Finland Court OKs DVD Copying When Copy Protection Is 'Ineffective'

Tod Hunter
HELSINKI, Finland — In a unanimous decision, Helsinki District Court has ruled that the Content Scrambling System (CSS) used to protect DVD movies from being copied is “ineffective" because it can be defeated. This is the first European court decision to interpret new Finnish copyright law amendments that ban the circumvention of “effective technological measures."

After the copyright law amendments were accepted in late 2005, a group of Finnish computer hobbyists and activists opened a website where they posted information on how to circumvent CSS, then appeared in a police station and reported themselves for copyright law violation. Most of them thought that the police would not investigate the case, or it would not be prosecuted. The case went to Helsinki District Court.

The court decision said that CSS no longer achieves its protection objective. Two expert witnesses told the court that a Norwegian hacker defeated CSS protection in DVDs in 1999, and end-users have been able to easily get similar circumventing software from the Internet. Some operating systems come with this kind of software pre-installed. The court concluded that “CSS protection can no longer be held ‘effective’ as defined in law” and all charges were dismissed.

The EU copyright directive defines a technological measure as being effective "where the use of a protected work or other subject-matter is controlled by the rights-holders through application of an access control or protection process, such as encryption, scrambling or other transformation of the work or other subject-matter or a copy control mechanism, which achieves the protection objective."

In the U.S., Evil Angel Productions doesn't copy-protect its DVDs for the same reason: The copy-protection systems can be defeated.

"We don't bother with copy protection because systems get broken within a month," Evil Angel Public Relations Representative Karen Stagliano told XBIZ. "[Copy protection] would stop the people who make the one-offs, but it doesn't stop the people who are making literally hundreds, using a DVD as a master to replicate a lot of product. When a replicator asks us if we want to license MacroVision or something, we just shrug our shoulders and say 'What's the point?' I wish that it worked, but there are people who make a hobby out of breaking these things."

"We tend to go the route of cease-and-desist [to protect our content]. Last year we spent a lot of money on lawsuits against large-scale duplicators and people who were knowledgably distributing those illegal DVDs," Stagliano said. "We've settled one or two cases, but we still have cases pending in the U.S., Canada and Germany."