Computer Software Piracy and Copyright Infringement Term Paper

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Computer Software Piracy and Copyright Infringement

This work completes my portion of the Blue Team's group project where we were each assigned a set of cases to review and summarize. This report is the summary for case number 3 called, Universal City Studios, Inc. V. Reimerdes. The purpose was to read and then assess each case. The objective of the paper is to provide a case summary and the rules of law that pertain to the case, the main case issues as they influence society, the Court's final conclusion and whether or not I concur and as mentioned a compare and contrast with the other cases assigned.

Case 3 summary

The Defendants were web page owners that provided a software over the internet called DeCSS, which had a sole purpose of decoding the scrambled signals off the plaintiffs' motion picture studios' digital versatile disks (DVDs). With the descrambling software, anyone could take the DVD's and reproduce an exact and flawless copy of the original movie content which was by law a violation of existing copyright statutes.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Universal City Studios, Inc. therefore brought suit against the web site owners, Reimerdes, because of the fact that the defendants were knowingly providing the program over the Internet from their Web site.

The plaintiffs were not arguing the fact that the specialized software technology infringed their copyrights, but rather that because once used the software provided an opportunity to circumvent the copyright protection system and therefore promoting illegal activity and facilitating an infringement. The request by the plaintiffs was to have the distribution of the software stopped through a preliminary injunction as well as expected remedy for losses.

The defendants in their own defense were asserting that they were only implementing their First Amendment rights by posting the software on the web site. The implication was that the defendants were not promoting illegal activity but merely posting information for the sake of providing information t the general public.

Rules of law

There are two real questions here. What does a copyright do and who does the freedom of speech apply. For the copyright, they are owned by an individual or company who has the rights for a creation or work of expression. The exception to this in Copyright law would be if a work was created by an employee of a company, the employer owns the copyright; if an independent contractor signs a written agreements stating that any work performed is therefore the company that owns the contract and therefore the copyright; or if a company purchases another organization or if they sell their own operation, copyrights go to the buyer who would therefore become the copyright owner.

Copyright gives an owner the rights to: reproduction, distribution, performance or display and to create adaptations or derivatives. Copyrights would therefore give the movie producers in this case the ability to realize commercial gain from underlying work or they could license these rights. The bottom line is simple; from the perspective of the copyright the plaintiffs have a very good case if the court agrees that the circumvention software takes away the underlying rights. Thus, the actual law states:

The statute that pertained to this case was Section 1201(a) (2) of the Copyright Act, part of the DMCA, provides that:

No person shall... offer to the public, provide or otherwise traffic in any technology... that

A) is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under [the Copyright Act];

B) has only limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under [the Copyright Act]; or is marketed by that person or another acting in concert with that person with that person's knowledge for use in circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under [the Copyright Act]." (Case Summary, 2000)

Circumvent a technological measure" is defined to mean descrambling a scrambled work, decrypting an encrypted work, or "otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner." n11 The statute explains further that "a technological measure 'effectively controls access to a work' [**11] if the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to a work." (Case Summary, 2000)

Case issues

CSS (Content Scramble System) software is an encryption-based security and authentication system process that provides access control and copy protection for unauthorized reproduction and distribution of movies in the DVD format. DeCSS is a software utility developed to crack the CSS protection and therefore enables users to copy and distribute digital copies of DVD movies. The fact that the DeCSS process did in fact defeat CSS copyright efforts was assumed to be accurate.

The court decision was in the form of a preliminary injunction that would stop the distribution by the defendants of the DeCSS circumvention technology software and implied that the service providers or their Internet web site could not legally give out the decryption software. In so ruling, the court applied the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and dismissed each of the asserted defenses positions. The court determined that the service provider exemption only provides protection from liability for copyright infringement and does not apply to circumvention products and technologies prohibited by the DMCA.

The court ordered the preliminary injunction based on the court's decision that if the defendant's actions of distribution continued they were creating a situation of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were well aware that their argument held merit based on the fact that the defense was only arguing free speech legislation and not defending the circumvention of copyright infringement.

Courts conclusion

The Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for the preliminary injunction. The court determined that the reverse engineering exception did not apply based on the fact that the rule only applied to computer programs and not circumvention of technological systems such as movies. The encryption research exception was also found inapplicable based on the fact that there was no suggestion that any defendant was engaged in good faith encryption research. Most importantly, the court determined that the fair use defense does not apply to Anticircumvention cases under the DMCA because Congress did not so provide in the DMCA.

The court ruled that enforcement of the DMCA Anticircumvention provisions did not violate the First Amendment, and the application of the DMCA Anticircumvention provisions to prohibit the production and distribution of the DeCSS circumvention technology does not violate the First Amendment. Furthermore, the court determined the prior restraint doctrine does not require denial of the preliminary injunction.

Opinion on decision believe in the copyright laws even though I love the concept of Napster and free movies songs and DVD's. The copyright laws provide the privileges of ownership. If I was to write a best selling book, song or software program, I would want to receive my fair share and thus would not want my work being exploited on the Internet simply because there was a software program available that could digitize and distribute my work. The problem may not even be in the copying of the work but what may be more important is the distribution possibilities.

Compare and contrast

One major contrast in each of these cases is the distinction between technology and software. The copyright laws seem to be better prepared to handle suits filed revolving around software disputes as opposed to physical technology such as DVD's. For example, the Real software position was a good demonstration of how software is easily protected.

The comparison is obviously that…

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