Professors say DMCA stopped them from talking about Sony rootkit

In public hearings, Ed Felten says DMCA's anticircumvention clause meant he couldn't talk about Sony rootkit, asks Copyright Office for research exemption.

Computer science professor Ed Felten told the US Copyright Office that he and his colleagues had uncovered the Sony rootkit problem a month before news of it broke in November 2005 but he didn't. That's because under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act he could have been subject to prosection, Felten and UC Berkeley law student Aaron Perzanowski said, News.com reports.

Because of the lag time, "a great many of consumers were at risk every day," Felten said. "Our exemption request is fundamentally asking for protection for those consumers."

Felten and other researchers are asking the Copyright Office for an examption for research and dissemination of this kind of information. As for Hollywood, industry spokespersons strongly urged the Copyright Office not to make any changes, saying other laws could handle situations like Sony, and anyway, Felten's lawyers misread the DMCA.

"There are many other avenues to address these questions, and certainly many other laws that may be relevant in this circumstance," said Steven Metalitz, a senior vice president at the International Intellectual Property Alliance. ... [He] offered a detailed list of reasons why he said such an interpretation of the DMCA was incorrect. The law already provides sufficient protection in Section 1201 for researchers like Felten to do their work, he said. (That section, 1201(j), permits bypassing anticopying technology "solely for the purpose of good faith testing, investigating, or correcting, a security flaw or vulnerability.")

The Copyright Office will make final determination on 100 proposed exemptions by the end of October.

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