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[FYI] GILC: In Defense of Free Speech on the Internet


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In Defense of Free Speech on the Internet                      
Deutsche Version  

Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 01:46:10 +0100 (MET)  

We, the undersigned members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign - 
a coalition of more then 50 civil liberty groups worldwide - believe 
that the lawsuit of the Digital Versatile Disc Copy Control 
Association [DVD-CCA] against dozens of people worldwide may have a 
severe and harmful impact on free expression.  

We believe that intellectual property owners should not be allowed to 
expand their property rights at the expense of free speech, legal 
reverse-engineering of software programs for interoperability reasons 
and discussions of technical and scientific issues on the internet.  

DVD-CCA's lawsuit is in direct conflict with United Nations human 
rights accords and the First Amendment of the United States 


Just after Christmas the Digital Versatile Disc Copy Control 
Association (DVD-CCA) filed a case in California against people 
around the world who published information about the DVD Content 
Scrambling System (CSS), or links to such information, on the 

The root of the case is the allegation that the reverse-engineering 
of the DVD CSS system was "improper" (paragraph 18), "unauthorized" 
(para. 20), "wrongfully appropriating proprietary trade secrets" 
(para. 21), "unauthorized use of proprietary CSS information, which 
was illegally "hacked" (para. 22). The DVD-CCA have yet to provide 
substantial proof of these allegations, and they are unlikely to be 
proven true in a court of law.  

In their lawsuit, they claim that the defendants are violating the 
association's trade secrets and other intellectual property rights by 
publishing and discussing the source code of (or simply linking to 
other sites that publish or discuss) a legally reverse-engineered 
means of decoding DVD discs.  

On the contrary, the individuals targeted by the DVD-CCA have engaged 
in legitimate, protected speech, which includes software, textual 
descriptions, and discussions of DVD CSS. This speech is in no way 
copied or acquired from the DVD-CCA's trade-secret documents.  

Copyrights do not give anyone any rights in "ideas", but only protect 
the exact form in which they are expressed. Similarly, trade-secret 
law only controls people who agreed to keep it secret and have been 
told the secret; other people remain free to independently discover 
the secret.  

The ideas being discussed and implemented were apparently extracted 
by having an engineer study a DVD product ("reverse engineering"), 
which is legal in most countries. Indeed, the 1998 United States 
Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides specifically in section 
1201(f) that reverse engineering of a copy-protection encryption 
system is legal for reasons of "interoperability" between computer 

The decoder source code at the center of the case, called "DeCSS", 
was created (by third parties, not the defendants) to enable Linux 
computers to utilize DVD drives and content, since the industry 
itself failed to produce the necessary drivers for this operating 

In the DVD CCA's claim, the DVD-CCA have made the highly questionable 
suggestion that the source code's real purpose is to enable illegal 
duplication of DVD discs.  

Experts such as Eric s. Raymond have concluded that CSS does nothing 
to prevent piracy. In fact DVDs can be copied already by using other 
means, so nobody needs DeCSS to duplicate DVDs and DVD-CCA knows this 
very well. The notion that DeCSS could play a role in the 
distribution of pirated movies via the internet is absurd. At the 
speed most users currently use, a movie would take over a week to 


The real objective behind CSS technology and this law suit is to 
prevent movies sold in one zone of the world from being played on DVD 
players in another zone. The movie industry simply fears to lose 
revenue, if a film released in the US can be viewed on DVD players in 
Europe, Asia, or South America, before it is shown in theaters there. 
(The motion picture industry have recently demanded that 
manufacturers stop producing and selling "world" zone players able to 
play movies sold in any zone.)  

DVD-CCA also licences player manufacturers and software vendors who 
have produced DVD player software for use on Mac and Windows systems. 
DeCSS and related work enable the creation of new "rogue" DVD players 
in the freeware realm, that compete with controlled commercial 
products. This, DVD-CCA fear, would cut into manufacturing and 
licensing profits.  


We, the undersigned members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign 
believe that this lawsuit may have a harmful impact on free 
expression. In our opinion, the DVD CCA's actions are in direct 
conflict with United Nations human rights accords and the First 
Amendment of the United States Constitution, because the information 
that the programmers posted is legal.  

We also object to the DVD-CCA's attempt to blur the distinction 
between posting material on one's own web site and merely linking to 
it. If the original reverse-engineering was legal, as we believe, 
then the subsequent re-publication of the information is legal as 

DVD-CCA's tactics have created the perception that the DVD-CCA 
believes in swift oppression, using large bankrolls to send lawyers 
against little people.  

We believe that intellectual property owners should not be allowed to 
expand their property rights at the expense of free speech - 
particularly when the speech in question explains how companies have 
prevented the dissemination of new scientific ideas.  

We believe the DVD CCA is using intellectual property laws to subvert 
free speech in cyberspace.  


  American Civil Liberties Union

  Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

  Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility 

  Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) 

  Derechos Human Rights 

  Electronic Frontiers Australia 

  Electronic Frontier Canada (EFC)

  Electronic Privacy Information Center

  FITUG e.V. 

  Fronteras Electronicas Espa˝a (FrEE) 

  Index on Censorship 

  Internet Freedom

  IRIS (Imaginons un reseau Internet solidaire, France) 


  Privacy International 





  The Global Internet Liberty Campaign

  Factsheet from Opendvd.org

  Fascmile of the complaint for injunctive relief for misappropration
  of trade secrets by

  Wired article 

  San Jose Mercury 

  Eric S. Raymond on the Case 

  German language analysis

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