MPAA on legal warpath with 2600 again

Popular hacker site sued for DeCSS linking

The powerful Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) lobbying outfit has taken another heavy-handed swipe at the DeCSS utility programme which enables users to decrypt the playback protection of DVDs and run them on unauthorised players. The group has named 2600.com publisher Eric Corley, aka Emmanuel Goldstein, in a complaint lodged with the district court in New York requesting a second injunction against Corley, this time to stop him from linking to other sites which offer the DeCSS programme for download. The MPAA successfully sued 2600, a popular hackers' newsletter, winning an injunction which prohibits the site from distributing the programme back in January. Corley has obeyed the court order, but has since provided links to other sites where the forbidden utility can still be found. "He is transporting individuals electronically to locations in order to facilitate the illegal copying of DVDs. His behaviour is analogous to driving someone to a home so that they may burglarise the home," MPAA President Jack Valenti said in his typically overblown rhetorical style. The court may not see it that way. In a recent decision involving Ticketmaster and Tickets.com, the judge found that hyperlinking is "analogous to using a library's card index to get reference to particular items." That strikes us as a more accurate description of the process than Valenti's. This will be an important case; the core question is whether a link to illegal content is itself illegal, and that has implications reaching far outside the MPAA's sad little theatre of acrimony and intimidation. Links to such content as racist hate speech, bomb-making instructions and child pornography all have the potential to be affected by the upcoming decision. The court must respond within 21 days. The MPAA says it expects a favourable decision, but we are not so sure. In any event, this is a true can of worms which may see scores of peripheral players trotting onto the field and filing appeals in diverse venues, and could eventually end up before the Supreme Court. ®

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