30 Days of DRM – Day 26: Investigation of Concealed Code (Circumvention Rights)

Consultations on anti-circumvention exceptions in the U.S. and Australia have raised at least two circumvention rights that involve the right to circumvent to access concealed information contained in software code.  In the U.S., there is a specific exception for circumvention to access the list of websites contained on "block lists" maintained by filtering companies, sometimes referred to as "censorware."  Blocked access to these lists has been viewed as a free speech concern. 

In Australia, Linux Australia recently requested a right to circumvent to investigate suspected copyright infringement.  The group noted that open source developers would be unable to investigate suspected cases involving violations of open source software licensing agreements (which require users to make modifications available to the public) if the software vendor used a DRM system that blocked access to the underlying code.  Without a circumvention right, attempts to circumvent the DRM to access the underlying code would constitute an infringement.

The commonality in these two cases is that there may be a public interest in gaining access to code that is concealed by DRM.  Bill C-60 would have addressed this concern by only making it an infringement to circumvent for the purposes of copyright infringement.  If that approach is abandoned, a general right of circumvention to access concealed information where there is a broader public interest concern at stake is needed.


  1. It might be worth noting that one DRM system has already been widely suspected of itself infringing copyright…

    Sony BMG’s XCP system (of “rootkit” fame late last year) has been reported to contain the LAME library without the permission of its authors.

    Thus the concern of copyright infringement being part of and/or covered up by DRM is not happening in a vacuum.

  2. Russell McOrmond says:

    Who controlls DRM
    It has been confusing to me that copyright holders have blindly trusted the manufacturers of DRM systems. They seem to believe that if control over information technology is revoked from private citizens and allowed to accumulate with a few transnational corporations, that somehow their rights will be protected.

    Many copyright holders believe that DRM is something that is applied to their content, and thus is under their control. Content cannot make decisions (there is no logic systems, just storage), meaning that all the decision making power of a DRM system is in the hardware and software that is run on the devices used to create, distribute and access content. With the knowledge that DRM is all about who controls devices, creators should come to the conclusion that it is better for their own interests if private citizens (including themselves) had the legally protected right to control their own devices, than allowing that control to fall into the hands of a few transnational corporations.

    I think if creators looked at some of the brands involved they would realize that these companies are far less likely to work in the interests of authors than the general public. DRM may offer benefits to these few companies, but greatly harms the interests of creators and everyone else.

    Protecting property rights in a digital world
    [ link ]