Legal constraints on Netizens: DeCSS, Napster, Clue.com, etc.
FRUUG presentation, Thu 2001-02-15.
Notes by Neal McBurnett, available at
- Science and technology has created the miracle of cheap
information distribution, lauded in books like Freeman Dyson's
"The Sun, the Genome and the Internet" as one of the big 4
advances in civilization.
Issue: too cheap to meter => too cheap to police.
- John Gilmore on
What's wrong with Copy Protection?:
"Why should self-interested companies be permitted to shift the
balance of fundamental liberties, risking free expression, free
markets, scientific progress, consumer rights, societal stability,
and the end of physical and informational want? Because somebody
might be able to steal a song? That seems a rather flimsy excuse."
- Specifically, right to hyperlink, "fair use" of copyrighted materials,
publish your own source code, learn how things
work and share it with others. Demise of open and interoperable technologies.
Right to innovate.
- US Constitution, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power...
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for
limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their
respective Writings and Discoveries;
But what if copyright and patent laws are inhibiting the progress of
science and useful arts?
- Current strategy by media conglomerates: get more protection
than the laws allow by using flimsy "encryption" technologies
and then using the new DMCA to prohibit users from defeating the
extra technological protections.
- The Internet vastly complicates issues of jurisdiction
- Peer-to-peer networking and technologies like Freedom
from Zero-Knowledge Systems make it impractical to police
- DMCA - Digital Millennium Copyright Act introduces
- Gallery of CSS Descramblers:
raw code, translations, images of code, code in hypothetical
languages, steganographic versions, midi version, dns version.
Protection of DECSS via DMCA: "If you decrypt the enclosed encryption
protected file using the secret key embedded in this document,
I might utilize the DMCA and sue you to protect my intellectual
property, so don't even think about it"
- Recent DMCA appeal by EFF - link below
- Napster judgement from the Ninth Circuit, 2001-02-12:
"contributory liability may potentially be imposed only to the extent
that Napster: (1) receives reasonable knowledge of specific
infringing files with copyrighted musical compositions and sound
recordings; (2) knows or should know that such files are available on
the Napster system; and (3) fails to act to prevent viral
distribution of the works. ... The mere existence of the Napster
system, absent actual notice and Napster's demonstrated failure to
remove the offending material, is insufficient to impose contributory
- See US Rep Boucher's interview on Slashdot on these topics. He
is planning to introduce legislation to preserve fair use, and explains
how you can get involved.
- Haven't even gotten to patent issues - see LPF links below
- Conclusions: DMCA restrictions need to be overturned.
Future of copyright vs innovation is big debate....
- My adaptation of "Waltzing Matilda": "Hacking Computers"
It is increasingly the case, especially as the Internet gains
increasing attention among lawyers, that the rights of developers and
users are being affected. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act has
been construed to not only prevent people from reverse engineering
technology and freely sharing the results, but even from including
relevant hyperlinks on their web pages. The success of Napster at
allowing individuals to find and share copyrighed music from the big
record labels has threatened the ability of emerging artists from
using the same technology to promote their work. Giant corporations
like Hasbro are claiming ownership of words like "Clue" in the context
Thankfully, in this case the courts have ruled that Hasbro doesn't
have a clue, or at least this particular clue. We'll hear reports
from Eric Robison of clue.com about his successful defense of his
domain name, legal opinions from Carl Oppedahl about Intellectual
Property Rights, and rantings from Neal McBurnett about the freedom to
develop and share your own work in the spirit of the Constitution's
actual language on the subject. Bring your questions for the panel
and we'll have a great time as always.
Copy Protection paper.
DVD for Linux et al (DeCSS) - Reverse-engineered version of DVD CSS
(Content Scrambling System)
Gallery of CSS Descramblers - excellent exposition of techniques for
communicating and hiding information via the Internet et.al (text,
pictures, MIDI, steganography, from DVD-CCA's own DNS servers! ...):
See also: http://decss.zoy.org/
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA):
Napster and peer-to-peer networking:
League for Programming Freedom (patents, user-interface copyrights):
Clue.com's legal battle:
Considerations for innocent domain name owners:
Last modified: Sat Mar 31 21:07:59 MST 2001