Questions and Problems
on Copyright Management Information
17 U.S.C. §§ 1202-1205
[Please read these questions and problems before you read the statute;
then, after reading the statute, read them again and take notes on your
1. What is copyright management information (CMI)? What is the
apparent purpose of protecting it?
2. Now that the use of copyright notice is entirely optional, why
is statutory protection of CMI necessary or desirable? Under what
circumstances might legal protection of CMI be important for protecting
the copyright owner's interests? assuring or assisting lawful use
of a copyrighted work?
3. Besides the information contained in a standard copyright notice
(name of copyright owner, year of first publication, and claim of copyright),
what other information might you expect CMI to contain? What good
would it do and for whom?
4. What kinds of association does the statute contemplate between
CMI and the copyrighted work to which it relates? Which of the following
are or should be protected from unauthorized alteration or removal as "CMI"
under the statute:
a. A printed copyright notice on the label of a CD or cassette.
b. Binary data, hidden in an MP3 file of a song and unreadable except
by machine, containing in compressed audio format the names of the composer,
lyricist, arranger, record producer, and copyright owner and instructions
for obtaining permission to publish and use the song—all of which are
made audible before the audio "playback" of the song when the MP3 file
c. The same information as in part (b), but ontained in an audio
file separate from the MP3 song, which is accessed by an active "link"
(a "click-here button") situated next to the link used to download the
MP3 song from a vendor's Website.
d. The same information as in part(b), but in text format, rather
than audio format, made accessible by searching a separate database under
the name of the singer or the title of the song.
e. Artistic credits for the producer, director, screen writer, actors,
and special effects groups, and the name, telephone number, "snail mail"
address, e-mail address, and permission policy of the owner of copyright
in a film recorded on videocassette—all hidden in the "vertical blanking
interval" (recovery interval between bottom and top raster lines on the
TV screen) in such a way that special equipment is required to extract
this information, i.e., not every videocassette player can reproduce it.
5. To the extent the statute covers each of the examples of CMI in
question 4, what practical problems might arise in enforcing the statutory
prohibitions against falsification and unauthorized alteration and removal
of CMI? Does the statute adequately protect publishers and users of
copyrighted works, as well as Internet service providers, against liability
for accidental or "innocent" acts of alteration or removal? If so,
what subsections and particular words of the statute effect that protection?
6. Is Section 1202 easy to violate inadvertently or accidentally?
Is it easier or harder to violate accidentally than the anti-circumvention
rule of Section 1201(a)(1)(A)? than the antitrafficking rules of Section
1201(a)(2) and (b)?
7. List the remedies available to a party aggrieved by a violation
of Section 1201 or 1202, and compare them to the remedies in Chapter 5 of
the copyright statute (§§ 503-510) for copyright infringement. Which
set of remedies, those in chapter 5 or those in chapter 12, is stronger?
8. Do the criminal sanctions under Section 1204 adequately protect
innocent parties against fines and jail time? If so, what subsections
and particular words of the statute effect the protection?
9. Work through the following problem in detail:
Delia is an MP3 lover. She has a home computer with a very large
hard drive. On that hard drive she downloads and stores every MP3
file of music that she can find on the Web. At present, she has
over 2,300 songs catalogued by title, artist, genre of music (folk, rap,
hip-hop, etc.), and recording company. All are available to her
for "easy listening" at the click of a mouse.
Delia is also a sometime hacker. She likes to play with various
musical and other digital files and the software that handles them. One
day, while playing with the MP3 files from Sounds, Inc. (SI)—an offbeat
recording company—she discovers "hidden" digital material that does not
"play" during normal playback of the MP3 file.
Upon analysis, she discovers that every MP3 file from SI has such "hidden"
material. The hidden material consists of an ordinary text file,
which can be opened with any notepad or word processing program. Each
text file contains the name of the song, the producer's name (if any),
the names of all the accompanists and band members and the following legend:
"This song may be downloaded for personal use only. After downloading
it, you may not transfer, share or otherwise provide this file or this
song to any other person. You may, however, make as many copies
as you wish for your own personal use, including use on multiple computers
and portable MP3 players."
After playing a number of SI's songs, Delia thinks they have lower-quality
sound than MP3 files from other sources. She removes the "hidden"
text file, and the quality of the sound seems to improve. So Delia
systematically strips away the hidden text files from all of SI's MP3
files on her hard drive.
Delia does not throw the stripped files away, however. Instead,
she saves each text file on her hard drive, using files names that contain
the initials SI and the titles of the songs. That way, if she ever
wants to match a hidden text file to the MP3 file from which it came,
she can do so easily.
Delia sometimes plays selections from her large collection of songs for
her friends. After a few friends repeatedly ask her to transfer
popular songs to them, Delia finally relents. She transfers over
500 different songs, including 50 files of different SI songs, to various
friends at their request. All of Delia's friends make copies on
their hard drives of the MP3 files that they receive from Delia. They
save these files for later playing (and possibly transmission to others)
at their leisure.
Analyze Delia's liability under Section 1202 if:
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1. Delia transmits all the SI MP3 files without the hidden text
files (which she has stripped away).
2. Same as in point 1, except that, whenever Delia transmits an
MP3 song from SI to a friend, she also transmits the hidden text file
separately, as a separate file, with a file name and that includes the
initials "SI" and the title of the song.
3. Delia writes a computer program to recombine each hidden text
file with its corresponding MP3 file before transmission. The
output of this program is indistinguishable from the original MP3 file,
i.e., it contains both the "hidden" text file and the audio portion
exactly as supplied by SI. The program is designed to recombine
the text and audio portions automatically every time Delia transmits
a song produced by SI.
The program recognizes MP3 files produced by SI through their indexing
in Delia's file system. Unfortunately, Delia mis-filed seven SI
songs. Because these seven songs were mis-filed, the program sends
their stripped MP3 files out to Delia's friends without the corresponding
4. Same as in point 3, except all the files are properly indexed,
but the program sends out five stripped MP3 files without their corresponding
hidden text files because of an unusual error in Delia's program.
This error causes the program to operate correctly 95% of the time but
to fail at 5% of the time. Delia is unaware of the error.