09 F9 11 02: Legal Implications

So, can you copyright, trademark, own a number? (If so, I got dibs on ‘7’). Clearly, I’m not a lawyer, nor an expert on property, but I’m pretty sure you can’t. It turns out not to matter anyway, the AACS-LA’s cease and desist letters is not alleging a copyright infringement, but rather is claiming this forbidden number is a component of circumvention technology that violates clauses in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). I’ve always thought this act was poorly named as it sounds more like a section of Disneyland, but whatever. The letter recommends that the violators “refrain from posting or causing to be provided any AACS circumvention offering or from assisting others in doing so, including by direct links thereto, on any website now or at any time in the future.” Statutory fines range from 200 to 2,500 dollars per “offering” (the forbidden number written out). The issue gets stickier the farther you go away from the source, but there are implications that Web sites linking to the offending technology (the number), hosting providers, etc. could be liable for damages. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) does a great job of crystallizing the controlling issues.

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