Earlier this year, we wrote about the bizarre story of how the entertainment industry could misuse the law to effectively ban DVD copying
-- even when it's allowed by fair use. It involves a bit of sneaky lawyering, but here's how it works: the group that creates the DVD spec could just create a new spec that would ban any product from making DVD copies. Since the DVD spec includes a totally pointless bit of DRM known as CSS which has been broken for ages, anyone who makes makes any copies without licensing the spec, has then violated the DMCA's anti-circumvention clause -- even if the use was perfectly fair. The specific case where this applies was with a $20,000 DVD jukebox
that would make copies and store your DVDs on a hard drive. It had all sorts of copy protection built in itself, so it was clearly not a tool for unauthorized use. A court agreed that it was perfectly legal
However, for some bizarre reason, the movie industry fears this perfectly legal jukebox and has resolved to kill it. Since the law isn't on its side, it's getting around the ruling by using the DMCA to its advantage. It's made an amendment to the DVD standard that effectively makes it impossible for a company to allow DVDs to be copied
. Thus, even though the law is clear that it's perfectly legal to make a personal copy of a DVD, the makers of the DVD standard (the movie studios) are now saying that you can't license the necessary standard to playback movies unless you don't allow any copying -- and if you do so anyway, you are circumventing the DRM and therefore violating the DMCA. In other words, rather than protecting copyrights, the movie industry is using the DMCA and DRM to define what's acceptable innovation in terms of how a DVD jukebox can work.