updated 10:40 pm EDT, Sun July 25, 2010
Court says cracking DRM OK if purpose is legal
A new court ruling on Friday could set a legal precedent that allows bypassing digital rights management (DRM) for fair use purposes. New Orleans circuit Judge Emilio Garza found that GE hadn't violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by using hacked security dongles to repair uninterruptible power supplies from MGE UPS Systems as the goal itself was legal. While a jury fined GE $4.6 million for breaking copyright and misusing trade secrets, Judge Garza determined the DMCA hadn't been broken, as using hacked items by itself didn't constitute violating protection at the same time.
"Merely bypassing a technological protection that restricts a user from viewing or using a work is insufficient to trigger the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision," he said. "Without showing a link between 'access' and 'protection' of the copyrighted work, the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision does not apply."
The decision could impact the media industry as it may allow breaking DRM for music, movies and other formats as long as the material isn't pirated. The MPAA and RIAA together have insisted that any violation is piracy and have used this to banRealDVD and similar apps that may technically violate DRM to put media on a computer or other device, even if the resulting material is still protected and can't be easily shared online. Music labels and studios have tried for universal DRM standards like UltraViolet to make transferring content simpler, but these either haven't been finalized or haven't addressed issues such as DVD ripping or moving files to devices that don't support a given DRM format.
It's unknown if MGE plans to appeal the DMCA portion of the ruling.