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Individual nodes of a content type need to have their edit capability for a role removed after a date provided by a CCK field. The idea is that these nodes are entered by various roles, given a "start date" and displayed on the site in a few layouts. After the start date has passed, the node should be uneditable by this specific role.

How can this be achieved, is it possible by using a module-only method or can it be done in code?

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Yes, you can do that with

hook_node_access

For example, something like:

/**
 * Implements hook_node_access().
 */
function MODULE_node_access($node, $op, $account) {

  // If editing target node type
  if ($op == "edit" && $node->type == 'target_type') {
    // Check against passed account or current user
    if (empty($account)) {
      $account = $GLOBALS['user'];
    }
    // If date field is set, user has target role and date is in the past
    if(isset($node->field_target_date[LANGAUGE_NONE][0]['value'])){
      $date = $node->field_target_date[LANGAUGE_NONE][0]['value'];
      if((in_array('target_role', $account->roles)) && (REQUEST_TIME > strtotime($date))){
        // Deny edit access
        return NODE_ACCESS_DENY;
      }
    }
  }

  return NODE_ACCESS_IGNORE;

}

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