Court Says You Still Can't Use The DMCA To Stop 3rd Party Repairs

from the good-news dept

Last year, we wrote about a lawsuit involving StorageTek, a maker of data storage systems. They had sued a third party repair company, claiming (among many other charges) that the company violated the DMCA in repairing their devices. Obviously, that was an attempt to block out the competition, which is not what the DMCA is intended for. While a lower court granted an injunction, last summer, on appeal, the DMCA claims were rejected. The lower court has now reviewed the case again and agreed that the DMCA claim was not valid. The DMCA is not intended to be used as an anti-competitive tool. While it may seem like a minor point, it’s good to see the courts recognizing that the DMCA should not be misused in this nature. While some supporters of the DMCA will now use this as support that the DMCA is fine and the courts can sort it all out to a happy ending, this was a huge pain for a company that was simply trying to offer a reasonable service repairing another company’s products. While, in the end, it worked out, it’s likely that this case alone (along with others) may have scared off plenty of other companies from working on certain products out of a fear of the expensive lawsuits that might follow.

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Comments on “Court Says You Still Can't Use The DMCA To Stop 3rd Party Repairs”

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Evan says:

Dubious conclusion

After reading the article, I don’t see the logic behind writeup’s conclusion that the case was thrown out because “DMCA is not intended to be used as an anti-competitive tool.” The article says the judge threw out the DMCA claims because “StorageTek’s GetKey security did not ‘effectively control access’ to the system.” So it seems that the DMCA claims would have stood if StorageTek had included a stronger security system which excluded everyone but StorageTek from working on the devices. The ruling will encourage companies to lock out third parties even more severely, not less.

MiniDevil says:

Dubious conclusion

To #4: It sounds as if 3rd party companies are allowed to repair, access, etc.. other companies’ software/hardware/etc.. as long as they do not ‘hack’ their way through security locks.

If StorageTek has no such protections in place, then a third party is free to go through their material. On the other hand, it StorageTek has many protections in place, the said 3rd party might have to hack in and decrypt certain material.

In that case (I believe what #2 is saying) it might be Okay for StorageTek to file a claim on the basis of DMCA infringement, since the third party cracked their copyrighted protection code to gain access.

I agree with #2 on this one. The court is playing this off as: If you leave your frontdoor open, the robber can take what he wants. If you lock the frontdoor, the robber is going to jail. This will make companies only tighten their products to allow only themselves to do ANYTHING with it. Talk about a world of licensing nightmares…

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