French court forbids DVD copy protection

By EDRi · May 4, 2005

On 22 April 2005, a Paris appeal court has outlawed the use of a copy protection mechanism on a DVD. The case was launched by the French consumer union UFC-Que Choisir early in 2004, on behalf of a customer who had unsuccessfully tried to copy a DVD of David Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive. She tried to copy the DVD to regular video for her mother, who didn’t have any computer or DVD-player.

In April 2004 the court in first instance rejected the demand, but in appeal the court has declared it forbidden to apply copy-prevention because it violates the right to make a private copy. On top of that, the court criticised the lack of an explicit warning on the cover. There was a very small sign with the letters CP, which is supposed to mean ‘copy prohibited’. The producers and the distributor must now pay the customer 250 euro to compensate for the inconvenience and the union 1.500 euro to cover basic legal costs.

Within a month, the producers must unlock the DVD. The judgement only applies to this specific DVD, but the ruling can also be used by anybody else to protest against copy protection, after they have bought a DVD, according to a spokesperson of the consumer union.

In their battle against copy protection on CDs the consumer union was not so fortunate. On 15 April 2005 they lost an appeal case at the court of Versailles, in an attempt to lift the copy protection on a CD by the French singer Alain Souchon, issued by EMI France. The Versailles court acknowledged the copy protection was the cause of many problems with different readers, but also ruled that copy protection was completely legitimate, as long as the CDs contained a clear warning. EMI still has to pay the consumer union 10.000 euro to compensate for damages.

France has not yet implemented the European Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC), with the provisions in Article 6 that provide strong legal protection for copy protection mechanisms.

La justice interdit de protéger les DVD contre la copie (22.04.2005)

Les verrous anticopie des CD reconnus coupables, mais pas illégaux (19.04.2005)