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DeCSS injunction challenged

Hacking as 'fair use'

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) submitted an appeal this week to reconsider a preliminary injunction granted against more than seventy Webmasters accused of trade secrets infringement for circulating a utility programme called DeCSS which cracks the security coding of DVDs and enables users to watch them on unauthorised viewers. The free-speech advocacy group argues that the act of posting the utility is constitutionally protected expression, not trade secret infringement. A key claim is that reverse engineering and decryption are permitted under the fair use exceptions to US copyright and trade secrets laws. We see a very slim chance of persuading a judge to come around to that point of view, but of course hope does spring eternal. A movie-industry front group called the DVD Copy Control Association filed two suits late last year after a sixteen-year-old Norwegian lad posted the utility programme on line, ostensibly to make it possible to view DVDs on a Linux box. The author, Jon Johansen, was arrested and questioned in Norway by local authorities. In the US, two cases, one in California and one in New York, have led to injunctions against US Webmasters who had been distributing the programme on line. The EFF is appealing the California case. ®

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