Movie trade group tries to block DVD cracking tool

After the waves the cracked encryption of DVD has caused in the past weeks, the Motion Picture Association of America is hunting down and eliminating from the Net the program that cracks the security on DVDs. In their first efforts, immediately after the publication of the crack utility, 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.

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.

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. 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 Webmasters.”

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. “I don’t think the MPAA has a right to threaten any of us for what we have been doing,” he said. “Yes, I reverse-engineered ”The Matrix,’ but I own the DVD. I paid $19.95 plus tax. Do organizations come after you if you make a copy of a CD to tape so you can listen to it in your car?”

[Editor: Well buddy, I am sorry to disappoint you, but you simply don’t have your facts straight. Making a copy for personal purposes and re-engineering software are two different shoes, and distributing the latter is illegal no matter whether you own the medium the software is on or not. Sadly, this kind of ignorance has been around since the first introduction of computer software and it is hard to believe that the MPAA’s efforts will ultimately make a difference, as the web is just too big to control.]

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