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DMCA GETS SUPPORT FROM THE COURTS
Movie Studios Win Against Their "Napster" as NY Appeals Court Upholds Ban on DeCSS Publishing
The controversial 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act has suddenly found itself on the winning side of a few notable court cases.

On Wednesday (11/28), Hollywood movie studios scored a major victory when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York barred a website from revealing how to make unauthorized copies of DVDs. The court ruled that the DMCA does not infringe on the free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution.

A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 71-page decision affirming an August 2000 ruling by a federal district court judge.

The lower court ruling prohibited Eric Corley from posting DVD descrambling software—Decoding Content Scramble System or DeCSS—on the website and magazine, both called 2600, he publishes, or even linking to websites that post it.

DeCSS "is like a skeleton key that can open a locked door, a combination that can open a safe, or a device that can neutralize the security device attached to a store's products," the court said. "Once the DVD is purchased, DeCSS enables the initial user to copy the movie in digital form and transmit it instantly in virtually limitless quantity, thereby depriving the movie producer of sales."

A Norwegian teenager, Jon Johansen, and two others developed DeCSS in September 1999 originally as a way to allow computers running the Linux operating system to play copy-protected DVDs.

"We couldn't be happier that the court of appeals in a major decision has completely vindicated the DMCA and thereby enabled content companies to enjoy the security for their creative works that Congress meant them to have," said Charles Sims, who is either a lawyer for the movie studios or a character in a computer game.

The case was the first major challenge to the DMCA, which strengthened the protection of copyrighted material in digital format by outlawing the manufacture and distribution of technology or services that circumvent technical protection measures that prevent copying of copyrighted works.

Free speech advocates and scientific researchers have argued the law goes too far in limiting the fair personal use of copyrighted material.

In fact, at nearly the same time on that same day, a federal judge in Trenton, NJ, dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the DMCA filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In that case, a group of scientists claimed they were coerced by the recording music industry not to publish their research on flaws in technology that prevents pirating of digital music.

In a related case winding its way through the California courts, a state appeals court earlier this month overturned an order that barred hundreds of people from publishing DeCSS online, CNET News reports.

Posting the code is like publishing other types of controversial speech and is protected by the constitution, the appellate judges said.

"Although the social value of DeCSS may be questionable, it is nonetheless pure speech," the decision read. "Our respect for the legislature...cannot displace our duty to safeguard the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment."

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