Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Deleting files is a breach of copyright?

Some people may or may not have heard of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in the USA. We have an equiavlent in the EU but I cannot remember what it is called. In essence, the DCMA is about making it a criminal offence to breach digital copyright. Thus you are not allowed to copy certain things on computers. However, if this Wired story is anything to go by it looks like you're not only restricted from copying things on your computer but also deleting things from it too.

To explain, the company coupons.com provides properitary software that allows the user to get coupons for products at major retailers. When the software install it creates an identifying key for your machine which it then shares with the company in order to track what coupons you have taken.

The problem is that this unique idetifier is merely contained within a few files and a registry key on the Windows machine running it. Find the registry key and files and delete them and the software generates a new key and you get the same coupons again. The person in the story produced a little application and posted it online that would delete all the application's files and he is now being pursued for breaching the copyright of the software he is deleting.

Now some might say he is commiting a deception (and there is an argument for that), however, if you install software on your machine, and you want to unistall it, are you really breaking copyright if you remove left over stuff from the application that you have removed? In fact, is not the uninstaller a deception in itself because it does not really unistall the application?

The essential of the case seems to be that you are not only not allowed to copy thing, but you're also not allowed to delete things. It also raises an interesting question about multiple machines with multiple installs, or if you reinstall the Operating System. Could we breaking copyright if we do that?

8 comments:

oonops said...
21 Aug 2007 10:03:00  

I would welcome a geek post from you on what uninstall and undelete really mean, not just the FAT entries.

Mark Burgess

Anonymous said...
21 Aug 2007 10:05:00  

What If you remove the drive and put it under a road roller and it gets flattened ,will the savings from the coupons buy a new drive :-)

dizzy said...
21 Aug 2007 10:08:00  

oonops you ahve to be kidding me? That would be immensely boring and I would have to explain the difference between FAT, FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, ext2, ext3 Reiser, XFS.. my eyes are bleeding just thinking about it.

Rickytshirt said...
21 Aug 2007 10:09:00  

Fan-bloody-tastic. Software with squatters rights.

dizzy said...
21 Aug 2007 10:20:00  

Not to metnion of course oonops how delete rarely means delete. Magnet anyone?

AntiCitizenOne said...
21 Aug 2007 12:15:00  

Strap HDD to Car alternator or HT leads, drive a while.

Disk "formatted"!

Unixman said...
21 Aug 2007 15:15:00  

you missed ufs, jfs, vxfs, nfs ..... :-)

dizzy said...
21 Aug 2007 15:25:00  

indeed


 

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