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Ruling on DMCA could allow breaking DRM for fair use

updated 10:40 pm EDT, Sun July 25, 2010

Court says cracking DRM OK if purpose is legal

A new court ruling on Friday could set a legal precedent that allows bypassing digital rights management (DRM) for fair use purposes. New Orleans circuit Judge Emilio Garza found that GE hadn't violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by using hacked security dongles to repair uninterruptible power supplies from MGE UPS Systems as the goal itself was legal. While a jury fined GE $4.6 million for breaking copyright and misusing trade secrets, Judge Garza determined the DMCA hadn't been broken, as using hacked items by itself didn't constitute violating protection at the same time.

"Merely bypassing a technological protection that restricts a user from viewing or using a work is insufficient to trigger the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision," he said. "Without showing a link between 'access' and 'protection' of the copyrighted work, the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision does not apply."

The decision could impact the media industry as it may allow breaking DRM for music, movies and other formats as long as the material isn't pirated. The MPAA and RIAA together have insisted that any violation is piracy and have used this to banRealDVD and similar apps that may technically violate DRM to put media on a computer or other device, even if the resulting material is still protected and can't be easily shared online. Music labels and studios have tried for universal DRM standards like UltraViolet to make transferring content simpler, but these either haven't been finalized or haven't addressed issues such as DVD ripping or moving files to devices that don't support a given DRM format.

It's unknown if MGE plans to appeal the DMCA portion of the ruling.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Chud73

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2010


    You know RIAA and MPAA

    are going to push MGE to appeal that portion of the ruling. Though, this might also push the industry to standardize DRM to an Universal practice throughout. We just have to see how far MGE will go or if RIAA and MPAA will pick up off where MGE does not.

  1. chas_m




    The overzealous DMCA is a textbook example of fascistic (look it up) law that has no place in a free society.

    The conservatives in the US run around all day screaming about fascism but apparently none of them have any clue as to what it actually means. Fair use is exactly what it says it is -- and in no way disrespects the IP or copyrights granted on a work.

    Quite the opposite, in fact: if reasonable Fair Use was incorporated in to all copyright/trademark/etc law, the boundaries of what's piracy and what's not would be much clearer and more likely to be respected by the public. As it is now, they find the law overly restrictive and ridiculous (and quite right too), so they just ignore it wholesale.

    Apple and many others have proven time and time again that treating customers fairly is the best approach to minimizing piracy.

  1. John Desmarais

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2010


    Commentary on on legal system

    What kind of commentary is it on our legal system that I am suprised everytime a judge shows common sense? The DMCA's provisions dealing with DRM and Fair Use have always been a bad piece of legislation - and nothing more than an attempt to criminalize legal behavior that teh entertainment industry dislikes. I applaud Judge Garza for recognizing that DRM that prevents legal activities is asinine.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    Re: you know that...

    Though, this might also push the industry to standardize DRM to an Universal practice throughout.

    Except it'll never be standardized to a point of usability. For example, Apple has shown complete disdain for sharing it's FairPlay or using any other DRM scheme, mainly to keep it's customers locked into their devices. MS has 'opened' their DRM scheme, all in an effort to bring in a large population of users who will then be locked into their OS.

    To such companies, they see DRM as being a means to help sell product, their product, rather than as any attempt to foil piracy or the like.

  1. facebook_Christopher

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2010



    I am working in the media businesses and I have a few partners who are using OM-p (Online Media protection to get their pirated content found and removed --- my question is why are there not more companies using such a service?

  1. facebook_Marty

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Nov 2010


    Protecting myself will have to be the answer

    I have the same concerns as everyone else, and for me I want to protect my content so I too have chosen to take matters in my own hands and use Online Media Protection. They will help me regain control of my own content.

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