Harvard team to copyright office: Let consumers hack DRM abandonware

04 Dic Harvard team to copyright office: Let consumers hack DRM abandonware

CNET News, By Chris Soghoian, December 3, 2008
When a DRM based music, video or software product shuts down, as has happened in the past with Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Wal-Mart, one thing is guaranteed: customers lose legal access to works that they paid for. Existing copyright law makes it a crime to attempt to circumvent digital rights management (DRM) protections, even on legally purchased music, and so consumers are generally dependent upon the failing media store to provide some remedy — perhaps a refund, or a temporary delay of a few months in the death of the DRM authenticating servers that are necessary for full use of the music. However, the store instead may simply choose to say “bah humbug,” shut down, and leave consumers high and dry. What if instead, consumers had a legal right to circumvent the DRM protecting those legally obtained but now useless songs, videos, software and video games? If this blogger and a legal team from Harvard University are successful, this just might be possible.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal for users to break or reverse engineer the DRM that protects music, video, software and consumer electronics. However, every three years, the copyright office asks the public to submit requests for new exemptions to the law. In years past, consumers were given the right to hack region-locked mobile phones and security researchers were allowed to circumvent the DRM protecting malware-infected music CDs (such as in the famous Sony Rootkit fiasco). The deadline for this year’s requests was Tuesday afternoon. A team from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society has requested an exemption that, in the event that a central-server based DRM scheme fails in the future, would permit consumers to circumvent and evade the DRM protecting the music, movies, software and games that they have previously purchased — in order to maintain their existing lawful right to access those works.