In interpreting this case, the court claimed that BNETD was in violation of several provisions and was not protected by the reverse engineering for interoperability exemption. BNETD did not check to see if the user had a valid CD Key before allowing them to connect to the server. The court interpreted this as circumvention, as BNETD allowed users to experience online multiplayer games with illegal copies of Blizzard software.
This case determines that plug-ins could be held responsible for their functionality when applied to pirated software. Had the plug-in been designed to bypass CD Key checks and then connect to Battle.net, the decision would make more sense. However, BNETD wrote the program to connect to their own servers, and just didn't happen to check to for a valid software copy. Holding plug-in writers accountable for license checking is a dangerous precedent. Open source developers won't want to write a plug-in if they can be sued for the misuse of their product in combination with pirated software. The right to author extensions to software and market them has been around for years before the DMCA and now has been compromised by the misuse of its provisions.
Brad Templeton summarizes the impacts of the DMCA focusing primarily on Dmitry Skylarov's case from the point of view of an eBook publisher. Dmitry Sklyarov is a Russian graduate student who made some discoveries about inadequacies of Adobe Digital Rights Management for eBooks and published a paper on it. The paper caught the eye of two groups, one a Russian software company ElcomSoft, and the other, the DEF CON electronic security conference. ElcomSoft paid Dmitry to demonstrate these weaknesses by creating a program which ElcomSoft then marketed around the world (including the United States). DEF CON honored Dmitry's work by inviting him to speak at their conference. While he was speaking at the conference, Adobe filed a complaint with the federal government about the software ElcomSoft and politely pointed out where one of the developers might be found. Mr. Skylarov was then incarcerated for weeks, and kept in the country for months before charges were dropped. Mr. Skylarov broke no law in the country in which he wrote the software but because the company whom he sold it to engaged in potentially questionable business in the United States, he was detained. Computer scientists and researchers who do work relating to Digital Rights Management and cryptography will be less likely to come to American under fear of similar treatment and prosecution, significantly hurting the research community.
Templeton's role as an eBook publisher is important as he has experience with eBooks and is financially hurt by eBook piracy, yet he still supports an open format. He's even apart of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is strongly against DRM. He discusses the failure of DRM and the benefits of open formats. Open formats are at a greater risk than closed but also see greater sales because of their increased utility. He also points out that as long as the DMCA prevents people from cracking poorly designed locks, there is less of an incentive to design better, more secure locks, stifling developments in security research. Templeton concludes that scapegoating weak DRM on a foreign visiting scholar only hurts the interests of the consumer, the research community, and the copyright holders whom the lock is designed to protect.
This comes as a direct result of the Dmitry Sklyarov case. He fears that foreign researchers can be jailed for research in security and cryptology they performed in their own countries if it is viewed to be a DMCA violation in the United States. The DMCA prevents security experts from pointing out bad protection algorithms and only increases the profitability of the “businesses of the incompetent.” Without the ability of experts to point out and discuss bad algorithms, copyrighted material protected by these algorithms are exposed to hacking.
He further notes that the DMCA will not prevent people from discussing ways to break algorithms for illegal uses. His experience is that the “bad guys share their knowledge and act without regards to laws.” It's only the people aiming to increase the strength of computer security that will be silenced. The DMCA only helps pirates win in the end. Cox also claims that what the DMCA would prevent him from saying regarding inspecting computer security systems in the United States would be considered negligent in the United Kingdom.
From Cox's statement, the DMCA hurts the United States software development community in two main ways. It prevents international researchers from speaking, for fear of prosecution of their research or activities in other countries. It also means that the block of the DMCA will hinder US researchers from discussing decryption methods and our own security will be weakened when compared to the advances made by other countries who are able to have these discussions.
The most important thing to come out of the exemption request is the context in which research is given. In describing the valuable research he participated it in before the DMCA was enacted, Felten notes that the SDMI sponsored his acclaimed research paper on breaking access control methods. The SDMI is a group of music distributors, and had something to gain from their studies, and now sought to prevent others from sharing in this knowledge. Clearly, by inhibiting research into access control, the technology of copyright protection and the lessons learned from the research falls solely in the hands of the gatekeepers, the record companies. Without the added input of the academic community, research in the field has been hindered and copyright holders have not been provided the best digital protection methods.
The best example of his hindered research is the Sony Rootkit debacle. He and an associate discovered the vulnerability but had to delay publication and hire a lawyer to make sure that they weren't exposing themselves to DMCA violation. Threats of DMCA violations prevent important studies and important information from reaching the consumer.
The court determined that both posting and linking were not protected by the first amendment. They determined that while there is a part of code which is speech, there is also a non-speech component which can be banned under the anti-circumvention clause. Exemptions are provided for reverse engineering and cryptography. However, these exemptions only extend to the cryptographers and the reverse engineers directly. Publishing their results is not considered an exemption. The consequence of this decision is that to prevent lawsuits, technical journals will likely avoid discussion of Digital Rights Management. For example, discovery of important security flaws would not be published because it might hint as to how to break the encryption. Understanding the flaws of the current generation however is essential to enhancing security for in the future. Development of future security methods have continued to be crippled by the DMCA, due to the limited scope of the exemptions.