The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is an extension to United States copyright law passed unanimously on May 14, 1998, which criminalizes the production and dissemination of technology that allows users to circumvent technical copy-restriction methods. Under the Act, circumvention of a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work is illegal if done with the primary intent of violating the rights of copyright holders. (For a more detailed analysis of the statute, see WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act.)
Reverse engineering of existing systems is expressly permitted under the Act under specific conditions. Under the reverse engineering safe harbor, circumvention necessary to achieve interoperability with other software is specifically authorized. See 17 U.S.C. Sec. 1201(f). Open-source software to decrypt content scrambled with the Content Scrambling System and other encryption techniques presents an intractable problem with the application of the Act. Much depends on the intent of the actor. If the decryption is done for the purpose of achieving interoperability of open source operating systems with proprietary operating systems, the circumvention would be protected by Section 1201(f) the Act. Cf., Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Corley, 273 F.3d 429 (2d Cir. 2001) at notes 5 and 16. However, dissemination of such software for the purpose of violating or encouraging others to violate copyrights has been held illegal. See Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes, 111 F. Supp. 2d 346 (S.D.N.Y. 2000).
The DMCA has been largely ineffective in protecting DRM systems, as software allowing users to circumvent DRM remains readily available over the Internet. However, those with an interest in preserving the DRM systems have attempted to use the Act to restrict the distribution and development of such software, as in the case of DeCSS.
Although the Act contains an exception for research, the exception is subject to vague qualifiers that do little to quell the fears of the research community. Cf., 17 U.S.C. Sec. 1201(g). The DMCA has had an impact on the worldwide cryptography research community, because many fear that their cryptanalytic research violates, or might be construed to violate, the DMCA. The arrest of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov in 2001, for alleged infringement of the DMCA, was a highly publicized example of the law’s use to prevent or penalize development of anti-DRM measures. Sklyarov was arrested in the United States after presenting a speech at DEF CON and subsequently spent several months in jail. The DMCA has also been cited as chilling to legitimate users, such as students of cryptanalysis (including, in a well-known instance, Professor Felten and students at Princeton), and security consultants such as Niels Ferguson, who has declined to publish information about vulnerabilities he discovered in an Intel secure-computing scheme because of his concern about being arrested under the DMCA when he travels to the US.
On 25 April 2007 the European Parliament supported the first directive of EU, which aims to harmonize criminal law in the member states. They adopted a first reading report on harmonizing the national measures for fighting copyright abuse.
If the European Parliament and the Council approve the legislation, the submitted directive will oblige the member states to consider a crime an international copyright abuse of intellectual property committed with commercial purposes. The text suggests numerous measures: from fines to imprisonment, depending on the gravity of the offence.
The EP members supported as a whole the Commission motion, changing some of the texts. They excluded patent rights from the range of the directive and decided that the sanctions should apply only to offences with commercial purposes. Piracy for personal, non-commercial purposes was also excluded from the range of the directive.
Source : wikipedia