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The movie industry this week stepped up efforts to stem the spread of DeCSS - a utility that allows files stored on DVDs to be copied to PC hard drives - with a barrage of legal threats against websites offering the software.

The move targets 72 US-based DeCSS-hosting sites and follows actions launched in Europe earlier this month against other websites from which the utility could be downloaded.

The US suit was filed on Monday by the DVD Copy Control Association (DCCA), a body that appears to have been formed specifically to act against the distribution of DeCSS. Previous anti-DeCSS actions have been made on behalf of the Motion Picture Association of America.

The latest suit demands the removal of DeCSS from the named sites, but the DCCA is also seeking a broader restraint to prevent sites from linking to servers on which the utility is stored. The DCCA's suit claims the spread of DeCSS threatens the whole DVD business model, affecting drive and player manufacturers, movie distributors and licensing bodies - like... er... the DCCA - alike.

The irony here is that DeCSS emerged out of an effort to create an open source DVD player for Linux. But since DeCSS also runs under Windows, which already has DVD player software, the 'we did it for Linux' argument carries only so much weight.

DeCSS uses a series of DVD encryption keys discovered because DVD licensee Xing Technologies, a subsidiary of RealNetworks, failed to encrypt them. That said, many cryptography experts say the DVD encryption system is inherently insecure and would have been cracked sooner or later using brute force methods. ®

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