Legal DVD Playback Coming to Linux?

DMCA

In a country where the legal system is based on precedents, a judge's recent decision just may make the use of Linux a whole lot easier.

From nearly the beginnings of entertainment DVDs, Linux users in certain countries either had to break the law to watch their legally obtained media on their computer, boot a Windows system, or not use them. Many chose to break the law and install decryption software. Perhaps those days are over.

Appeal Judge Garcia found that General Electric did not break the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by merely unlocking MGE UPS Systems' protection software in order to repair faulty power supplies. The judge wrote that the DMCA protects against infringement, not viewing or using. While these aren't DVDs with copyrighted movies or music, it still sets a precedent for legal fair use of DMCA protected products.

A test case would be very interesting, but now Linux users at least have a legal strategy if they are caught watching a legally purchased DVD. Copying and uploading for others to share is still quite illegal, but Linux users have always been angered by the the roadblocks keeping them from watching their own movies or listening to their own music. It's quite possible that this decision has begun to tear down that obstacle.

Unfortunately, at the same time Judge Garcia's decision was being read, the US Copyright Office weighed in on exemptions to the DMCA. On the subject of streaming and DVD content on Linux, it held up its earlier opinion that in the absence of a real problem Linux users should just get an alternative platform. In other words, there aren't enough Linux users to warrant any change in policy and the few there are should just buy a Windows PC.

The next question is will Linux developers wish to test the waters by including libdvdcss in their distributions? While the libdvdcss available for Linux systems has never been expressly challenged, its DeCSS-like decryption prevents many distributions from including it for fear of legal issues. One would hope that Garcia's decision will alleviate those fears, but given the Copyright Office's lack of exemption for Linux, it certainly looks like users will have to continue to install the needed decryption software themselves.

______________________

Susan Linton is a Linux writer and the owner of tuxmachines.org.

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backups

Treah's picture

You are within your rights in the united states to make backups of legally purchased media since you are not infringing on any rights of the copyright holder. If in that backup process you are required to remove any protections on the media so be it. The RIAA folks could try and sue you in court over loss but they would have a hard time winning the case since the law is basically on your side at that point. I would argue that simply having the library on your computer would not put you in hot water anyway. The burden of proof becomes very extreme in any case that would ever be brought to you so just keep using libdvdcss to watch your movies and don't worry about it.

Lost Profits

Anonymous's picture

The whole fair use issue goes well beyond the DMCA. For that reason I have not purchased anything but indy music now in approximately 10 years. They have lost thousands of dollars I would have otherwise given them. While I still buy movies on BR Ive slowly but surely been backing off on that too and will probably in the next year cease altogether. Again they will lose thousands or hundreds of dollars a year. No, I dont steal. Im not like these corporations that sale you product then steal its use from you. No, I just refuse to buy their products out right. While I may be one person I know dozens like myself and if I know dozens that means there are likely 1000s if not 10s of thousands. So to all you small minded execs your bottom line is shrinking due to your greed. Good luck with that.

A Permanently Lost Customer.

I agree, support the independents!!

cjcox's picture

The RIAA and MPAA (and publishing companies) provide VERY little to their clients as far as promotion and TAKE the lion share of any revenue surrounding the artist's work. This is WHY the independent markets are flourishing. The Internet makes for wide scale distribution mechanism with NO middleman. This often translates to more money going straight to the artist.

Copyright office

Anonymous's picture

"and the few there are should just buy a Windows PC."

I didn't realize that the US Copyright office was a division of the MS marketing division.

You might be surprised

Doug.Roberts's picture

You might be surprised at how much influence Microsoft has within the US Government. See this previous LJ article for a discussion on this topic.

The Law.

Anonymous's picture

HA HA Yea and we all know that Linux users have very strong morals when it comes to "obeying the law"...

The Law

JHB's picture

That is true,

Linux users try not to use pirated Operating Systems and Games, whereas many Windows users pirate the OS, Games and other applications...

Much stronger morals than many Windows users.

"obeying the law"... yeah,

Anonymous's picture

"obeying the law"... yeah, especially since they don't pirate their operating system.

So you're saying you never

Anonymous's picture

So you're saying you never watched a legally purchased DVD on your Linux box before?

So you're saying you never

xtifr's picture

Why should I when I have a perfectly good DVD player hooked up to my TV, purchased for less than the price of a stick of RAM?

If you want to get picky, I will admit that I have at least once ran a stop sign in a deserted industrial area in the middle of the night, and I have occasionally exceeded the speed limit on the freeway (though rarely by much), but I suspect that you're going to have trouble proving any connection between Linux use and occasional mild flouting of traffic laws. :)

(I will also admit that I did once look into what it would take to install libdvdcss on my system, but it looked like more work than it was worth, especially given the legal risks.)

The REAL problem

jetole's picture

"On the subject of streaming and DVD content on Linux, it held up its earlier opinion that in the absence of a real problem Linux users should just get an alternative platform."

In the absence of a real problem? I can't play my DVD that I purchased and that I own the right to view on my operating system. That qualifies as a real problem hence, Linux users should NOT just get an alternative platform. IMHO the U.S. Copyright Office just supported libdvdcss. Also that quote seems hypocritical since the "real problem" is an _almost_ universal scenario for Linux users so it seems that the case where they suggest getting an alternative platform does not exist.

The law was not designed to

Anonymous's picture

The law was not designed to protect the masses. It was designed to protect the few--and in this case Linux is the few.

Already Included

Jim Cook's picture

Sabayon has been shipping it libdvdcss for a very long time. Granted, it's an Italian based project and you only need to know whose palm to grease to get out of anything there, but still.

Prejudice

G.Stern's picture

That's totally gratuitous: Italy may be the birth place of Mafia, but that doesn't mean that law is not upheld or that corruption is everywhere. The World knows so well about Italian political corruption of the First Republic because it was shouted about for political gain of some parties. Other countries have similar or much worse corruption. Isn't all the lobbying going on in the US Senate a form of corruption? What about million-dollars donations for US Presidency campaigns? It's always do ut des="I give so that you will give".

legal yes... but limited and poor

cjcox's picture

Fluendo pays the legal money to distribute a limited DVD (only) player... you can also get a legal mp3 player from fluendo. But it's VERY limited and not of very good quality. IMHO, it's a testimony to the quality of open source players and decryption libraries.

So... while fluendo's DVD player is nice in a way .. in that it is the first legal DVD player built for Linux distros... it DOES cost money and the quality simply isn't there.

Why is the Fluendo DVD player bad quality ?

Thomas Vander Stichele's picture

We have happy customers. It is spartan in its UI, but our customers are happy with the quality and we have a really high-quality surround sound implementation.

So much for choice.

JimmyTheGeek's picture

"...it held up its earlier opinion that in the absence of a real problem Linux users should just get an alternative platform. In other words, there aren't enough Linux users to warrant any change in policy and the few there are should just buy a Windows PC."

And the Government should just bail me out there and buy me a Windows PC. Really? What about freedom of choice?

This administration is turning into more of a socialist dictatorship every day.

Socialism

Tracy_Anne_b's picture

quote::And the Government should just bail me out there and buy me a Windows PC. Really? What about freedom of choice?

This administration is turning into more of a socialist dictatorship every day.::quote

You really have no idea what Socialism is. If you did you would not compare the US Government and it's agencies with Socialism.

The US and it's institutions are based on 18th Century Merchantilism, what we are see here is the exact oposite of Socialism, the extreme of the assumtion that what's good for the wealthy Elite, the Industrialists the Mechants and the Landowners is necessarily good for the rest of Sociaety.

Obvious Windows User

Anonymous's picture

I guess the new "health care bill" that established 100+ new bureaucracies hearkens back to "18th century merchantilism." Next time you regurgitate some intelligible nonsense from your Marxist college professor you might want to read a little about the founding of our country before you reveal your ignorance. As an apparent windows user who likes to be told what you can and cannot do, you obviously have no concept of free markets, personal property rights, and wealth creation. If I legally purchase a DVD or CD the government should have no right to tell what hardware or software I can play my media on.

Ah the insult, how will I ever recover

Tracy_Anne_b's picture

Quote:: I guess the new "health care bill" that established 100+ new bureaucracies hearkens back to "18th century merchantilism." ::quote

Well no, but I'd hardly call Your version of Healthcare Socialist, by any stretch of the imagination, in spite of the burgeoning bureaucracies. But we'll ignore this little red herring, and respond to the remainder.

Quote::Next time you regurgitate some intelligible nonsense from your Marxist college professor::quote

I don't know any, perhaps you can introduce me to one or two.

quote:: you might want to read a little about the founding of our country before you reveal your ignorance. ::quote

I could say the same of you, perhaps you should actually read your own history, including the life and times of your own "founding fathers"... Blessed be their names amen...(that was sarcasm)

quote:: As an apparent windows user who likes to be told what you can and cannot do, you obviously have no concept of free markets, personal property rights, and wealth creation. ::quote

Love this little red herring.

quote::If I legally purchase a DVD or CD the government should have no right to tell what hardware or software I can play my media on.::quote

Finally a statement (not an argument, as you clearly don't know how to make one)t that actually makes sense, and...... we agree. Boom Boom.

socialism...?

John Knight's picture

This isn't meant to be an inflammatory question, but I had this same argument last week. Is it possible the American public generally are getting their understanding of the word Socialism from the translation of Nazi (National Socialism), or perhaps from a skewed Fox News usage of the word? If so, this is kind of the opposite of the ideal, which is generally left wing, not right.

Don't mean to start an argument or offend here (please keep on libdvdcss), but that's two US Americans I've come across in as many weeks who've said that - perhaps the semantics have changed in that country, and have gone on to a different usage than others?

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

Socialism and libdvdcss

Kenholmz's picture

Socialism is a word, a single word, as is capitalism, mercantilism, communism and a host of other words. A reading of the wikipedia entry on Socialism should dispel most notions that the idea and its implementation are simple to do or even understand.

The entry is merely a starting point, not something to accept or reject without further research.

Also, societies evolve, for better or worse.

Now, regarding using libdvdcss to watch DVDs I have legally purchased or rented; ABSOLUTELY.

No argument there.

John Knight's picture

No argument there.

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

um...

lefty.crupps's picture

> This administration is turning into more of
> a socialist dictatorship every day.

I don't really think this is the Administration's doing (or not doing). We have the House and the Senate that made the rule to begin with, and these recent openings (changes to the DMCA) are from the Library of Congress; neither is controlled by this, or previous, Presidents.

DMCA: Bad law? Yes. Obama's fault? Not even kinda.

And then again

Doug.Roberts's picture

"[...] Linux users have always been angered by the the roadblocks keeping them from watching their own movies or listening to their own music."

Some of us take pleasure in going out of our way to watch legally-obtained DVD and music media on our Linux boxes. My linux-based home entertainment system being one example of this...

--Doug

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