Court rules against DeCSS

It has been said that computers do not create ethical dilemmas, they nearly enhance old ones. Such has been the case with recent ongoing lawsuits over computer programs such as Napster and the controversial DeCSS software. Yesterday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld the decision of lower courts to maintain a ban on the software.

Originally developed in Scandinavia, DeCSS was developed as a DVD decoder for the Linux operating system. Unlike most conventional operating systems, the Linux system and most software developed for it is created by individual programmers and shared freely along with source code. The source of the controversy surrounding DeCSS was raised by Hollywood producers who quickly realized that in addition to DVD decoding, the software could easily be used to rip DVDs and violate their copyright.

The key piece of legal precedent in the case has been the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which prevents not the copying of copywritten material, but the bypassing of copy protection and the distribution of devices or software which are capable of doing so.
The ruling of the courts yesterday confirmed the rulings of lower courts, agreeing that the DeCSS code is in violation of the DMCA. Although claims have been made that this is a violation of First Amendment Rights, the court responded that although computer code is granted some First Amendment protection, the content of the DeCSS code is “content-neutral” and therefore not expressive.

All websites containing links to the code have been ordered to remove the links immediately.

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