, regardless of why I do it.

    This is absolutely not true. Section 1201 permits fair use; the act of circumventing a technological measure that prevents copying is not prohibited.

    The inherently nonsensical nature of the anti-circumvention clause strikes again: the ends are fair use, but the means are illegal.

    Nope. That's the problem with writing about legal doctrines you don't understand, Leigh--you're bound to get even the basics wrong. The DMCA distinguishes between use and trafficking.

     

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    •  
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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:13am

      Re:

      It'd be nice if it worked that way in practice. But when you have people being threatened with jailtime for modding xboxes, it creates a pretty massive chilling effect on this kind of activity.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:29am

        Re: Re:

        It'd be nice if it worked that way in practice. But when you have people being threatened with jailtime for modding xboxes, it creates a pretty massive chilling effect on this kind of activity.

        So no acknowledgement that you and he are misstating the law? Sure, we can talk about the chilling effect of the DMCA, but that's different than the fact that the act of circumventing is actually legal. If you knew that, you'd obviously be celebrating it. Nice try at deflecting, though, I'll give you that. Darth Mike has taught you well.

         

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        •  
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          Leigh Beadon (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:41am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The law is extremely gray. If he was just making backup copies or something, sure - but as he starts changing the format, plus talking about giving them as gifts or doing it for someone else, it's not hard to see how he could be challenged. Fair use should, and probably does, protect him in many of these circumstances - but fair use is unfortunately not structured in favour of the user. He'd have to be prepared to take it to court as a defence - and we all know fair use rulings can be wildly inconsistent.

          So perhaps I do overstate things by saying it is flat-out illegal. What I should say is that it is potentially illegal, and thus effectively illegal in the minds of many.

           

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          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
             
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:39am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "favour"? "defence"? Oh, good Lord. I'm curious. How is it you feel you're qualified to give educated opinions on United States intellectual property law? From what I've seen the past couple days, your grasp of the subject matter is quite limited. I mean, you're doing all the right things by jumping in and writing stories about how dumb all intellectual property is--which is the TD default point-of-view--but when you don't even understand the doctrines, you come off as a backwards-working blowhard. Obviously that stuff sells to the TD basement dwellers, or else Pirate Mike wouldn't have made you his matey, but I'm just saying it'd be nice if you did some homework on the doctrines first.

             

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            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 9:25am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              If a law needs an expert to assert what it says, that is most certainly a bad law.

              Now if you please stop your dumb interpretation of how the law should be understood we all would all be delighted.

              IP law is the evil of our times today.

               

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            •  
              icon
              MonkeyFracasJr (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 9:46am

              Re: blowhards and basement dewllers

              Why can't you have your opinion and participate in the discussion without being derogatory towards others?

              Even if your characterizations are accurate or true they have no place or purpose in the discussion. Other than to raise ire in your opponents.

               

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            •  
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              JMT (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "How is it you feel you're qualified to give educated opinions on United States intellectual property law?"

              Have you ever considered the possibility that articles like this are not written from the point of view of an IP expert, or even intended to be, but from the point of view of everyday people and how they're affected by badly written laws that get abused by companies with the help of their asshole lawyers.

              Oh wait, you're one of the asshole lawyers aren't you? You sure sound like it.

               

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:22am

    Actually I think it looks more like a copyright violating transformative use. Your ebook license is for just that, an ebook. Turning it into a print book is outside of the scope of that license.

     

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:37am

      Re:

      Actually I think it looks more like a copyright violating transformative use. Your ebook license is for just that, an ebook. Turning it into a print book is outside of the scope of that license.

      But protected by fair use if it's for personal purposes.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:54am

        Re: Re:

        You don't think that, perhaps, he might "lend" a copy or two to friends? You don't think that this may be the next step in the circumvention of copyright?

        Come on Marcus, even you are smart enough to see it.

         

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          el_segfaulto (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:18am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So now we start punishing people based on what they might do?

           

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:18am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yeah, everything might be lent to friends. Punish everyone for being in possession of anything.

          Give me a break.

           

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Remember, children: sharing is thoughtcrime. When you share, you hurt American businesses. Only communists share.

           

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        •  
          identicon
          dwg, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:41am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If I own something, I own it. SO if I lend MY copy to a friend, I'm firmly protected by First Sale Doctrine. Why are you making him extra copies he doesn't want?

           

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          btr1701 (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 10:01am

          Re: Re: Re:

          > You don't think that, perhaps, he might
          > "lend" a copy or two to friends?

          What he perhaps might do is irrelevant. In the US, you can only be liable for what you *actually* do.

          We're not at the level of Minority Report yet where we're held to answer for future crime.

           

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        Hugh Mann (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 9:10am

        Re: Re:

        Whether the copy is for "personal purposes" is not the extent of the legal inquiry in looking at fair use. There are four criteria. You also look at whether the work is more creative than factual, how much of the work is copied, and the impace of the copying on the market for the work.

        I'm not so sure it's an easy slam-dunk to say it's a fair use. I'm assuming the books are creative works of fiction, and that the entire book is being copie. That's two strikes right there (though it's not a simple case of tallying up scores). Is the publisher still selling hardcover copies of the book? He might argue that the person printing out his own copy of an e-book and slapping a cover on it represents a lost sale that negatively impacts his legitimate market for hardcover copies that he already sells himself.

        Of course, I understand that this was probably not something the DMCA specifically intended to combat. This is essentialy a corner case - how many people actually have the hobby of creating their own custom hardcover editions? So, while I'd like to see an interpretation of the DMCA that doesn't make this guy feel like he's risking jail time, that doesn't mean the DMCA has failed somehow, merely because someone in a tiny niche hobby can't exercise his skill on every single work he might want.

        As for the posters above who commented that it was a shame that the DMCA prevented someone from going into business doing this for others, well, that, to me, would be pretty clearly outside of the fair use doctrine. You're no longer talking about someone doing it for himself. You're talking about setting up a business based on making unauthorized copies of someone else's works.

        I do find it funny that the complaint these days is usally about a particular title not being available as an e-book, but in this case, we're hearing the drum beat to turn an e-book back into a dead-tree publication.

        HM

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 9:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The DMCA failed and this instance is just another example of why it fails every time.

          Further, we should be going away from granted monopolies, that never ever produce anything good and the law reflects exactly that, this all is because people thought it was great to grant a monopoly to some schmuck, well lesson learned it is not.

           

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 9:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Quote:
          As for the posters above who commented that it was a shame that the DMCA prevented someone from going into business doing this for others, well, that, to me, would be pretty clearly outside of the fair use doctrine. You're no longer talking about someone doing it for himself. You're talking about setting up a business based on making unauthorized copies of someone else's works.

          To you it seems that way, to anybody else is like a guy going to a book store with his book and asking to redo the cover of that book, in that instance that should be perfectly legal, if you bought the crappy PDF and want to turn it into a hard copy why should anybody be forced to beg the publisher to do it when they can find some else to do it for them?

          That is the evil of granted monopolies harming everyone.

           

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            Hugh Mann (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 12:18pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            If you already had a hardcover copy, and just wanted to "redo" the cover, the first sale doctrine clearly accommodates that. It's your book, cut it up and put it back together however you want. That doesn't result in additional copies of that book. That's not what the poster(s) above suggested, though.

            Just like many here complain that infringement is not "theft", I have a hard time seeing how anyone is "harmed" because the luxury product they have purchased doesn't have all the conveniences they want.

            HM

             

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 9:01pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Just like many here complain that infringement is not "theft", I have a hard time seeing how anyone is "harmed" because the luxury product they have purchased doesn't have all the conveniences they want.

              So why is it that you consider it offensive that the person who has a legitimately obtained product and is going out of his own way to suit it to his own convenient purposes? Honestly, if the user complained, you'd probably blame him for being entitled and whiny. The original seller isn't losing anything or putting in effort to satisfy customer demands, here.

              Also, if a product can't satisfy customer requirements, it's the customer's prerogative to look for alternatives. This guy already paid for his use; it's not like he pirated it or anything. But clearly, for you "pound of flesh" industry shills, that clearly isn't enough.

               

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    •  
      identicon
      dwg, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:28am

      Re:

      There is no such things as "copyright violating transformative use." Transformative use is an ensconced fair use defense. Perhaps you mean "copyright violating derivative work?"

       

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  •  
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    Yakko Warner (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:48am

    PDF printer?

    Why not install a PDF printer, and print the PDF to that? It's how I "edit" secure PDFs (primarily eBills that I get from utility companies when I just want the "bill" part and not the "correspondence" part).

     

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    Dio Gratia (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 3:16pm

    Fair Use Right Not Affected

    17 USC 1201

    (c) Other Rights, Etc., Not Affected.

    (1) Nothing in this section shall affect rights, remedies, limitations, or defenses to copyright infringement, including fair use, under this title.

    Title 17 includes 107 - Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use. It would appear fair use is not affected by the DMCA. Now the question for your lawyer would be is what you are doing fair use?

     

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      Hugh Mann (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 4:23pm

      Re: Fair Use Right Not Affected

      Making the copy itself may be a fair use, but there is no fair use defense to circumventing copy protection.

      In that sense, copy protection is a completely independent - and prior - hurdle to clear before even getting to the fair use question.

      HM

       

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        Niall (profile), Apr 13th, 2012 @ 2:30am

        Re: Re: Fair Use Right Not Affected

        Which is the whole illogical point of this discussion - publishers denying you fair use by making use of a bent law.

        Seriously, it's like telling someone They can drive inside a certain estate, but that it's 'illegal' to drive through the gate. (I'm sure someone else could come up with a better metaphor.)

         

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          Hugh Mann (profile), Apr 13th, 2012 @ 11:27am

          Re: Re: Re: Fair Use Right Not Affected

          It's not telling you it's illegal to drive through the gate, it's telling you it's illegal to break down the gate.

          HM

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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