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A US federal court has ruled that a repair firm did not violate the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in performing maintenance on tape backup systems from StorageTek. The decision, reversing the court's earlier ruling, came after an appeal court told the lower court to review its injunction against Custom Hardware.

StorageTek claimed in a 2002 lawsuit, among other things, that Custom Hardware engineers performed procedures that violated the DMCA in gaining access to the tape drive's internal systems (specifically portions of maintenance code). Initially the federal court ruled in favour of StorageTek on this point but an appeal court decided last summer that this constituted an attempt to prevent competition, forcing the lower court to re-examine the case.

Federal Judge Rya Zobel of Massachusetts ruled (PDF) late last month that StorageTek's GetKey security failed to "effectively control access" to the system, invalidating claims that Custom Hardware might have invalidated the DMCA, and reversing his earlier January 2003 decision.

This legal victory for Custom Hardware is only partial, however, since StorageTek is suing it on other grounds of complaint, which the courts are yet to rule on. ®

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