something that continuously intrigues me is the current status of using
Free Software to play DVD's here in Ireland, is it legal or not and what
is the status of distributing such software?
One thing I thnk we _should_ be able to rule out are the patent issues,
as software cannot be covered by Patents in Ireland/Europe (despite the
fact the Patents Office has issued 30,000+ and the Council of Ministers
is attempting to railroad them in). So that should mean at least we
(Irish people) don't have to pay the DVD-Forum for each copy of our
software (especially with the increasing amounts for proper sound
decoding). Of course by implication I am suggesting that there is no
problem with Linux distributions in Ireland shipping Mp3 codecs.
The thing I am far from certain about is the act of de-CSSing a DVD to
play it. IANAL but to me there seems to be conflicting opinions in the
relevant law. I know that someone has been prosecuted for selling
Playstation mod chips here in Ireland (which allow you to backup your
games) which provides hardware circumvention of a copy protection
device, despite the legitimate uses, this makes me think that libdvdcss
and the like are likely also problematic, but one was a physical object,
the other software, does this matter?
Looking at the Irish Copyright Act from 2000 there are numerous sections
which seem to have relevance:
*46.*—(1) A person infringes the copyright in a work where he or she,
without the licence of the copyright owner—
(/b/) sells, rents or lends, or offers or exposes for sale, rental or loan,
(/c/) imports into the State, or
(/d/) has in his or her possession, custody or control,
an article specifically designed or adapted for making copies of that
work, knowing or having reason to believe that it has been or is to be
used to make infringing copies.
Does software constitute an article? Could a copyright holder use this
section against something like libdvdcss which is not (to my mind)
specifically designed or adapted for _that_ work. Also would you have
reason to believe it _has/is_ being used to make _infringing_ copies as
oppossed ot legitimate copies (more coming on them).
**87.*—(1) The copyright in a work is not infringed by the making of a
transient and incidental copy of that work which is technically required
for the viewing of or listening to the work by a member of the public to
whom a copy of the work is lawfully made available.
The above exception says to me that it is just fine to do whatever
copying is required to play a DVD you are entitled to throw into a
player. The question is what does "technically required" mean? Does it
mean that if you could have gone and bought a specialist player for
€10million you aren't technically required to create a transient copy?
Does it mean that if you want to make a copy of a cd to your ipod so you
can listen to it, it was a technical requirment for listening on your
ipod so you are allowed to do it? Does it just mean that the fact you
are making a copy of the movie on your screen isn't copying and is
therefore allowed? It seems like very open language, but no doubt it is
believed to have a precise meaning.
*370.*—(1) This section applies where, by or with the licence of the
(/a/) copies of copyright works to which rights protection measures have
been applied or recordings of performances to which rights protection
measures have been applied, are made available to the public
(2) A person who makes available to the public or re-utilises the copies
referred to in /subsection (1)/ has the same rights and remedies against
a person who—
(/a/) (i) makes,
(ii) sells, rents or lends, or offers or exposes for sale, rental or loan,
(iii) imports into the State, or
(iv) has in his or her possession, custody or control,
a protection-defeating device, knowing or having reason to believe that
it has been or is to be used to circumvent rights protection measures, or
(/b/) provides information, or offers or performs any service, intended
to enable or assist persons to circumvent rights protection measures,
as a rightsowner has in respect of an infringement of any of his or her
rights under this Act.
The start of the kicker, especially for us section 2.b. That seems to
say that providing libdvdcss is illegal as it provides information to
enable the circumvention of rights protection measures. I do wonder what
"made available to the public" means in section 1.a but it doesn't end here:
*374.*—Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed as operating to
prevent any person from undertaking the acts permitted—
(/a/) in relation to works protected by copyright under /Chapter 6/ of
or from undertaking any act of circumvention required to effect such
So this says that the Digital Rights Management section shall not
prevent anyone undertaking the acts permitted in II.6.87 which are
making transient and incidental copies required for the viewing of or
listening to the work by a member of the public to whom a copy of the
work is lawfully made available.
The problem is that while this seems to say I can play DVD's, does it
also say that anyone can do whatever they want with regards to selling
devices which get around the digital rights protection so as to allow
people more convient viewing/listening? I have noticed that DVD players
are commonly advertised as "region-free" which is circumventing a
protection measure, but how does that stack up compared to an Irish
Linux distribution shipping an equivalent software dvd player (e.g. vlc)?
Do we have to start turning ourselves in? Could I be arrested if I stood
on Grafton Street handing out a Free DVD player (say a knoppix-alike
which also held vlc installers for Windows and Mac), what if I sold them
for €5 (including all source on the cd of course), what if I pre-install
such a system onto a computer?
To complicate things even further, _they_ could probably (depends on
what an independent work means) argue that a DVD is in fact a database
("database" means a collection of independent works, data or other
materials, arranged in a systematic or methodical way and individually
accessible by any means but excludes computer programs used in the
making or operation of a database;) and then that pulls in a further
chuck of law!
Does anyone have any reasonable references to analysis of these issues
under the Irish legal system or would anyone know just how this could
best be sorted out so we know whether we are like France, where working
on vlc is fine, or like the USA where just having vlc on your hard drive
is probably illegal!
NOTE: I have clipped "irrelevant" sections from the sections of the Act
quoted above so as to try and keep this email a bit tighter. The urls
are there and here are the general urls to get yourself to the index of
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