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Boffins back 2600 over DeCSS ruling

Another instalment in the code as free-speech debate

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Computer Science professors have come out in support of the quarterly hackers magazine, 2600 Magazine, which is currently embroiled in a legal battle over DeCSS, a program that decrypts data on DVDs.

The District Court in the Southern District of New York issued an injunction prohibiting 2600 Magazine from hosting or linking to the software.

In all, 17 professors from MIT, Princeton, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon University, among others, have stated their opposition to the ruling in an "amicus" briefing. They claim that computer code is a form of free speech, and as such is protected by the First Amendment.

"Copyright law already recognises that code, both source and object, may be copyrighted as a literary work or an original work of authorship. It does not take a leap of faith to say that a copyrightable literary work is a work entitled to full First Amendment protections, regardless of its functionality," they said.

The academics are not the magazine's only allies. The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed an appeal on behalf of the magazine. It called the ruling "unconstitutional."

Eight film studios sued 2600 Magazine and its publisher under the "anti-circumvention" rules of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in 1998. This is the act that has been used to such effect against free download sites like Napster.

According to Newsbytes the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had no comment beyond stating that its lawyers were looking at the brief. ®

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