19 July, 2003: Saturday Saturday

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Any sympathy?

As ever, I turned on Any Questions today in the full expectation that it would annoy and patronise me. Sometimes even my expectations aren't met: everyone involved was intensely and gratifyingly angry about the latest sordid and unhappy machinations of our government. Worth a listen.

The `Microsoft Word problem' again

I got a useful response from Brian Simpson at the Patent Office over the Copyright Directive and the `Microsoft Word problem' (see my previous entry on this topic). It doesn't quite answer the question, but we're making some progress. I've summarised in this email message on the CDR list. The brief summary:

To start with, circumventing a TPM is not `an act restricted by copyright' -- I was wrong there. So s.50B of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act doesn't stop you from reverse-engineering a TPM system for the purposes of interoperability. Further, recital 50 of the Copyright Directive protects the right to reverse-engineer even in the face of TPMs.

But some confusion remains. Brian Simpson maintains that a program designed to interoperate with the DRM in a future version of Microsoft Word would be subject only to the s.296 provisions of the new implementation, which are relatively lax (search for `296' in Annex A of the Patent Office consultation paper): (emphasis mine)

The person issuing the copies to the public has the same rights against a person who, knowing or having reason to believe that it will be used to make infringing copies [ produces or describes a circumvention device ] as a copyright owner has in respect of an infringement of copyright.

in that they only apply in the case of a `circumvention device' intended to be used to make copies of a program protected by a TPM, which obviously wouldn't affect, say, Open Office.

However, I don't think that this actually applies in this case, since the TPM we're talking about is applied by Microsoft Word to saved .doc files, not to Microsoft Word itself. (Microsoft may add TPMs to protect Word, but they're not germane here.)

Anyway, I've written again to Brian Simpson, asking,

But in this scenario, although the TPM is implemented by a computer program, it protects not the program but the data processed by the program; in particular, documents saved by the word-processor. (The idea being that the author of a document relies on the TPM to prevent unauthorised use or distribution of their work.)

An interoperable program must be able to `circumvent' the technological measure in order to read and write the files. Since it is not the computer program but rather the text of documents that is being protected by the TPM, surely it is the much stronger provisions of s.296ZB that apply to the interoperable program, rather than those of s.296?

More here when he responds.

And finally...

Only 44 responses to my political survey so far -- I need more than that if the statistics are to mean anything. So get clicking!

Copyright (c) 2003 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.