Appeals court rules bypassing DVD copy protection illegal
Legal viewing systems not available for all Linux systems
The production and dissemination of computer software that can circumvent the copy protection of DVD movies is illegal, according to a ruling by the Helsinki Court of Appeals.
With its decision, the court overturned an acquittal handed down by a lower court in the so-called CSS case.
Facing charges were two copyright activists, who set up a computer programme which makes it possible to circumvent the CSS copy protection on DVD recordings.
The activists disseminated the programme over the Internet in 2006.
The aim of the copy protection is to prevent illegal copying of video discs, and the dissemination of the programming over the Internet.
The defence maintained that the purpose of the software was to make it possible to watch DVDs on computers using the Linux operating system, and that it was of no help in copying discs.
According to the second activist, Mikko Rauhala, the central issue surrounding the decision of the Court of Appeals is not one of copyrights. In his view, the key matter is the protection of the interests of manufacturers of DVD players.
“Commercial interests seek to licence DVD players. If someone wants to make a player, it is necessary to give money to the DVD authority. As I see it, this is what the matter is right now, that there is an attempt to push those who distribute free software off the market.”
Not all versions of Linux even have licensed DVD software.
On the practical level, in the light of the decision by the Court of Appeals, most Linux users are using illegal software of some sort in order to be able to watch DVDs on their own computers.
The Court of Appeals found that CSS protection is a so-called effective protection, and that circumventing it is a crime under copyright law.
Because of the minor nature of the offence, the court did not hand down a punishment, noting that at the time of the act, there were numerous similar programmes available for the same purpose.
The court also took into consideration the fact that the activists reported on themselves to the police.
Rauhala says that he hopes to appeal their conviction to the Supreme Court.