[mythtv-users] Free US/Canada Listings

R. G. Newbury newbury at mandamus.org
Mon Sep 10 16:03:12 UTC 2007

Brian Wood wrote:
> R. G. Newbury wrote:
>> Screen scraping a website for TV schedule listings data enters a 
>> decidedly grey area in North America. The actual data may not be 
>> copyrightable, but the presentation by whoever, is. It may be presented 
>> in ways which use technological measures to protect the copyright in the 
>> presentation (yeah, well that would be the argument!). An individual 
>> user may fit within the fair use exemption, or even the more limited 
>> Canadian fair dealing limitation. But the DCMA makes the scraper writer 
>> a criminal. Proposed amendments to the Copyright Act in Canada would 
>> make a scraper writer a criminal too, even for allowed private copies of 
>> sound recordings.
> Lots of people have thrown the word "criminal" around on this list. As
> has been said by others, that implies the violation of some criminal
> statute.
> Violating the DMCA might make somebody a civil violator, a litigant, a
> defendant, or what lawyers often call a "client", it would not make him
> or her a "criminal", except perhaps in the very broadest vernacular
> sense, certainly not in a statutory sense.

You forget that lots of statutes also contain criminal penalty
provisions. If there is the possibility of a fine, or a jail term for a
breach, then you are defining a *criminal* offense. The DCMA contains
criminal offense clauses.

A quick google turned up a page at the UCLA Cyberlaw Institute with a 
review of the Act:
Highlights Generally:

         Makes it a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into 
most commercial software.

         Outlaws the manufacture, sale, or distribution of 
code-cracking devices used to illegally copy software.

         Does permit the cracking of copyright protection devices, 
however, to conduct encryption research, assess product 
interoperability, and test computer security systems.

         Provides exemptions from anti-circumvention provisions for 
nonprofit libraries, archives, and educational institutions under 
certain circumstances.

The criminal penalty section is 17USC 1204 and can be $1,000,000 fine or 
10 years in prison for second or subsequent offenses.  Yup, that's a 
criminal offense!

Dimitry (?) Skylarov spent a few MONTHS in
jail for *talking* about the software which circumvented the DRM on
e-books (?? not sure about that bit). He didn't sell the software
in the US. The company he worked for was based in Russia. IIRC the
uproar forced the complainant (Adobe??) to attempt to withdraw the
complaint but the prosecutor was operating on testosterone and pushed 
ahead. Skylarov was, IIRC blackmailed into some sort 'deal' and the 
Russian company was convicted.

I do not remember offhand if the proposed amendments to the Copyright
Act in Canada explicitly provide for criminal penalties. The subsection
which I remember has words to the effect that the owner of a work has
the right to damages, injunctive relief, account (etc.etc) against
someone who circumvents a technological measure. There are however
criminal penalty provisions in the existing act. The new Canadian
amendmenta use words redolent of the DCMA: "circumvention of a 
technological  measure" is a direct plagiarism...

One day a case will make its way up to the US Supreme Court which will
focus on US First Amendment rights and the stupidity of characterizing
talking about circumvention of DRM as being a breach of copyright. It is
my view that some corporatist viewpoints of what the DCMA means are
extended too far and are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech.
Better yet if the case goes forward in a factual situation where the
DRM code is claimed to be protected by a software patent. But neither
you nor I want to be that test case. I don't think Issac wants to be either.


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