In an unanimous decision released Friday, the Helsinki District Court ruled that the Content Scrambling System (CSS) used in DVD movies is “ineffective”. It means that use of de-cryption softwares like DeCSS is lawful.
The decision is the first in Europe to interpret new copyright law amendments that ban the circumvention of “effective technological measures”. The legislation is based on EU Copyright Directive from 2001. According to both Finnish copyright law and the underlying directive, only such protection measure is effective, “which achieves the protection objective.”
The background of the case was that after the copyright law amendment was accepted in late 2005, a group of Finnish computer hobbyists and activists opened a website where they posted information on how to circumvent CSS.
The hackers appeared in a police station and claimed to have potentially infringed copyright law. Most of the activists thought that the prosecutor would drop the case. To the surprise of many, the case ended in the Helsinki District Court. Defendants were Mikko Rauhala who opened the website and published an implementation of the source code circumventing CSS.
According to the court, CSS no longer achieves its protection objective. The court relied on two expert witnesses and said that “…since a Norwegian hacker [Jon Johansen] succeeded in circumventing CSS protection used in DVDs in 1999, end-users have been able to get with ease tens of similar circumventing software from the Internet even free of charge. Some operating systems come with this kind of software pre-installed.” Thus, the court concluded that “CSS protection can no longer be held ‘effective’ as defined in law.” All charges were dismissed.
The defendant’s counsel Mikko Välimäki thinks the judgement can have major implications: “The conclusions of the court can be applied all over Europe since the word ‘effective’ comes directly from the Directive”. He continues: “A protection measure is no longer effective, when there is widely availalble end-user software implementing a circumvention method. My understanding is that this is not technology-dependent. The decision can therefore be applied to Blu-ray and HD DVD as well in the future.”
Story filed 27.05.07