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India Should Make Use of Copyright Law
Please help make the Manifesto better, or accept it, and propagate it!
If digitally locked information can be protected from arbitrary
distribution, then India should keep the human rights organizations off
back, by compelling foreign news gatherers to use digital locks, to
unauthorized distribution of video footage taken in India.
New York Times
April 27, 2001
CYBER LAW JOURNAL
Does an Anti-Piracy Plan Quash the First Amendment?
By CARL S. KAPLAN
here's a long-accepted notion in the publishing world that between the
of an author to control the uses of his book and the right of a reader
engage in free speech is the safety valve known as "fair use."
The fair use doctrine under copyright law permits uncompensated use of
copyrighted works in some circumstances, such as in teaching, research
news gathering. Thanks to fair use, a reporter can quote portions of a
newsworthy letter in an article and a scholar can use parts of a poem in
But there's a related question that has never been settled by the
Does fair use, which has its roots in the First Amendment, entitle the
scholar, reporter or others to gain access to the copyrighted work in
first place -- -- especially when the material is guarded by a
device designed to prevent digital piracy?
The riddle is not some academic musing. It's at the heart of a
closely-watched copyright and First Amendment case winding its way
the federal appeals maze. A panel of judges from the United States Court
Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, is scheduled to hear
in the case, "Universal City Studios v. Reimerdes," on May 1.
In what is sure to be a packed courtroom, Kathleen M. Sullivan, the dean
Stanford Law School and a celebrated First Amendment scholar, will argue
the defendant Eric Corley, a Long Island-based editor and publisher of
a hacker publication and Web site.
Arguing for the other side, a group of movie studios, will be Charles
a New York-based lawyer. A lawyer for the Department of Justice, Daniel
Alter, will also address the panel. Whatever the Second Circuit decides,
legal experts say it's likely the case will be heard eventually in the
United States Supreme Court.
The case revolves around a piece of software devised by a Norwegian
called DeCSS. The underground code, available on the Internet, decrypts
unlocks the information in an encrypted DVD movie disk and allows a user
view the film on an unauthorized Linux DVD player or place it on a hard
drive, potentially for copying or mass distribution.
Not surprisingly, DeCSS became Hollywood's nightmare. Last year eight
studios filed suit in federal court against Corley for posting the
on his own Web site and linking to other sites that also contained the
The studios argued that Corley's actions in providing and "trafficking"
the software violated a federal law, the Digital Millennium Copyright
1998, which prohibits distribution of a device that is primarily
circumvent a technological barrier guarding a copyrighted work. (Shawn
Reimerdes, another defendant, was earlier dropped from the case).
Following a trial last summer, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the United
District Court for the Southern District, in Manhattan, agreed with the
studios that Corley's distribution of the code violated the law. He
an order banning Corley from posting or linking to the software.
Significantly, Judge Kaplan also found that the anti-trafficking law
constitutional muster even though it does not include any fair use
valve. According to Judge Kaplan, anyone who distributes DeCSS code
the law, even if he distributes it to someone who merely wishes to
to 'unlock' a movie and make a fair use of it.
"This case poses the most important constitutional issues of the first
of the 21st Century," said Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia Law
School and one of the co-authors of a friend-of-the-court brief
Corley. "The case points up the intrinsic First Amendment conflict with
new law of copyright," he said.
On appeal, the legal arguments will consider whether Congress may pass a
that, in effect, allows movie studios not only to place a digital "lock"
their films but also to sue anyone who distributes the digital key. Such
powers would prevent pirates from copying films but fair users as well.
Various civil liberties groups, some law professors and the defendant in
Universal lawsuit all argued in briefs and friend-of-the-court briefs
the First Amendment absolutely requires that would-be fair users have
right to use certain information -- such as decryption software -- to
access to copyrighted works.
They argue that the doctrine of fair use becomes meaningless in a
world where any publisher, movie studio or record company can place an
electronic wrapper around a work of art making it impossible to make a
In the past, when a company published a book, the fair use rights of
limited its control over the work. But if the same company issues a book
today and encrypts it, its control over readers is far greater -- in
almost unlimited -- unless there is a right of access to the material.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, along with law professors and the
of Justice, argued in a flurry of briefs and friend-of-the-court briefs
the First Amendment does not require that would-be fair users gain
books and movies.
"There is no right to use [decryption] software" so as to use a
work for fair use purposes, Rodney A. Smolla, a law professor at the
University of Richmond and co-author of a friend-of-the-court brief,
"You don't have a fair use right to view an HBO televised fight and make
copy of it," he said. "Similarly, a movie theater can restrict access by
charging admission -- even charging a movie critic," he said. In fact,
added, there is nothing preventing an author from hoarding a work and
sharing it with the public, including would-be fair users.
In addition, said the movie studios in legal papers, using encryption
software to prevent mass digital piracy would be impossible if consumers
could freely distribute and study decryption software. "This is an
important, practical issue," Charles Sims, the lawyer representing the
studios, said in an interview. "One reason why e-books have been so
is that the publishers are concerned about the security of their works
their ability to earn a fair profit without the books getting pirated
first day out there," he said. "The ability of technological protection
schemes to be backed up by . . . some enforcement is vital," he added.
According to Peter Jazsi, a law professor at American University's
Washington College of Law and a co-author of a friend-of-the-court brief
supporting Corley, the Second Circuit has three choices with respect to
First Amendment/Fair Use debate.
They can accept, as Judge Kaplan did, the "unforgiving nature" of the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act and uphold it against the First
challenge mounted by Corley. Or they can disagree with Judge Kaplan's
analysis and say that the anti-trafficking provision "is too much in
with free expression to stand," said Jazsi. Alternately, the court may
"save" the anti-trafficking statute from unconstitutionality by
it as containing a fair use loophole.
"That's where fair use originally came in," said Jazsi. "The judges made
up. It's been around in the American case law since the middle of the
Century, and only made it into federal law in 1976," he said.
Jazsi said that a second major issue that the Second Circuit will
with is the constitutionality of Judge Kaplan's order banning Corley
linking to sites that provide the DeCSS code.
"The whole question of liability for linking . . . is still in its
he said. "I would be very concerned about the broad precedential impact
the Second Circuit's embrace of [Judge] Kaplan's rule."
But Sims, the movie studio's lawyer, said the linking ban was narrow in
scope and justified because Corley had been previously told by the court
stop distributing DeCSS. Corley's subsequent list of links, which he
an act of electronic civil disobedience, frustrated the will of the
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