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Don't break DRM even if it 'threatens lives'

Copyright cartel opposes DMCA exemptions plan

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Copyright holders have collectively objected to proposed exemptions to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in cases where copyright software causes security and privacy harm. Lawyers for the pigopolists (including the Business Software Alliance, Motion Picture Ass. of America and Recording Industry Ass. of America) also said exceptions that would allow DRM software to be circumvented in hypothetical cases where it "threatens critical infrastructure and potentially endangers lives" might create "uncertainty" in the minds of software developers.

As Ed Felten of Freedom to Tinker puts it, this extraordinary legal argument (page 21-23) means copyright holders want to keep their options open about developing DRM software even when there are doubts about whether it might threaten lives or the systems that underpin the US economy.

"In order to protect their ability to deploy this dangerous DRM, they want the Copyright Office to withhold from users permission to uninstall DRM software that actually does threaten critical infrastructure and endanger lives," Felten writes.

Common sense would dictate that copyright holders would ensure DRM systems pose no risk to critical infrastructure or lives before their deployment, of course, but Felten remains unconvinced good sense will enter into the US Copyright Office's deliberations on the pigopolists submission.

The proposed exemptions were put forward by the Computer and Communications Industry Association and the Open Source and Industry Association during the US Copyright Office’s DMCA exemption rule making review process.

"If past rule makings are a good predictor, it’s more likely than not that the Copyright Office will rule in their favour," he said. ®

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