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Court Rules That Bypassing Dongle Is Not a DMCA Violation 266

tcrown007 sends along an appeals court ruling that, for once, limits the reach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention clause. "MGE UPS makes UPS systems and software that are protected by hardware dongles. After the dongles expired, GE bypassed the dongles and continued to use the software. MGE sued, won, and has now lost on GE's appeal. Directly from the court's ruling (PDF): "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... The owner's technological measure must protect the copyrighted material against an infringement of a right that the Copyright Act protects, not from mere use or viewing.' Say what? I think I just saw a pig fly by."
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Court Rules That Bypassing Dongle Is Not a DMCA Violation

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  • Dream (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ceraphis ( 1611217 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:07PM (#33023046)
    I wonder if this may ever escalate into being allowed to legally download a torrent of a DVD you own but have broken? Yeah...a guy can dream :(
  • by BradMajors ( 995624 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:12PM (#33023082)

    I think as a whole it is a bad ruling.

    The part where he ruled circumventing a Dongle to use software you are legally entitled to use is not illegal is good.

    But, GE was illegally using software which it did not have the rights to use with of without the Dongle, which the judge said is OK. This part of his ruling is bad.

  • Re:Dream (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tsa ( 15680 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:19PM (#33023140) Homepage

    But does this ruling mean you're now allowed to circumvent the region code on DVDs so you can watch a DVD you bought in Europe in the US?

  • by Pluvius ( 734915 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [3suivulp]> on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:23PM (#33023170) Journal

    No, backing up involves copying, and hence violates copyright.

    (a) Making of Additional Copy or Adaptation by Owner of Copy. — Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided:

    (1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner, or

    (2) that such new copy or adaptation is for archival purposes only and that all archival copies are destroyed in the event that continued possession of the computer program should cease to be rightful.
    -- 17 U.S.C. 117

    For whatever reason, however, this only applies to computer programs. Presumably because other media weren't so easy to copy back when this part of the code was last modified in 1980.


  • by s0litaire ( 1205168 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:42PM (#33023302)

    Think it's more like Linux users will be able to use "open source" programs to play Blu-Ray disks legally.

    As it stands, it's illegal to rip/copy the Blu-Ray to another format for storing or viewing.

    However this ruling makes it legal to break the encryption just for the purposes of playback. (The intended function of the disk is for playback).

    But what do I know! IANAL!

  • by BoberFett ( 127537 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:44PM (#33023316)

    I thought courts have already ruled that a program residing in memory is a copy, and therefore making that copy without the dongle (which implies limited consent to making said copy in memory) is a violation of copyright. I wouldn't be surprised to see this reversed.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:51PM (#33023360) Homepage Journal

    I wonder, given that DVD menus are effectively a simple bytecode run in an interpretor that results in the playing of video (possibly with additional video and audio overlays) that the DVD as a whole can be taken to be a computer program and it's essential associated data files.

  • HDCP? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dusty101 ( 765661 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @04:55PM (#33023386)

    Can any Slashdotters with legal know-how are to comment on any implications this ruling might have for HDCP stripper dongles/boxes?

  • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @05:03PM (#33023448)

    They used the software to *use* the locked-down content, not to violate the copyright, therefore the software is not a circumvention tool (for violating copyright) and can be distributed without breaching the DMCA.

    For the anti-trafficking provision what matters is the potential uses of the tool. That GE as the initial develper used the tools for legitimate purposes is beside the point -- as long as the tools can be used to circumvent copyright protection, they fall under the no-trafficking prohibition. For example, it is perfectly legal to copy the works of William Shakespeare. But it is not legal to break copy-protection on specific editions of his works, even for the purpose of making legal copies. Second, in the US the legal rule is that running software involves copying (copying the binary from storage media to RAM) and therefore requires specific authorization from the copyright owner. In other words, there exist a kind of copyrighted work where "using" the content inheretly involves copying. I think the legal rule is wrong, but as long as it stands you cannot separate "using" and "copying".

  • Finally (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @05:08PM (#33023480)

    Good, finally something to stop such nonsense.

    I imagine these UPS systems are incredibly expensive as it is, and the maker does something so they're limited use? Which was probably discovered AFTER the fact. To me, that's highway robbery, you buy a machine, then have to upgrade a license?

    I have to say, even though GE is one of the big evil companies that most slashdotters hate (or should hate, given hate towards companies like microsoft, GE makes them look like angels) They had a right to fight this.

    Sadly, they only won because they're so damn huge and have a lot of sway in the government *AND* media. If this had been, say, you or me, we'd get taken to the cleaners.

    Funny how the DMCA is coming back to bite the same companies who pushed for it, in the ass.

  • by JakFrost ( 139885 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @05:49PM (#33023718)

    This is the equivalent of buying a game or a program that requires a media check (e.g. "Insert DVD/CD-ROM to start the game") and then downloading a modified executable from [] to play your own game without the media check. Many people have been doing this for a long time and this ruling sets a precedent that effectively legitimizes the usage of these helpful executable.

    The problems with GCW is that a lot of times they include a full copy of the modified executable instead of just a small patcher or cracker program so they are still violating the copyright on the original executable code by distributing it without a license from the authors. The quick solution would be to download the patchers or crackers but since many of those are built using pre-made small assembly or C modular code (not shared libraries or DLLs) that has also be used by virus makers many of these legitimate pieces of modular code have been flagged by anti-virus companies as viruses just because they were used to make them. This is why your keygen, patcher, cracker executable will end up flagging anti-virus warnings immediately on download or usage or even months or years after you've successfully used them without getting an infection since their modules were flagged later. So GCW has a hard time with false-positive virus warnings and that's why they show that web page on download about their code being 100% clean and still allow download of full executables instead of just the patchers.

  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @07:09PM (#33024168) Homepage Journal

    What's so bad about it? Microsoft expressly disclaims any and all warranty and liability, while maintaining that you do not possess your first sale doctrine rights. Check this out: []

  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @07:11PM (#33024186) Homepage Journal

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play on on TV.

    If the court ruled that a dongle is an anti-use device, rather than an anti-copying device, it seems to me that DeCSS might get cleared the same way.

    Any legal types out there want to comment

  • Re:Dream (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Sunday July 25, 2010 @07:31PM (#33024280)

    Even better, disable the UOPs so one doesn't need to sit through 30 minutes of ads before hitting the main menu? UOP was meant to just show the big FBI notice, not protect the ads.

  • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @07:51PM (#33024386) Journal

    It doesn't matter if the DVD says "no copying" if he is making copies that qualify as "fair use", which would take precedence. DMCA isn't about copying anyway, it is about bypassing security encryption. The judge appears to be saying "yes, they used the software illegally and are subject to fine, but using a crack to get around a dongle is not a DMCA violation by itself.".

    In otherwords, if you copy your DVD using any method, then they can still sue you for infringement but is likely not a DMCA violation if you are doing so simply to USE the DVD (fair use). If you did it to make copies to sell, that might be a different case. In short, if you are breaking encryption for your applications that qualify under fair use, thus perfectly legal (make a personal backup copy of a disk you already own, or to create a critique, to parody but not satire, for education, etc.) then there is a good chance that you won't be found to be in violation of the DMCA. Keep in mind, IANAL and even being legally in the right can put you in the poorhouse defending yourself here in the good old USA.

  • Re:Dream (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 25, 2010 @10:50PM (#33025320)

    "UOP was meant to just show the big FBI notice, not protect the ads."

    I'm sure the use for ads was considered before UOP was ever implemented.

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan