[NOTE: Updated on 8-21-09 to add the abstract and correct Mr. Jondet's title.]
Nicolas Jondet, a Ph.D. candidate at the AHRC Research Centre in Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the University of Edinburgh, will present France: The Land of the Linux? The Case of DRM Interoperability and Reverse-engineering, at GikII 2009 (also known as Gikii 4), a conference sponsored by the Institute for Information Law (IViR) of the Faculty of Law, University of Amsterdam, to be held September 17-18, 2009 at the Institute. I’ve requested an abstract, which I’ll post here if I receive it. Here is the abstract (thanks to Mr. Jondet for providing it):
“Digital Rights Management systems (DRMs), the technical protection measures that media companies embed in digital content to control the way it is accessed and used by consumers, have become ubiquitous in the field of commercial entertainment. Introduced to prevent piracy these digital locks are not, however, infallible: ingenious computer enthusiasts always find ways to circumvent them. To counter DRMs’ inherent fallibility, international copyright laws have been modified to punish such circumvention. This new copyright regime and the widespread deployment of DRMs have raised many legal and practical concerns.
“Not only have DRMs seemingly failed to prevent piracy, they have also generated a series of unintended problems for legitimate consumers. Many have been frustrated by faulty and sometimes hazardous DRMs. More importantly, the lack of interoperability between competing DRMs often ‘locks-in’ consumers with one technology provider, preventing them from changing the software or devices they use to play content.
“This lack of interoperability is particularly obvious to consumers whose computers are not operated by proprietary software such as the well-known Windows and Mac operating systems, but by open source software such as Linux-based platforms. Traditionally, DRMs have been designed by proprietary software companies to work exclusively on proprietary platforms.
“This leaves open source users unable to enjoy the media content they have bought as they do not have access to the kind of DRM-compliant players available to Windows and Mac users. To overcome this deadlock, members of the open source community have managed to devise software bypassing DRM protections. This has been done through the process of reverse-engineering. The software obtained through reverse engineering allows open source users to play protected content. Is such software lawful, however? Or, since it has been developed wihtout the consent of DRM providers, does it constitute a circumventing device, the creation, possession and dissemination of which is prohibited.
“In July 2008, the Conseil d’Etat, the French Supreme Court in administrative matters, ruled that DRM circumvention fines were not applicable to the possession of open source software obtained through the reverse engineering of DRMs if this software was designed for interoperability purposes. This paper will explain this decision in depth. It will also explain the context of open source adoption in France, trying to determine whether the widespread adoption of open source software by French institutions, notably the French Parliament will have an impact in shaping copyright law.”