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[FYI] Legal battles: DVD Crypto War


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Movie trade group tries to block DVD cracking tool  

By Courtney Macavinta  

Staff Writer, CNET News.com  

November 18, 1999, 12:50 p.m. PT  

In a major test of a new copyright law, the Motion Picture 
Association of America is hunting down and eliminating from the Net a 
program that cracks the security on DVDs.   

The motion picture industry was rocked earlier this month when 
programmers discovered a way to remove anti-copying features from DVD 
versions of hundreds of copyrighted works.  

But the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which lobbies 
for the major U.S. studios' political and financial interests, 
appears to be having success in convincing Web sites to remove the 
utility. Called DeCSS, the program can crack the encryption code in 
the DVD Content Scrambling System, allowing people to make 
unauthorized copies of digital movies to play on their computers or 
television sets.  

The MPAA has sent cease and desist letters to numerous Web sites, 
citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which passed last 
October. The DMCA made it a crime to create, sell or distribute any 
technology that could be used to break copyright-protection devices.  

"The MPAA takes seriously any unauthorized compromises of encryption 
technology," said the association's spokesman, Rich Taylor, who 
declined to comment further on the issue.  

For now the MPAA is not going after people who actually use DeCSS to 
make illegal copies of DVDs because the law is not on its side--yet.  

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act did make it a crime to crack 
copyright-protection devices, with violators being charged up to 
$2,500 per act of circumvention. But that part of the law hasn't gone 
into effect yet, because it created exemptions for research, 
engineering and education that still have to be worked out by an 
interagency rule-making group.  

"The rule making will begin shortly, and after that is when you could 
face criminal penalties," said Skip Lockwood, spokesman for the 
Digital Future Coalition, which wants to ensure that the new law 
doesn't infringe on educators' "fair use" rights to access 
copyrighted material.  

In the meantime, many of the Web site operators the MPAA has 
contacted have complied and removed DeCSS, according to their sites--
including DVD Utilities Network and a DVD information site in Norway 
where there is a similar law.  

CNET Download.com also published the program. Almost 5,000 copies 
were downloaded before the site removed DeCSS yesterday in response 
to the MPAA's letter, the company confirmed. (CNET is the publisher 
of News.com.)  

Some who published DeCSS said they don't promote piracy, and the MPAA 
shouldn't attack those who are building the market for DVDs and 
"rippers" that allow consumers to make legal copies of the discs in 
some cases.  

"We all know that those rippers are available at 300 different sites 
over the Internet," the DVD Utilities Network stated on its site. 
"The MPAA should be more careful when attacking trendmakers and 

Movie fans agree. Andrew Markham, who cracked the security on his DVD 
copy of "The Matrix," argues that he owns the disk and should be able 
to make copies of it for his own use.  


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