Sunday, October 12, 2003
Music and the DMCA: The Digital Milennium Copyright Act is the hammer that has often been used to threaten computer science academics and researchers who study digital locks on DVDs and increasingly, music CDs.
As I mentioned earlier this week, a graduate student pointed out that SunnComm's new copy protection technology can easily be thwarted by simply turning off Windows' autoplay feature.
Well, that was Wednesday. On Thursday, SunnComm whipped out the good ol' DMCA and threatened civil and criminal lawsuits against the grad student for telling people about the "shift" key on their computer and its various uses (i.e. disabling Windows' autoplay feature).
On Thursday, SunnComm CEO Peter Jacobs said the company plans legal action and is considering both criminal and civil suits. He said it may charge the student with maligning the company's reputation and, possibly, with violating copyright law that bans the distribution of tools for breaking through digital piracy safeguards.
"We feel we were the victim of an unannounced agenda and that the company has been wronged," Jacobs said. "I think the agenda is: 'Digital property should belong to everyone on the Internet.' I'm not sure that works in the marketplace."
Yeah, the "unannounced agenda" is unadulterated stupidity. You spend tens of millions of investors' dollars on a software management technology that can be disabled by pushing the "shift" key?
Well, after Thursday's temper tantrum, SunnComm backed off its threat of a lawsuit.
SunnComm CEO Peter Jacobs acknowledged his threat to file a lawsuit was a mistake. "I felt the researcher has an agenda, which he does," he said. "But that's not relevant, and I learned that...The long-term nature of the lawsuit and the emotional result of the lawsuit would obscure the issue, and it would develop a life of its own."
Jacobs refused to divulge the reasons for his change of heart, saying only that "when the original firestorm cleared and we had a chance to poll the different organizations (including customers, advisers and shareholders) I started to have a different picture on how to resolve the issue."
Yeah, no lawsuit looks like a better "picture" than a failed lawsuit.