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Old 08-11-2010, 01:36 AM   #1
Nathanael
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Librarian of Congress says ebook DRM circumvision legal?

Under the terms of the US Copyright act, chapter 12 para. 1201, every three years the Librarian of Congress is required to "determine whether there are any classes of works that will be subject to exemptions from the statute’s prohibition against circumvention of technology that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work."

In this year's determination, the Librarian has designated six classes of works which are exempt from the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision. Category six, as determined by the Librarian, is:

Quote:
(6) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.
It strikes me that the Librarian probably had in mind the visually impaired, who need to be able to listen to an ebook (mention specifically of "screen readers", for example). However, the determination does not appear to this IANAL's eye to specifically state that one's purpose must be to listen to an ebook, only that any DRM which prevents one from doing so may be lawfully circumvented.

While "screen readers" are generally software that reads to the visually impaired, could it conceivably include any ereader software? And is it sufficient that the DRM prevent my reader software of choice from reading, or could the rights holder designate a particular software? E.g., if a Kindle book can be read by the Kindle app, but not my screen reader of choice, am I still entitled to circumvent the DRM, or must I use the Kindle app?

I believe the Ligrarian's determination is legally binding, but I'm open to correction.
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Old 08-11-2010, 05:53 AM   #2
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From a purely grammatical/logical point of view, the statement: "when all existing ebook editions [...] contain access controls that prevent the enabling [...]" would mean when they prevent the features in some software, regardless of whether or not it works in some other software. In particular, if I have a reader that has text-to-speech for DRM-free books, and some book is only available with DRM, this case would be included in the above statement.

Of course, in legalese grammar and logic rules do not apply.
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Old 08-11-2010, 06:23 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Jellby View Post
Of course, in legalese grammar and logic rules do not apply.
Couldn't have said it better.
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Old 08-11-2010, 11:17 AM   #4
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Does it really matter anymore?

I see all the posts on this topic and at some point we have to ask ourselves, "Does it really matter?"

I have a nook, if there is a book I can only find at Amazon, I have no problem buying it, stripping the drm and loading it to my nook. I'm not sharing it, I didn't steal it, the publisher gets their money, the author gets their royalty and I can read the book that I legally purchased.

I guess it might open the door to let people sell software to strip DRMs or take it a step further in eliminating DRMs.

Either way, I'll continue doing what I'm doing and won't lose sleep over it.
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Old 08-11-2010, 11:18 AM   #5
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I don't think it's anything new. A similar exemption existed during the previous 3-year cycle as well, although the language in this one is a little different.

There are plenty of threads on here arguing about the meaning/interpretation of the previous language.
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Old 08-11-2010, 11:25 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich_D View Post
I see all the posts on this topic and at some point we have to ask ourselves, "Does it really matter?"
Exactly. As long as you're doing it for personal use, and aren't distributing the content nobody can really find out that you're even doing it, and if they did, they probably wouldn't care.

I don't think anybody has ever been sued for the DMCA's anti-circumvention that was purely for personal use, and it's very likely that nobody ever will be.
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Old 08-11-2010, 11:58 AM   #7
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It's important to note, however, that the development and distribution of DRM circumvention tools is still illegal, (presumably) even if those tools are used for personal use only.
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Old 08-11-2010, 11:59 AM   #8
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Wasn't this just talked about here a few weeks ago?
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Old 08-11-2010, 12:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich_D View Post
I see all the posts on this topic and at some point we have to ask ourselves, "Does it really matter?"

I have a nook, if there is a book I can only find at Amazon, I have no problem buying it, stripping the drm and loading it to my nook. I'm not sharing it, I didn't steal it, the publisher gets their money, the author gets their royalty and I can read the book that I legally purchased.

I guess it might open the door to let people sell software to strip DRMs or take it a step further in eliminating DRMs.

Either way, I'll continue doing what I'm doing and won't lose sleep over it.
Yes it does matter. I won't strip a DRm from a book because I believe it to be illegal. If it is legal then I can check out library books on my Kindle by stripping the DRM.
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Old 08-11-2010, 01:26 PM   #10
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I am not a lawyer (nor do I play one on TV). That said, I believe that the key phrase in the Librarian's ruling is this:
Quote:
[...]when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent[...]
Translating from legalese as best I can, this appears to say that it doesn't matter whether your particular edition or copy "contains access controls that prevent..." Rather, stripping the DRM is permitted only "when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain[...]" (my emphasis).

Thus, if there exists any legal edition that lacks such controls, the Librarian's exception would not apply. To be squeaky-clean-legal under this particular exception, you would need to know (for example) that the various services for the blind and visually impaired lack any digital text edition of the book. Those services are the "authorized entities" who are legally permitted to make special editions for the blind and visually impaired without the consent of the copyright holder--even over the objections of the copyright holder--so long as they pay a statutory royalty (which may be $0, or may be actual money -- I don't remember).

The exception is much more narrowly written than many of you appear to think.

Xenophon

P.S. I'm generally on the "DRM-is-stupid" side. I believe that stripping DRM from legitimately-acquired content for personal use only constitutes fair use. I even have written advice-of-counsel to that effect--from an eminent IP lawyer, no less! That said, I think that an individual's main practical defense against lawsuits is that "legitimately-acquired content for personal use only" avoids things like "sharing with 50,000 of my closest friends," and so is likely to remain off the radar of law enforcement. And that any DA who brings a case in spite of "legitimately-acquired content for personal use only" would probably get dope-slapped by the judge for wasting the court's time.
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Old 08-11-2010, 02:53 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProfCrash View Post
Yes it does matter. I won't strip a DRm from a book because I believe it to be illegal. If it is legal then I can check out library books on my Kindle by stripping the DRM.
If you have an account at the library and strip the drm, read the book on your kindle, then delete the drm-free copy, I really don't see an issue.

If you keep the copy or as someone else posted, share it with 50,000 of your closest friends, then yes it is illegal.
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Old 08-11-2010, 03:38 PM   #12
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If you have an account at the library and strip the drm, read the book on your kindle, then delete the drm-free copy, I really don't see an issue.
The issue, for me, is that doing this is illegal. At least that is my understanding of the law. Call me a goodie-too-shoes, but I don't wan't to break the law. Yes, it is small and I doubt anyone from the FBI is going to be kicking down my door if I strip the DRM but that doesn't mean that it is legal and allowable.

I understand that there are others who view it as you do, and that is fine. You have to do what you are comfortable with. Some see it as legal now based on the recent ruling but I don't read the ruling that way.

My understanding of the ruling was that Text To Speech on the Kindle could not be blocked for people who are visually impaired and who do not have access to the book in some other format. So if the book could be read using software on a computer/Laptop/ different e-reader then the DRM could not be hacked.

I do not think it said that all DRM could be stripped.
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Old 08-11-2010, 04:12 PM   #13
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The issue, for me, is that doing this is illegal. At least that is my understanding of the law. Call me a goodie-too-shoes, but I don't wan't to break the law.
I don't agree with it, but I can respect your choice.


I believe I'm obeying the spirit of the law and you choose to obey the letter of the law.
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Old 08-11-2010, 06:42 PM   #14
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Kinda funny that what was perfectly legal, and thought of as fair use 10 years ago, is now illegal.
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Old 08-11-2010, 07:52 PM   #15
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I guess I'm a spirit person, too. DRM is like a speed bump. There's nothing sacred about either; they are just devices to serve a purpose. DRM is a weak device, at that.

People whose ethics are even more effective in achieving the purpose of such a device shouldn't feel guilty for removing it, especially if not removing it would prevent them from fair use, an injustice all its own.

I wouldn't buy a DRMd ebook if I thought I'd feel guilty for stripping it if I ever switched readers.

Of course, I've never been one to put much faith in laws determining right vs wrong. Legal technicalities get real criminals off, while laws that haven't matured with the times can make a criminal out of the good.

Did you know that owning an Encyclopedia Brittanica or taking more than 2 sips of beer while standing is illegal in Texas?
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