April 11, 2005

Note To Some Library Folk - You Cannot Hack The DMCA

[In the US, the DMCA, hacks you]

Theshiftedlibrarian - Could the DMCA Exemption for Libraries Lead the Way through the DRM Maze? (thanks, Bruce Umbaugh) quotes a mistaken belief: "The DMCA already has a built-in exemption for libraries and other such nonprofit entities, which means it looks like you're free to convert those problematic encrypted WMA files into MP3 so that the majority of your patrons will be able to access and play said files in a noninfringing manner."

And asks: "... grants are due in June, and this year there's finally a "dream big" one that my organization could apply for. I've already pitched a half dozen ideas, two of which we're probably going to submit and one of which a member library is going to submit. But what if we submitted a grant to actually do what Ben proposes? What would the implications be? Is it realistic?"

Kill this now. I am not a lawyer, but I do know the DMCA cases very, very, well. Don't even think about it. The DMCA provision for libraries is extremely limited, having to do with evaluation of works. The above idea is another version of the problem of "substantial-non-infringing use" versus the DMCA. So far, sadly, the DMCA wins.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in dmca | on April 11, 2005 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
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I've never understood the library exemption. It says it's OK if "A nonprofit library... gains access to a commercially exploited copyrighted work solely in order to make a good faith determination of whether to acquire a copy of that work for the sole purpose of engaging in conduct permitted under this title". What does that mean?

"conduct permitted under this title" would refer to Title 17, the copyright code. So the library has to be intending to do something that doesn't violate copyright; like, for example, owning books and videos and lending them out. That's legal and it's the business of libraries.

But what's this about breaking the encryption being OK solely to determine whether to acquire a copy? When would a library need to do that? I can't think of any examples. If a library wanted to decide, say, whether to get a certain DVD, would their decision be aided in any way by using DeCSS and ripping a disk? I don't see it.

Are there some other kinds of materials which might have technological protections where the library would in fact benefit from circumventing them, in order to decide whether to acquire the content?

Posted by: Cypherpunk at April 14, 2005 02:09 AM

Just off the top of my head, it might be applicable to Ebooks, especially where there's a need for a compatible reader to access the Ebook content. DVD encryption at least follows a single standard. There's many incompatible existing Ebook formats.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at April 14, 2005 11:20 AM