European High Court Will Examine DRM Anti-Circumvention Rules

from the free-speech-anyone? dept

A European directive from a few years ago included a DRM anti-circumvention clause that even made it illegal to host an "organized discussion" of techniques for circumventing DRM. That seemed excessively broad (and unfairly limiting) to Mikko Rauhala, who set up a discussion site where people could discuss CSS, the notoriously lame copy protection used on DVDs that has been broken for ages. He did it mainly to get the issue into court -- which it did. Two years ago, a Finnish court had an odd ruling on the case, in which it claimed circumvention was okay if the DRM was ineffective. That's because the directive specifically claims that it applies to "effective DRM." Of course, taken to its logical conclusion, one might think that means if you can break DRM, then you haven't violated the anti-circumvention language, because you've proven that the DRM is ineffective. It's a bit of a logical pretzel. So, while I agree that it's silly to make discussion of circumvention illegal, the legal reasoning was a bit twisted.

So, it came as little surprise a year later, when an appeals court overturned the lower ruling. However, from a free speech perspective, this was still quite troubling. Banning any organized discussion about a technology seems tremendously questionable. The good news (as found via Michael Scott) is that the case is now going to the European Court of Human Rights. One hopes they'll recognize this as a violation of basic civil rights. It's troubling enough that simply circumventing copy protection on legally purchased goods is considered breaking the law. It's much worse to say that even talking about it is against the law.
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Filed Under: circumvention, copyright, css, drm, europe

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2009 @ 5:53am

    Yes, drive the discussion underground so you aren't aware of the weaknesses of your protection schema. Brilliant.

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