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 Chilling Effects Clearinghouse > Anticircumvention (DMCA) > Notices > Company Threatens Audio Editing Software Creator (NoticeID 1274, http://chillingeffects.org/N/1274) Printer-friendly version

Company Threatens Audio Editing Software Creator

April 20, 2004

 

Sender Information:
Audible Inc.
Sent by: [Private]
Piper Rudnick
Reston, Virginia, 20190-xxx, US

Recipient Information:
[Private]
GoldWave Inc.
St. John's, Newfoundl, A1C 5H5, Canada


Sent via: postal mail
Re: none

Dear [private]:

Our law firm represents Audible Inc. with respect to all claims against you and your
company arising from or related to your marketing, promoting, distributing, licensing and selling
GoldWave Digital Audio Editor software (the "GoldWave software") as a means of
circumventing Audible's access control and digital rights management protection methods for
the purpose of converting protected Audible content to unprotected MP3 files. Your actions are
in violation of the anticircumvention prohibitions of the Digital Millenium [sic] Copyright Act and
constitute willful contributory copyright infringement.

The GoldWave software is specifically designed to convert files to and from different file
formats. In your GoldWave Frequently Asked Questions ("F.A.Q.s") posted on your website
you specifically describe how your GoldWave software may be used to open and convert
Audible files. Your GoldWave software is being widely used to convert protected Audible files
to MP3 files without Audible's djgital [sic] rights management features that are designed to protect
the rights of Audible's copyright owners in and to their copyrighted works.

Section 1201(b) of the Digital Millenium [sic] Copyright Act prohibits the provisions or
trafficking of any software or other technology that is designed to avoid, bypass, remove,
deactivate or otherwise impair digital rights management technological measures designed to
prevent, restrict or otherwise limit the exercise of exclusive copyright rights in and to the
Audible protected content. Your GoldWave software is being used to circumvent Audible's
digital rights management copy control measures to create unauthorized copies and unauthorized
derivative works based upon Audible's audiobooks and other copyrighted works. You and your
company may also be liable for contributory infringement since you obviously have knowledge
of the infringing activity and have induced, caused or materially contributed, and are continuing
to induce, cause or materially contribute, to the conduct of your GoldWave software licensees.

Demand is hereby made upon you and your company to cease and desist immediately
from any further promotion, advertising, encouragement or distribution of the GoldWave
software in any way or manner as a means for circumventing any portion of Audible's digital
rights management controls or otherwise converting protected Audible content to unprotected
MP3 files or any other unauthorized format. Demand is hereby made upon you to delete any and
all references to Audible in your F.A.Q.s or otherwise on your website in connection with any
instructions on how to use GoldWave software in any way or manner to open and convert
protected Audible content to any form of unprotected files.

We want to make sure you understand that by this letter Audible is not demanding that
you cease marketing or distributing the GoldWave software. Rather, Audible is demanding the
removal of Audible's name and any direct or indirect reference to Audible on GoldWave's
F.A.Q.s or web site and the immediate cessation of any statements or other acts promoting,
advertising or encouraging GoldWave users, or otherwise aiding and abetting GoldWave users,
to use the GoldWave software as a means of opening and converting protected Audible content
to any form of unprotected files. If you fail to take the necessary action to prevent further
infringement and abuse of Audible's content, further legal action may be necessary to protect the
content of Audible and its licensors.

Please take particular notice that Audible is aware that GoldWave relies on the presence
of Audible's Windows Media filter to open aa files. Audible is ready, willing and able to
provide technical help to GoldWave, free of any charge to you, for the purpose of restricting the
GoldWave application from opening Audible files. We hope you will avail yourself of this offer.

In the event you and your company fail to comply with these demands within five (5)
days of your receipt of this letter, Audible has authorized our firm to seek further legal remedies
to stop your violations of the Digital Millenium [sic] Copyright Act and willful contributory copyright
infringement activities. The Digital Millenium [sic] Copyright Act permits injunctive relief to prevent
or restrain violations, impoundment, actual damages, statutory damages up to $U.S. 2500 for
each act of circumvention and attorneys fees.

Sincerely,


[private]

 
FAQ: Questions and Answers

[back to notice text]


Question: What does circumvention mean?

Answer: Circumvention, according to Section 1201(a)(3)(A), means "to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner." While the full scope of activities and practices that would fall under this definition has not yet been examined by the courts, any act of undoing a "lock" or "block" in a digital system may well be considered circumvention.


[back to notice text]


Question: Is there really a difference between access controls and copy controls?

Answer: While there is a difference in the types of activities controlled by these technological protection measures, some copyright owners try to merge access and use controls in the implementation of these systems. For example, in trying to implement a "pay-per-use" business model, some copyright owners use a single persistent control system that charge separately for the different uses of a work even after paying to access a work.


[back to notice text]


Question: What are technological protection measures?

Answer: Technological protection systems are already in place in DVDs, eBooks, video game consoles, robotic toys, Internet streaming, and password-protected sections of web sites. The fact that a digital protection may be really weak and easy to circumvent has not prevented courts from applying this law to punish those who bypass them.

The DMCA defines an access control mechanism as a measure which "in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work." [1201(a)(3)(B)] An access control is a technology, like a password or encryption that controls who or what is able to interact with the copyrighted work. It is a violation of the DMCA to circumvent access controls, but it is also a violation to provide tools to others that circumvent access controls (including selling, distributing free of charge, and possibly even linking to a site with such technology


[back to notice text]


Question: What are the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions?

Answer: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the latest amendment to copyright law, which introduced a new category of copyright violations that prohibit the "circumvention" of technical locks and controls on the use of digital content and products. These anti-circumvention provisions put the force of law behind any technological systems used by copyright owners to control access to and copying of their digital works.

The DMCA contains four main provisions:

  1. a prohibition on circumventing access controls [1201(a)(1)(A)];
  2. an access control circumvention device ban (sometimes called the "trafficking" ban) [1201(a)(2)];
  3. a copyright protection circumvention device ban [1201(b)]; and,
  4. a prohibition on the removal of copyright management information (CMI) [1202(b)].

The first provision prohibits the act of circumventing technological protection systems, the second and third ban technological devices that facilitate the circumvention of access control or copy controls, and the fourth prohibits individuals from removing information about access and use devices and rules. The first three provisions are also distinguishable in that the first two provisions focus on technological protection systems that provide access control to the copyright owner, while the third provision prohibits circumvention of technological protections against unauthorized duplication and other potentially copyright infringing activities.


[back to notice text]


Question: What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

Answer: The DMCA, as it is known, has a number of different parts. One part is the anticircumvention provisions, which make it illegal to "circumvent" a technological measure protecting access to or copying of a copyrighted work (see Anticircumvention (DMCA)). Another part gives web hosts and Internet service providers a "safe harbor" from copyright infringement claims if they implement certain notice and takedown procedures (see DMCA Safe Harbor).


[back to notice text]


Question: What is contributory infringement?

Answer: The other form of indirect infringement, contributory infringement, requires (1) knowledge of the infringing activity and (2) a material contribution -- actual assistance or inducement -- to the alleged piracy.

Posting access codes from authorized copies of software, serial numbers, or other tools to assist in accessing such software may subject you to liability. Providing a forum for uploading and downloading any copyrighted file or cracker utility may also be contributory infringement. Even though you may not actually make software directly available on your site, providing assistance (or supporting a forum in which others may provide assistance) in locating unauthorized copies of software, links to download sites, server space, or support for sites that do the above may contributorily infringe.

To succeed on a contributory infringement claim, the copyright owner must show that the webmaster or service provider actually knew or should have known of the infringing activity.


[back to notice text]


Question: What is the effect of the anti-circumvention provisions on the traditional defenses to copyright law?

Answer: Section 1201(c)(1) explicitly provides that: "Nothing in this section shall affect rights, remedies, limitations, or defenses to copyright infringement, including fair use." Substantial question remains over whether or not courts will interpret the traditional defenses to copyright infringement as defenses to the anti-circumvention provisions as well. Recent court decisions have not found the fair use defense to apply to violations of the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. By making the circumvention prohibitions distinct from copyright infringement, defendants can be held liable for circumventing an access control measure even if the uses made of the work are held not to infringe on the rights of the copyright owner. Disengaging the anti-circumvention provisions from the traditional fair use analysis effectively limits use of copyrighted materials to solely what is explicitly permitted by the copyright owner. The concept of fair use remains, but for all practical purposes only those uses sanctioned by the copyright owner are permissible. The anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA essentially replaces the broad contextual defense of fair use, discussed below, with a narrow set of carve outs to an otherwise absolute right of the copyright owners to control access and use of their works.


[back to notice text]


Question: Who may hold a copyright?

Answer: A copyright ordinarily vests in the creator or creators of a work (known as the author(s)), and is inherited as ordinary property. Copyrights are freely transferrable as property, at the discretion of the owner. 17 U.S.C.


[back to notice text]


Question: What kinds of things are copyrightable?

Answer: In order for material to be copyrightable, it must be original and must be in a fixed medium.

Only material that originated with the author can support a copyright. Items from the public domain which appear in a work, as well as work borrowed from others, cannot be the subject of an infringement claim. Also, certain stock material might not be copyrightable, such as footage that indicates a location like the standard shots of San Francisco in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Also exempted are stock characters like the noisy punk rocker who gets the Vulcan death grip in Star Trek IV.

The requirement that works be in a fixed medium leaves out certain forms of expression, most notably choreography and oral performances such as speeches. For instance, if I perform a Klingon death wail in a local park, my performance is not copyrightable. However, if I film the performance, then the film is copyrightable.

Single words and short phrases are generally not protected by copyright, even when the name has been "coined" or newly-created by the mark owner. Logos that include original design elements can be protected under copyright or under trademark. Otherwise, words, phrases and titles may be protected only by trademark, however.


[back to notice text]


Question: What does it mean to distribute circumvention tools?

Answer: Section 1201(a)(2) defines distribution as the "manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic" of circumvention tools. This definition can be interpreted extremely broadly as evident in the court's analysis in the DVD encryption Universal v. Corley case. In its decision, the court considered not only making the source code of a program for free a type of distribution, but also found that merely linking to a web site containing illegal tools can constitute "trafficking."


[back to notice text]


Question: What is a circumvention tool?

Answer: The prohibited tools under the DMCA are the programs which are primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumvention of an access [1201(2)(a)] or copy control [1201(b)(1)(A)] mechanism. These programs can come in various forms including products, services, devices, or components. The DMCA includes in its definition of circumvention tools that these devices have limited commercially significant purposes other than circumvention or are marketed to be used for circumvention [1201(2)(B-C)], 1201(b)(1)(B-C)].

Congress intended the circumvention device bans to be analogous to laws that specifically prohibit the manufacture or distribution of descrambler boxes that allow access to cable television and satellite services without payment. However, the broad definition of circumvention tools in the DMCA creates numerous situations in which non-infringing uses of copyrighted works are prohibited as well merely because the technology necessary to engage in those legitimate uses is illegal under the circumvention device ban.


[back to notice text]


Question: What rights are protected by copyright law?

Answer: The purpose of copyright law is to encourage creative work by granting a temporary monopoly in an author's original creations. This monopoly takes the form of six rights in areas where the author retains exclusive control. These rights are:

(1) the right of reproduction (i.e., copying),
(2) the right to create derivative works,
(3) the right to distribution,
(4) the right to performance,
(5) the right to display, and
(6) the digital transmission performance right.

The law of copyright protects the first two rights in both private and public contexts, whereas an author can only restrict the last four rights in the public sphere. Claims of infringement must show that the defendant exercised one of these rights. For example, if I create unauthorized videotape copies of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and distribute them to strangers on the street, then I have infringed both the copyright holder's rights of reproduction and distribution. If I merely re-enact The Wrath of Khan for my family in my home, then I have not infringed on the copyright. Names, ideas and facts are not protected by copyright.

Trademark law, in contrast, is designed to protect consumers from confusion as to the source of goods (as well as to protect the trademark owner's market). To this end, the law gives the owner of a registered trademark the right to use the mark in commerce without confusion. If someone introduces a trademark into the market that is likely to cause confusion, then the newer mark infringes on the older one. The laws of trademark infringement and dilution protect against this likelihood of confusion. Trademark protects names, images and short phrases.

Infringement protects against confusion about the origin of goods. The plaintiff in an infringement suit must show that defendant's use of the mark is likely to cause such a confusion. For instance, if I were an unscrupulous manufacturer, I might attempt to capitalize on the fame of Star Trek by creating a line of 'Spock Activewear.' If consumers could reasonably believe that my activewear was produced or endorsed by the owners of the Spock trademark, then I would be liable for infringement.

The law of trademark dilution protects against confusion concerning the character of a registered trademark. Suppose I created a semi-automatic assault rifle and marketed it as 'The Lt. Uhura 5000.' Even if consumers could not reasonably believe that the Star Trek trademark holders produced this firearm, the trademark holders could claim that my use of their mark harmed the family-oriented character of their mark. I would be liable for dilution.


[back to notice text]


Question: What are technological protection measures?

Answer: Technological protection systems are already in place in DVDs, eBooks, video game consoles, robotic toys, Internet streaming, and password-protected sections of web sites. The fact that a digital protection may be really weak and easy to circumvent has not prevented courts from applying this law to punish those who bypass them.

The DMCA defines an access control mechanism as a measure which "in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work." [1201(a)(3)(B)] An access control is a technology, like a password or encryption that controls who or what is able to interact with the copyrighted work. It is a violation of the DMCA to circumvent access controls, but it is also a violation to provide tools to others that circumvent access controls (including selling, distributing free of charge, and possibly even linking to a site with such technology


[back to notice text]


Question: What is copyright infringement? Are there any defenses?

Answer: Infringement occurs whenever someone who is not the copyright holder (or a licensee of the copyright holder) exercises one of the exclusive rights listed above.

The most common defense to an infringement claim is "fair use," a doctrine that allows people to use copyrighted material without permission in certain situations, such as quotations in a book review. To evaluate fair use of copyrighted material, the courts consider four factors:


  1. the purpose and character of the use
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount and substantiality of copying, and
  4. the market effect.

(17 U.S.C. 107)

The most significant factor in this analysis is the fourth, effect on the market. If a copier's use supplants demand for the original work, then it will be very difficult for him or her to claim fair use. On the other hand, if the use does not compete with the original, for example because it is a parody, criticism, or news report, it is more likely to be permitted as "fair use."

Trademarks are generally subject to fair use in two situations: First, advertisers and other speakers are allowed to use a competitor's trademark when referring to that competitor's product ("nominative use"). Second, the law protects "fair comment," for instance, in parody.


[back to notice text]


Question: Can a system be legally circumvented?

Answer: It depends. In general, the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA reserve broad authority to copyright holders to determine who can circumvent their systems.

For example, while the DMCA contains an encryption research exemption, to come under the exception, a researcher must lawfully obtain the work and request the permission from the copyright holder to engage in circumvention in order to be exempted [1201(g)(2)(C)]. In addition, under the DMCA only individuals who are studying, trained, or employed in encryption research are likely to be considered legitimate researchers under the law [1201(g)(3)(B)]. Finally, an encryption researcher is required to immediately notify the creator of the protection system when she breaks it. [1201(g)(3)(C)] The security testing exemption is even more restrictive in its rules about obtaining authorization from the copyright owner. It requires individuals engaged in security testing to not only request, but must actually obtain the authorization. [1201(j)(1)] On the other hand, the exemption relating to law enforcement, intelligence, and other government purposes have no such requirements to notify copyright owners of their activities. [1201(e)]

One important limitation to the control given to copyright owners is that manufacturers and developers of consumers electronics, telecommunications, or computing products are not required to design their products to respond to the digital protection systems implemented by copyright owners in their works. [1201(c)(3)] In this limitation, the DMCA anticipated the excessive control that copyright owners might exercise over the products used to play their works in addition to the works themselves.


[back to notice text]


Question: What are the penalties for violating the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions?

Answer: The DMCA allows for both civil remedies and criminal penalties for violations under the anti-circumvention provisions. If the violations are determined to be willful and for commercial purposes or private financial gain, the court can order significant fines and/or imprisonment.


[back to notice text]


Question: What are the civil penalties for a DMCA 1201 violation?

Answer: Civil cases are brought in federal district court where the court has broad authority to grant injunctive and monetary relief. Injunctions can be granted forbidding the distribution of the tools or products involved in the violation. The court may also order the destruction of the tools or products involved in the violation. The court can also award actual damages, profits gained through infringement, and attorney's fees. If an individual held in violation of the DMCA commits another such violation within the three-year period following the judgment, the court may increase the damages up to triple the amount that would otherwise be awarded.

In circumstances involving innocent violators, it is up to the courts to decide whether to reduce damages. But, in the case of nonprofit library, archives or educational institutions, the court must remit damages if it finds that the institution did not know of the violation.


[back to notice text]


Question: Are there exceptions in the DMCA to allow circumvention of technological protection systems?

Answer: There are seven exemptions built into section 1201 of the DMCA, some of which permit the circumvention of access and copy controls for limited purposes, some of which allow for the limited distribution of circumvention tools in particular circumstances. These seven exemptions are for:

  • Libraries, archives, and educational institutions for acquisition purposes; [1201(d)]
  • Law enforcement and intelligence gathering activities; [1201(e)]
  • Reverse engineering in order to develop interoperable programs; [1201(f)]
  • Encryption Research; [1201(g)]
  • Protecting minors from material on the Internet; [1201(h)]
  • Protecting the privacy of personally identifying information; [1201(i)]
  • Security Testing [1201(j)]

In addition to these seven exemptions, the Library of Congress is required every three years to exempt the circumvention of measures that prevent the "fair use" of copyrighted works. [1201(a)(1)(B-E)] The DMCA also contains provisions that ensure that the traditional rights of copyright law still apply to the DMCA. Section 1201(c)(1) provides that the rights, remedies, limitations, or defenses to claims of copyright infringement still apply. Section 1201(c)(4) states that these provisions should not affect the rights to free speech or freedom of the press for activities using electronics, telecommunications, or computing products.


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