Holey DRM, Batman!

July 26, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

The DRM, it’s got holes in it.

The big news from today (apart from the news that will apparently be breaking tomorrow) is that the Library of Congress came out with its new list of DMCA exemptions (a task it takes up every three years).

The headline, that everyone is talking about, are the new rules on circumventing cell phone software to enable interoperability of software (a.k.a. jailbreaking).

As an IP lawyer who hasn’t jailbroken his iPhone, I latched onto a different change.  The Library of Congress now explicitly permits circumventing DRM on DVDs to incorporate short portions of the movie for “non-commercial” use.

This is highly interesting for two reasons.  First, they specifically named DVD and the CSS protection used by commercial DVDs.  That means this exemption does not apply to Blue-ray disks.

Second, the additional exemptions may usher in an era of legal de-CSS software.  Sure, DVD ripping software is fairly easy to find, and some of it can be purchased.  But the movie industry has been pursuing the companies that sell the software and winning lawsuits against them.

The threat of litigation may finally be over for vendors of DVD ripping software now that the Library of Congress has sanctioned such a broad-reaching use for the software.

Everyone now has the right to rip a movie to extract a few clips, mix them together, and throw the results up on their blog.  People have been doing that for years.  But it’s nice to know they now have the right.

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