And you shall know us by our trail of dead lawsuits

12 May 2007

OK, there are no lawsuits, so they can't really have died. But MRT is keen to make the sending of a bunch of cease-and-desist letters to several large computer and software companies look like the opening salvo in possible litigation. They argue that Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and Real are somehow in breach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by not using a copy-prevention technology like the one sold by MRT (natch). Even in the context of a publicity stunt, you have to wonder whether there is a masochistic streak in the company's upper management. You can imagine the boardroom discussion:

"You know, people hate Macrovision far more than us. But our stuff makes it nearly impossible to play music or videos. Macrovision only make it unpleasant."
"Yeah, Macrovision are pussies."
"You know why? People have heard of Macrovision."
"Yeah, those f**kers in Hollywood actually licensed their stuff. People have to go on the Internet to work out how to get around Macrovision just so they can have a copy that little Timmie is OK to cover with jam."
"That's our problem: nobody's licensed our stuff, so nobody's heard of us, so nobody hates us."
"I know what we should do. Ever hear of this company called SCO? They sued a bunch of people and, now, everybody knows their name."

Somehow, I think Apple, Microsoft, Real and Adobe can rest easy in their beds. Not that I think they were actually worried in the first place. MRT's position is curious in that somebody there read at least part of the DMCA: "It makes illegal and prohibits the manufacture of any product or technology that is designed for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure which effectively controls access to a copyrighted work or which protects the rights of copyright owners."

MRT then goes on to claim: "Under the DMCA, mere avoidance of an effective copyright
protection solution is a violation of the act." Please show me the section of the DMCA that says that.

The DMCA is a flawed law but it contains some significant caveats that, had they not been in place, Apple would have been forced to kill off the iPod years ago. In reality, the DMCA explicitly allows for copying because the intention of the DMCA was not to deny the US consumer fair-use rights they have enjoyed for years.

The DMCA only comes into force if equipment can be proven to infringe the act in any of these three cases:

"they are primarily designed or produced to circumvent; they have only limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent; or they are marketed for use in circumventing".

I'd love to see MRT's lawyer arguing that Microsoft marketed Vista as a copy-protection circumvention system. No, really, I would. I could do with a laugh. However, unlike the situation with SCO, I can't see this one going far beyond the press release about cease-and-desist letters.