Turre Legal

Finnish court rules CSS protection used in DVDs ”ineffective”

In an unanimous decision released today, Helsinki District Court ruled that Content Scrambling System (CSS protection) used in DVD movies is "ineffective".

Below is the press release we sent, here’s an English translation of the judgment (thanks to Topi Junkkari) and here’s a more detailed analysis of the case and its potential implications.

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Helsinki May 25, 2007
Turre Legal
Free for publication immediately

Finnish court rules CSS protection used in DVDs ”ineffective”

In an unanimous decision released today, Helsinki District Court ruled that Content Scrambling System (CSS) used in DVD movies is ”ineffective”. The decision is the first in Europe to interpret new copyright law amendments that ban the circumvention of ”effective technological measures”. The legislation is based on EU Copyright Directive from 2001. According to both Finnish copyright law and the underlying directive, only such protection measure is effective, ”which achieves the protection objective.”

The background of the case was that after the copyright law amendment was accepted in late 2005, a group of Finnish computer hobbyists and activists opened a website where they posted information on how to circumvent CSS. They appeared in a police station and claimed to have potentially infringed copyright law. Most of the activists thought that either the police does not investigate the case in the first place or the prosecutor drops it if it goes any further. To the surprise of many, the case ended in the Helsinki District Court. Defendants were Mikko Rauhala who opened the website, and a poster who published an own implementation of source code circumventing CSS.

According to the court, CSS no longer achieves its protection objective. The court relied on two expert witnesses and said that ”…since a Norwegian hacker succeeded in circumventing CSS protection used in DVDs in 1999, end-users have been able to get with ease tens of similar circumventing software from the Internet even free of charge. Some operating systems come with this kind of software pre-installed.” Thus, the court concluded that ”CSS protection can no longer be held ’effective’ as defined in law.” All charges were dismissed.

Defendant Mikko Rauhala is happy about the judgment: ”It seems that one can apply bad law with common sense, which was unfortunately absent during the preparation of the law” he comments. Defendant’s counsel Mikko Välimäki thinks the judgment can have major implications: ”The conclusions of the court can be applied all over Europe since the word ’effective’ comes directly from the directive”. He continues: ”A protection measure is no longer effective, when there is widely available end-user software implementing a circumvention method. My understanding is that this is not technology-dependent. The decision can therefore be applied to Blu-Ray and HD-DVD as well in the future.”

Further information:

Mikko Välimäki
Defendants’ counsel
tel. +358-50-5980498

Mikko Rauhala
Defendant who opened the forum

EU Copyright Directive, article 6(3)

Herkko Hietanen
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Herkko Hietanen

Lakimies, osakas, kauppatieteiden tohtori, oikeustieteen maisteri at Turre Legal
Lakimies, jolla on 15 vuoden kokemus teknologia- ja mediaoikeudenkäynneistä, startup-yrityksistä ja IT-juridiikasta.
Herkko Hietanen
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