March 08, 2004

Berkman Center Should Talk to Shorenstein Center About DMCA

Filtering software bete noir and DMCA expert Seth Finkelstein has two good posts on his Infothought blog regarding the DMCA, PDFs and reports about blogging. In the first (Making Fair Use of the Report on "Big Media" Meets The "Bloggers"), Seth links to Dowbrigade News, which had noted the irony of a report about bloggers available on the internet not being easily copyable (The Devil Is in the Details):

It [the report] is available as a free download .pdf from the Shorenstein. The weird thing is the extent to which the authors have gone to make sure this milestone article in the academic history of the Blogosphere is unbloggable. Excerpts or selections of the text cannot be saved, or copied and pasted. The document cannot be converted to another format or saved as anything else. The words "Not to be Copied" in 92-point faded-shit brown watermark letters are splayed diagonally across each and every page.

Seth, being smart, knows how to decrypt the relatively trivial encryption scheme used for the PDF. Of course, he also realizes that doing so would definitely violate the DMCA. Seth, being clever, knows that there are often other ways around DRM and provides a couple of means of circumventing the copy protection that, arguably, won't get Seth into trouble for violating the DMCA.

In a follow-up post, he goes into a little more detail how the DMCA operates with regard to circumvention (PDF, DMCA, and "Do Not Remove This Tag Under Penalty Of Law"). Once you have printed an encrypted PDF document to a file, which the Shorenstein paper permitted, the only "protection" for the document is the following code:

% Removing the following eight lines is illegal, subject to the Digital Copyright Act of 1998. mark currentfile eexec 54dc5232e897cbaaa7584b7da7c23a6c59e7451851159cdbf40334cc2600 30036a856fabb196b3ddab71514d79106c969797b119ae4379c5ac9b7318 33471fc81a8e4b87bac59f7003cddaebea2a741c4e80818b4b136660994b 18a85d6b60e3c6b57cc0815fe834bc82704ac2caf0b6e228ce1b2218c8c7 67e87aef6db14cd38dda844c855b4e9c46d510cab8fdaa521d67cbb83ee1 af966cc79653b9aca2a5f91f908bbd3f06ecc0c940097ec77e210e6184dc 2f5777aacfc6907d43f1edb490a2a89c9af5b90ff126c0c3c5da9ae99f59 d47040be1c0336205bf3c6169b1b01cd78f922ec384cd0fcab955c0c20de 000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 cleartomark

As Seth notes, under the DMCA, it is plausible reading of the statutes that removing those lines from the code is a violation of federal law.

The report, which discusses the blogosphere's role in the Trent Lott affair is available here: "Big Media" Meets the "Bloggers" [Fair Use Inhibited PDF]. Perhaps someone from the Berkman Center should discuss some of the issues involved with using fair-use inhibited file formats with the Shorenstein Center.

Posted by Ernest at 4:07 PM
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