Eric Albert says I got the Apple/Other World Computing DVD story wrong (thanks to Dave Winer for the link). Eric says Apple was right to invoke the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because Other World Computing was distributing a “patch” to Apple’s iDVD software, and therefore Apple was protecting the copyright on its software.
Well, based on the original CNET story I think I need to stand by my interpretation. (I can find no other coverage — anyone else see more details elsewhere?) If Other World’s product was actually a modified version of iDVD, if Other World was itself redistributing Apple’s software, then Apple has a case that Other World was violating its copyright (though not that Other World was violating the DMCA — see below). But that’s not what a “patch” typically is; usually it’s a piece of code that a user installs that modifies how a program functions.
If Other World was distributing a separate piece of software that users can install that interacts with iDVD then I don’t see how this violates Apple’s copyright. If that’s a violation of the DMCA then every single software “add-on”, every single software program that interacts with another software program, is in violation of the DMCA. And that’s patently absurd. But this is the kind of craziness the DMCA is moving us towards.
In any case, the DMCA doesn’t prohibit companies from distributing software that modifies how another company’s software works. The language used outlaws anything that “is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing protection afforded by a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner.” In other words, DMCA wants to stop you from creating a tool that’s primarily for the purpose of circumventing copyright protection technology. There is no way under the sun that Other World’s iDVD patch falls under that prohibition.