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January 9, 2003

DMCA

Is there no end to the mischief engendered by this stupid, stupid law?

As Ars Technica reports, Lexmark has gone to court, arguing that third party Toner Cartridges (!) contravene the DMCA:

In a 17-page complaint filed on Dec. 30, 2002, the company claims the Smartek chip mimics the authentication sequence used by Lexmark chips and unlawfully tricks the printer into accepting an aftermarket cartridge. That “circumvents the technological measure that controls access to the Toner Loading Program and the Printer Engine Program,” the complaint says.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for today. This is dangerous, dangerous territory. The thinking behind this is mad: putting a chip on anything makes it digital media.

… and hence protected by the DMCA. To which I say, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Update: Ed Felten has added his comments on the legal issues involved. I think he’s a little too dismissive of the “circumvention” argument. If reverse-engineering a “cryptographic secret handshake” isn’t “circumvention” under the terms of the DMCA, it’s hard to imagine what is (DeCSS anyone?). And I’m not sure I buy his webserver analogy. Isn’t breaking the copy-protection on a piece of software, allowing you to execute that software, a violation of the DMCA? Or do you actually have to be able to see the source code before it’s a DMCA violation?

Posted by distler at January 9, 2003 10:46 AM

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