CSS protection used in DVDs is "ineffective"

By EDRi · June 6, 2007

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

In an unanimous decision on 25 May 2007, the Helsinki District Court ruled
that Content Scrambling System (CSS) used in DVD movies is “ineffective”.
The decision is the first in Europe to interpret new copyright law
amendments, based on EU Copyright Directive of 2001, that bans the
circumvention of “effective technological measures”. According to both
Finnish copyright law and the above-mentioned directive, only such
protection measure is effective, “which achieves the protection objective.”

The background of the case was that after the copyright law amendment was
accepted in 2005, a group of Finnish computer hobbyists and activists
opened a website where they posted information on how to circumvent CSS.
They appeared in a police station and claimed to have potentially infringed
copyright law. Most of the activists thought that either the police did not
investigate the case in the first place or the prosecutor dropped it if it
went any further. To the surprise of many, the case ended in the Helsinki
District Court. Defendants were Mikko Rauhala who opened the website and a
poster who published his own implementation of a source code circumventing

According to the court, CSS no longer achieves its protection objective. The
court relied on two expert witnesses and said that “since a Norwegian
hacker succeeded in circumventing CSS protection used in DVDs in 1999,
end-users have been able to get with ease tens of similar circumventing
software from the Internet even free of charge. Some operating systems come
with this kind of software pre-installed.” Thus, the court concluded that
“CSS protection can no longer be held ‘effective’ as defined in law.” All
charges were dismissed.

The defendant’s counsel Mikko Välimäki explains for EDRI-gram that he “first
proposed to the court an interpretation where a protection measure is
ineffective when technical experts can circumvent it. The court did not buy
that one. Instead, it adopted my secondary proposal where the efficiency
test is based on the ability of random end-users to circumvent.”

He explains that “this should not affect DVD Copy Control Association CCA
(DVD CCA – the California group that licenses CSS to DVD player
manufacturers in Europe and Asia), or the movies studios. My understanding
is that DVD CCA is interested in their player manufacturing monopoly and
license income from Asia, not random Linux users who buy DVDs.”

A DVD CCA spokesman has confirmed that they are aware of the decision, but
they “do know that in the US, courts have ruled CSS to be effective, viable

Välimäki also explained why this decision is important in the European
context : “Relevant sections of the Finnish copyright law are copied
verbatim from the directive. I think any European court with common sense
would end up in the same interpretation.”

The defendant Mikko Rauhala is also happy about the judgement: “It seems
that one can apply bad law with common sense, which was unfortunately absent
during the preparation of the law”.

However, the prosecutor announced she would appeal the decision and might
ask the Finnish Copyright Council for an opinion on the interpretation of
“effective”. The Helsinki Court of Appeal is not expected to rule until

Finnish court rules CSS protection used in DVDs “ineffective” (25.05.2007)

English translation of the judgment

Keep on hacking: a Finnish court says technological measures are no longer
“effective” when circumventing applications are widely available on the
Internet (25.05.2007)

Case Could Signal Weakening Of Digital Rights Management In Europe