AfterDawn: Tech news

DeCSS puts free speech to a test

Written by Jari Ketola @ 04 Jun 2001 16:20

The hacker magazine 2600 and major movie studios filed their answers last week to a federal appeals court. The court has been asked whether or not computer code is covered by the First Amendment's right of free speech.
Last August a district court ruled that 2600 could not distribute or link to the source code or the compiled program file of DeCSS, the infamous DVD decrypter. Now judges will determine if the injunction was too harsh or even legitimate. Should they decide that computer code is covered by the First Amendment, it would also mean that a part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is unconstitutional.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group representing Eric Corley, publisher of the 2600 magazine, argued in its answers that DeCSS has to be concidered speech because it expreses ideas, and can be read by a trained person just like any other language.

The movie studios in turn argue that computer code is just a tool, and DeCSS is a tool whose sole purpose is to illegally remove DVD encryption. Therefore it is not speech, and doesn't carry a message.

Whatever the judges decide one thing is certain -- the losing side will most likely appeal.

Related articles:
EFF Answers Court Queries in DVD Decryption Free Speech Case

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