Ruling jeopardizes media copy protection

Summary:A French court has ruled against copy protection software on DVDs that prevented the plaintiff from copying a DVD of Mulholland Drive into a video tape for "personal use" (which is mildly amusing, as Mulholland Drive is exactly the kind of movie I'd expect would appeal to French tastes).

A French court has ruled against copy protection software on DVDs that prevented the plaintiff from copying a DVD of Mulholland Drive into a video tape for "personal use" (which is mildly amusing, as Mulholland Drive is exactly the kind of movie I'd expect would appeal to French tastes). Software included on the DVD prevented the copy, causing the Frenchman to get mad, so he did a very American thing and filed suit, and presto, he has set a precedent that jeopardizes copy protection on media products in France, if not Europe.

Some will rejoice at the advancement of "fair use" principles to the digital age. I think they are mistaken. "Fair use" was what enabled things like video cassette recorders to be legal. You can't use the threat of copyright-infringing use to stop the release of new technology. Studios, however, aren't stopping people from buying DVD recorders (or video cassette recorders). You can still record the stuff you make, or the broadcasts you receive off the television. What you can't do is copy the product which is sold as a single-copy product.

If I create a software product, I don't expect that anyone should have the right to force me to release the source code so they could distribute their own copies. If I wanted to, fine, I would do that (and have), but nobody is going to tell me I am required to release it. I'd rather stop writing software than have someone infringe on my right to make product however I damn well please.

Similarly, if a musician, or the studios to whom he has sold his rights in return for royalties, choose to release their product under a single-copy license, they have the right to do that. Furthermore, they have the right to design their products however they please, including in a way that actively prevents people from bypassing the single-copy restriction.

This isn't a safety issue. Government requires automakers to meet certain safety standards, and that is good. My life doesn't depend on making a "backup" copy of "The Incredibles" DVD. This is nothing less than an attempt by government (in this case, the judiciary) to dictate how a company can sell their products. IMHO, that is wrong.

As an aside, how is this going to affect Apple's iTunes site? Would this precedent apply to digital copy protection? Methinks it will, and methinks also that if it does, all of France might find itself suddently unable to access iTunes. That's not because Apple wants to do this. Rather, the studios would require it, as they aren't about to let unprotected music flow out through the iTunes site.

Topics: Legal

About

John Carroll has programmed in a wide variety of computing domains, including servers, client PCs, mobile phones and even mainframes. His current specialties are C#, .NET, Java, WIN32/COM and C++, and he has applied those skills in everything from distributed web-based systems to embedded devices. In his spare time, he enjoys the world... Full Bio

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