Getting Away (from DMCA)

Nathan Edwards

Summer is upon us, and it’s a perfect time to take a fair-use vacation.

Here in America you can buy plenty of DVDs, but if you want to copy them for personal use or run them on Linux, it’s another story: You’ll be breaking U.S. law. To make that backup of your kid’s favorite Disney movie before it gets covered in blue marker, consider going somewhere you won’t go to jail for the act.

Who doesn’t love a Caribbean island? Imagine yourself on a beach in Antigua with a drink that comes in a hollow coconut. Beautiful women walk by. The sun begins to set, and you’ve just finished importing your DVD collection to a hard drive.

Antigua and Barbuda is home to SlySoft, the maker of AnyDVD, a program that sits in the background of your computer and quietly removes copy protection from DVDs, including HD formats. As SlySoft was doing its thing in 2007, in the United States the AACS Licensing Authority was threatening to sue Digg for publishing a number—the HD DVD encryption key.
Or maybe you’re a do-it-yourselfer who can’t take the heat.

Consider a trip to Norway, where you can roll your own DRM breaker. In 2002, Norwegian courts acquitted Jon Johansen of charges stemming from the creation of DeCSS, which stripped copy protection off DVDs so he could play them on his Linux box. By contrast, back in the U.S., a court convicted 2600 magazine for linking to DeCSS.

Perhaps you’re a pedagogical type with a penchant for long days and vodka. Russia’s your spot.  In 2001, Moscovite Dmitri Sklyarov presented a flaw in Adobe’s eBook security at Black Hat in Las Vegas. This information didn’t stay in Vegas—Adobe had him arrested. Back in Mother Russia, telling people how to circumvent Adobe’s weak protection isn’t illegal. After a harrowing ordeal, Sklyarov was allowed to return home, where he continued his research in peace.

Turns out none of these vacations is about piracy. They violate the DMCA, not copyright. The fact is, you can go almost anywhere in the world and you won’t run into these restrictions. So have fun on your trip! It’s your computer.

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