The DMCA vs. the First Amendment
The Gallery of DMCA Abuses

David S. Touretzky, Carnegie Mellon University

When the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted in 1998, it amended US copyright law (Title 17, United States Code) in several areas. These include (1) prohibiting circumvention of copyright protection and management systems, (2) limiting liability of ISPs for their users' actions, and (3) establishing new rules for broadcasting music on Internet radio stations. Unfortunately, section 1201 of the DMCA contains some restrictions against "trafficking in circumvention devices" that are now being used to suppress lawful speech. This web site documents some of these instances. More resources are available at the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, co-sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

DMCA section 1201

Universal City Studios et al. v. Reimerdes et al. (DeCSS)

DeCSS is a generic term for software that decrypts DVD movies. Two of the first such programs were DECSS.EXE (for Windows) and css-auth (a package of C code for Linux.) The motion picture industry sued Eric Corley, published of the 2600 hacker magazine, and two other defendants, to prevent distribution of this code. I have mirrored the code, and many other versions of the decryption algorithm, in my Gallery of CSS Descramblers at Carnegie Mellon.
The Gallery of CSS Descramblers
EFF archive on the 2600 case

Felten et al. v. RIAA et al. (Music watermarking)

Ed Felten and colleagues took up the public invitation of SDMI (the Secure Digital Music Initiative) to crack several proposed watermarking schemes. After successfully cracking all four schemes, the Felten team wrote a paper about their experience, to be presented at an academic conference. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), SDMI, and Verance threatened the Felten team and the conference organizers with a lawsuit under the DMCA if they did not withdraw the paper. Felten is now suing them for their attempt to suppress his free speech rights.
Felten's web site on the SDMI challenge
EFF archive on the Felten case

US v. Sklyarov and ElcomSoft (Adobe eBooks)

Coming soon...
US v. Sklyarov FAQ at EFF
EFF archive of US v. Sklyarov case
Gallery of Adobe Remedies

Mattel v. Skala (CP4break cracks CyberPatrol's block list)

Coming soon...
mirror of CP4break files

IBILL shuts down IceFortress

IBILL handles credit card billing for pornograpy web sites. IceFortress is a hacker site that hosted an essay containing some uncomplimentary remarks about IBILL's security. Porno lawyer Steven W. Workman used a DMCA threat to get IceFortress's ISP to take down the site. After white-hat lawyer Jennifer Granick intervened, the two parties eventually settled.
mirror of the disputed essay
IBILL v. IceFortress web site

Microsoft threatens Slashdot (bypassing a clickthrough agreement)

Coming soon...

CueCat threatens various hobbyists (reverse engineering/lame crypto)

Coming soon...

Sony pressures "AiboPet"

The creator of, who uses the pseudonym "AiboPet", was distributing modified versions of Sony's software for the AIBO robot pet. Clearly this was a copyright violation that Sony had the right to protest. But he was also publishing some basic information about the protection scheme for the AIBO's memory stick. In their letter to him, Sony claimed this little essay violated the DMCA and asked that the file be taken down.
Sony's letter to "AiboPet"
mirror of the disputed file copyprot.htm
Scientific American article on the controversy

US Customs Blocks Import of Sega Dreamcast Coder Cable

The US Customs Service blocked import of a cable used to connect a Sega Dreamcast game console to a computer, for uploading code to the Dreamcast. Customs claimed the device violates the DMCA, although exactly how it did so is unclear.
Cryptome article on the situation, with pictures

Nintendo Goes After Flash Advance Linker

The Flash Advance Linker is a product that can download the software from a Nintendo Gameboy ROM cartridge onto a PC, or upload software from the PC into the ROM cartridge. It is used by GameBoy software developers. But it can also be used to pirate Gameboy cartridges. Nintendo sent a threatening letter to Sam Michaels, whose store sells the Flash Advance Linker, claiming the device violates the DMCA.
Slashdot thread
Flash Advance Linkers
Sam Michaels'

Blizzard Shuts Down BNETD Emulator

BNETD is an open-source server that allows users of multi-player games made by Blizzard Entertainment. Blizzard's own server has various drawbacks, which led its customers to reverse engineer the protocol and create server software of their own, called bnetd. Blizzard used a DMCA threat to force a shutdown of the bnetd web site.
my local mirror of the disputed software
Salon article, Thursday, Apr. 18, 2002
legal analysis by
Slashdot thread, Friday, Feb. 22
Blizzard's FAQ explaining their actions
Freshmeat page on bnetd project
Politechbot article, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2002
Kuro5hin thread, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2002
Slashdot thread, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2002

For more information on the abuses of the DMCA, visit the Visit the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse
Dave Touretzky
Last modified: Thu Apr 18 04:03:17 EDT 2002