Peter Mitsis (anglais seulement)

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Peter Mitsis (anglais seulement)



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Suggestion de Peter Mitsis reçue le 14 septembre 2001 par courriel

Objet : Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues

Regarding the "Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues"

I am a computer engineer and have great reservations against making it illegal to circumvent technological measures protecting a copyrighted work. This is a foolish knee-jerk reaction to the online piracy of digital works. To explain my views on this I will reference recent events in the United States related to this issue, followed by some thoughts and examples on reverse engineering.

In 1998 the United States of America passed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). Contained within the act was an article stating that circumventing technological measures that protect a copyrighted digital work would be illegal. This aspect of the act has been flagrantly abused. This is evidenced by three prominent ongoing cases in the States.

The first such case occurred when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) sued the online magazine "2600" under the DMCA for running a story about decrypting DVD-movies and publishing the source code that could allow this. Imagine if Firestone sued "The Globe and Mail" for running stories about how bad their tires were. The magazine was sued because the MPAA did not like the magazine's content and did not want the public to have access to this software. Heaven forbid if the public should be able to watch a DVD movie they bought on another continent (for the encryption scheme prevented this very thing), or even worse should they be able to watch a movie on their Linux computer (for which at the time their was no software that would play a DVD movie on a Linux computer).

The second such case occurred when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) threatened to sue Professor Edward Felten under the DMCA if he published his paper on the flaws and weaknesses of their Secure Digital Musical Initiative (SDMI) security codes. Nevermind that the public was invited to crack their security methods for a prize provided they disclosed the results only to SDMI. The professor did not want the prize money; he wanted to publish. Oh, I'm sorry, we don't like the information you are about to publish, so if you do, we'll sue you. That's not right.

The third and most recent occurred when the American government arrested russian computer programmer Dmitry Sklyarov when he came to the States to give a talk at a conference. Why did they arrest him? The company Adobe tipped the government off that he was in the country talking about the weaknesses, flaws, and shortcomings of the methods used to encrypt digital books, or E-Books as they are commonly called. To top it off, while in Russia he had the audacity to write software for a russian company that would actually remove the encryption (circumvent technological measures) from the E-Books.

Clearly these are three obvious cases of DMCA abuse all based upon the same article about which I am writing to you to express my concerns. I can not see how a responsible government would allow such an act to pass into law knowing exactly how it has been abused elsewhere and will likely be abused here.

I would also like to attack this concept of the illegality of circumventing technological measures the protect copyrighted digital work from another angle. Reverse engineering. Reverse engineering is a legal common practice that allows third parties who are not privy to the secrets and knowledge of the workings of a device to study it and to determine how to make their own that will work just as well, if not better than the original. If it weren't for companies reverse engineering IBM's personal computer line, the computer industry would not be anywhere near to where it is today. The reverse engineering allowed more companies to compete in the marketplace driving innovation. This is good.

If the circumvention is illegal, that means reverse engineering is also illegal. This does not completely eliminate, but it does drastically reduce the competition in the marketplace. Contemplate the following scenario.

Group A creates encrypted digital books, or E-Books. Group B (which could be part of group A) obtains a liscense from company A for the method to decrypt them so that they can build a device and sell it to the public so that they can read group A's e-books. No problems so far. Group C comes into the picture. Group C does not have the money to obtain a liscense from group A so that they can create their own devices to sell, or do with as they please. However, group C has a bunch of smart people--they reverse engineer the method group A used to encrypt the e-books. Group C then takes this knowledge and creates a device that competes with group B. Group B complains to group A, and group A then sues group C not for patent infrigement or illegal copyright use, but for circumventing their technological measure. That is not right.

At the current time, any group or individual can reverse engineer a product. That is good. I do not like having my rights and freedoms attacked, especially from behind a smokescreen.

Peter Mitsis
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