DMCA / When you decrypt, that's illegal

Paul Kierstead paul.kierstead at
Tue Jun 26 17:04:47 EDT 2001

>From the section on satellite transmissions:

>     Any person who manufactures, assembles, modifies,
> imports, exports,
>     sells, or distributes any electronic, mechanical, or
> other device or
>     equipment, knowing or having reason to know that the
> device or equipment
>     is primarily of assistance in the unauthorized decryption
> of satellite

An interesting word here is 'unauthorized'. Lets say I am actually paying
for my satellite feed. I build (i.e. 'assemble') a box which descrambles
those channels I have paid for. Am I not now 'authorized'?

By the same analogy to the DCMA: When I buy a DVD, am I not authorized to
play it under the conditions set forward in the [rather irritating] standard
usage agreement, not for public viewing etc.? For that matter, does not the
Home Recording Act give me the right to rip the DVD into another form if it
is for my own personal use?

I have not violated copyright in either of these cases. Assuming I do not
distribute my device/software, I fail to see how I have broken the law, even
in the satellite case. I do admit I might not enjoy the legal case,
especially proving that I am only watching those channels which I am
'authorized' for. I guess some of the question is: when is a crowbar a
burglary tool and when is it just a crowbar.

Or does the DCMA make my decrypting a DVD (which I own) using unauthorized
software (i.e. not part of the consortium) illegal, period?

Paul.Kierstead at

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