European DMCA

David O'Callaghan davidoc at
Thu Aug 9 17:03:55 UTC 2001

From: "Alessandro Rubini" <rubini at>
> David O'Callaghan:
> > They lock an ebook to a particular computer, but this is not a right
> > based on copyright.
> That's the problem of DMCA: it allows restricting fair use and makes
> illegal any tool to circumvent such restriction. Independently of
> whether it is used to get back fair use or circumvent copyright.

Yes, and to bring this back to the subject, the "European DMCA"
makes allowing such Fair Use optional at best: maybe having
an exception to the restrictions for people with disabilities.

> > Once the publisher makes the first sale, they have no control over
> > who uses the book, and this is as it should be.
> Actually, the same (though to a much lesser extent) happens with
> ebooks. I can lend the computer, or get people at my home. Or copy
> information by hand. There is no NDA associated to theinformation, so
> they do not control who can read it.

Still, it makes it a lot more difficult, compared to the ease of 
transporting and giving books to people.

> But this is of minor importance (and note that I defenitely do not
> agree with those resctrictions, I was just trying to play the devil's
> advocate).

Yes, I realise that (although I wasn't quite sure while reading your
article initially).

> What I care about is this:
> > You are saying that a piece of software that COULD be modified to
> > breach a copyright should not be allowed?
> I'm saying that is *is* not allowed. Not that it should. That's DMCA,
> that's why Dmitry has been arrested, that's why DeCSS is illegal and
> people is being sued for publishing those few lines of code.

I'm reasonably familiar with those cases. What I meant was that a piece
of code that could be turned into another piece of code that could then
be used to infringe copyrights should not possibly be considered illegal
as it is at least two steps away from being used to commit a crime.

I mean, suppose Dmitry's code contained a function 

char * decrypt_text(char * encrypted_ebook_text)
    /* insert magic here */
    return encrypted_ebook_text;

That surely could not be considered to be "dangerous" in any sense.
If the DMCA makes it illegal to give people the idea or framework in
which to write "circumvention devices" then... I don't know what!


David O'Callaghan

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