A federal appeals court in Manhattan has affirmed a district court injunction against posting or providing hyperlinks to a software program that can disable the encryption that prevents movies distributed on DVD disks from being copied.
The lawsuit in question pits the Motion Picture Association of America against Eric Corley, a publisher, Web journalist and cyberspace activist. Corley publishes a magazine (2600) and Web site (www.2600.com) focused on the subculture of computer hackers. Corley was sued by MPAA for posting DeCSS, a program that disables the movie industry's Content Scrambling System, which prevents DVD movies from being illegally copied and redistributed.
The suit was filed under a controversial provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which prohibits the circumvention of digital copyright protection. The DeCSS program was written to remove the encryption on DVD movies, Corley's supporters claim, so that they can be legally played on digital players using the Linux operating system.
Corley and others claim that use, posting and linking to the program is protected under the fair use provisions of the copyright act. They claim the program was never intended to be used to pirate digital movies.
The MPAA and other intellectual property owners reject this claim. They contend that the DMCA provisions are absolutely critical to the future of secure digital distribution.
As PW went to press, calls to Corley's attorney and calls to the AAP were not returned.
In his ruling Judge Jon O. Newman rejected Corley's principal claim that the injunction barring trafficking in the DeCSS program is an unlawful restriction of fair use. Newman notes that there is no requirement that fair use copying of DVD movies be in digital form. He emphasized that viewers are free to copy DVD films by means other than de-encryption, including "pointing a camcorder or a microphone at a monitor as it displays the movie. ... The fact that the resulting copy will not be perfect or as manipulable as a digital copy... provides no basis for a claim of unconstitutional limitation of fair use."