Finland: Breaking "ineffective" copy protection is allowed

The Helsinki District Court has found that CSS, the copy-protection scheme used in commercial DVDs, is ineffective as a form of DRM and that the two defendants cited for violating Finnish copyright law were not guilty. After Finland's copyright laws were changed in late 2005 to harmonize with a 2001 EU copyright directive, a group of Finnish copyright activists put up a web site on how to crack and circumvent CSS, information that had been readily known for years. They then turned themselves into the police for violating Finland's new copyright laws.

Two of the activists were charged with illegally manufacturing and distributing a circumventing product along with providing a service to "circumvent an effective technological measure." During the court proceedings, expert witnesses testified as to the ineffectiveness of CSS as a DRM system, an argument the court found compelling: "Since a Norwegian hacker succeeded in circumventing CSS protection used in DVDs in 1999, end-users have been able to get with easy tens of similar circumventing software from the Internet even free of charge. Some operating systems come with this kind of software pre-installed.... CSS protection can no longer be held 'effective' as defined in law."

It should be noted, however, that the Helsinki District Court is at the bottom of Finland's legal system. It is unlikely, but quite possible that other EU member nations also conclude that CSS no longer achieves the protection objective. The EU's copyright directive defines a technological measure as being effective "where the use of a protected work or other subject-matter is controlled by the rights-holders through application of an access control or protection process, such as encryption, scrambling or other transformation of the work or other subject-matter or a copy control mechanism, which achieves the protection objective."

News source: Ars Technica

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