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CoreCodec issues and retracts DMCA claim over open source project

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 05 May 2008 12:07 User comments (5)

CoreCodec issues and retracts DMCA claim over open source project Last week Google received a DMCA Takedown Notice in regard to a relatively obscure project called coreavc-for-linux. The notice, which can be read in its entirety on the Chilling Effects website, claims that the the project's Google Code page included a download containing code owned by CoreCodec, Inc., developers of the CoreAVC MPEG-4 decoder.
A DMCA Takedown Notice is the official mechanism put in place by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) for copyright owners to deal with infringement issues without making hosting companies liable for everything published on their servers. They've most famously been used to have copyrighted video removed from sites like YouTube, although they're routinely issued for everything from printed works to audio files.

What makes this particular case noteworthy is the that the notice specifically states "The Site hosts and/or contains one or more links to CoreAVC, which contains CoreCodec's copyrighted Software." However, comments posted over the weekend by CoreCodec founder Dan Marlin appear to cast some doubt, or at least confusion, over the infringement claim.

In a discussion of the issue on the CoreCodec forum Mr. Marlin stated that "this is not about copyright (even thought the DMCA deals with that), this is mostly about reverse engineering without permission under the DMCA."

This raises some questions about the validity of the Takedown Notice. While the DMCA does address reverse engineering of certain code, which has been most famously (or infamously) demonstrated by the legal history of the DeCSS code used to circumvent the CSS encryption found on most commercial DVDs, the Takedown Notice specifically claims that code owned by CoreCodec was the issue, and not the reverse engineering process itself as his statement seemed to suggest.

Mr. Marlin today posted an update to the situation saying "The DMCA removal request and the project reinstatement was sent to Google yesterday 5/4. I'd like to publically apologize to Alan for the disconnect between him and us as well as the disruption to the project as there was no ill will intended and we were already working on a resolution with him before this went public." Since the time I started working on the story he's also made another post stating that in fact the reverse engineering in question does appear to be legal under the DMCA.

While I'm not a lawyer or legal expert I've read a great deal of expert analysis on the DMCA and copyright law and it seems quite clear that aside from the so-called Safe Harbor provision that defines the process for Takedown Notices very little of it is actually copyright law at all. Rather, the majority of it deals with trade law, violations of which aren't covered by the takedown process.

At best the events of the past few days highlight obvious problems for laymen when it comes to interpreting the DMCA. At the same time, it's the incument on the copyright owner to understand their rights before beginning the takedown process. A simple web search should be enough to cast significant doubt on CoreCodec's original claim. Try it yourself if you don't believe me.

Problems with the DMCA don't relieve business owners of their responsibility to do 5 minutes of research before taking legal action. While I applaud the management of CoreCodec for apparently changing their policies and apologizing immediately when they were told by legal counsel that they were the wrong, I can't help but ask why they didn't know enough to avoid the issue in the first place.

As someone whose living is dependent on intellectual property I find it difficult to imagine how they wouldn't.

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5 user comments

15.5.2008 18:38

deleted by user

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 05 May 2008 @ 18:38

25.5.2008 18:38

funny thing is most people use coreavc for downloaded films!

36.5.2008 0:36
atomicxl
Inactive

Originally posted by plutonash:
funny thing is most people use coreavc for downloaded films!
Yeah, thats kinda funny. But i'm glad they jumped on someone. Their codec is by far the best for H.264. By far by like leaps and bounds above the competition, whether freeware or purchased. They deserve to get money from it. MS should buy them, slap on VC-1 support and start shipping that as a part of Media Player and a download for the 360.

46.5.2008 10:28

Quote:
Originally posted by plutonash:
funny thing is most people use coreavc for downloaded films!
Yeah, thats kinda funny. But i'm glad they jumped on someone. Their codec is by far the best for H.264. By far by like leaps and bounds above the competition, whether freeware or purchased. They deserve to get money from it. MS should buy them, slap on VC-1 support and start shipping that as a part of Media Player and a download for the 360.

it depends on what you describe as the BEST ... I do know form experience that it is the fastest :D if you try to view HD h264 content on an older\weaker CPU CoreAVC is your best bet for this i can vouch. on the other hand I heard that quality wise coreAVC lacks it in favor of speed (thats very logical imho). and codecs like ffdShow give better image quality ... personally I haven't investigated for my self but I just would like to point out that there i heard such 'rumors' (well .. i dont have links to exact sites) in a couple of places .. :D ofcourse quality doesnt matter if the movie is stutering :D

56.5.2008 12:18

Quote:
Originally posted by plutonash:
funny thing is most people use coreavc for downloaded films!
Yeah, thats kinda funny. But i'm glad they jumped on someone. Their codec is by far the best for H.264. By far by like leaps and bounds above the competition, whether freeware or purchased. They deserve to get money from it. MS should buy them, slap on VC-1 support and start shipping that as a part of Media Player and a download for the 360.

To be fair to CoreCodec they didn't jump on anyone. If they had been correct about their understanding that the DMCA gives copyright holders the additional exclusive right not to have their code reverse engineered they would also be correct that they must defend this right or else risk losing other exclusive rights. The problem is that the DMCA doesn't grant such a right, and they have a responsibility to make sure it does before they issue a Takedown Notice based on that premise. They stated publicly that they were working with the project's author to help him to keep the project alive, and he has backed that up personally. The entire project is based on the premise that you must provide the CoreAVC decoder yourself.

Further, let me add that CoreCodec did something most companies wouldn't. They admitted they were wrong and immediately started the process of fixing their mistake. I think anyone who questions their intentions is completely off base. Either they didn't talk to a lawyer to begin with, or were given what was clearly improper advice. If someone were looking to buy an AVC decoder I would still recommend theirs with no hesitation. It's one of the few pieces of consumer software around that's actually priced so consumers can afford it.

Being a good company doesn't exempt you from criticism, but neither does making a mistake stop you from being a good company. They made a mistake, they learned a lesson, they did the right thing, and they moved on. They shouldn't be punished for it, but we shouldn't forget the lesson either. It's equally important for other companies and consumers to understand the lesson to avoid similar problems in the future.

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