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Scientific American: DVDs: Cease and DeCSS?

Apr 16, 2000, 15:11 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Wendy Grossman)

"Back in 1990, organized Net activism began with an unfair prosecution when, as one of a series of raids on (mostly) teenaged hackers, federal investigators swooped down on a small publishing company based in Austin, Tex., that produced role-playing games. The Steven Jackson Games case was one inspiration behind the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the coming together of the Net as a community that believed itself and its values to be under threat. So when news broke late last year that a 16-year-old Norwegian boy named Jon Johansen and his father had been arrested at the behest of the movie studios because of a bit of software they had posted to the Net, it all seemed awfully familiar."

"The software is known as DeCSS: it makes it possible to view DVD movies on computers running the free operating system Linux. Johansen didn't write it, but he was among the first to post it, on the Web site owned by his father...."

"Although it makes sense to prosecute wholesale piracy, it makes no sense whatsoever to refuse to produce software to allow people to play legally acquired discs on devices they own and then prosecute them if they write their own software. It makes even less sense to prosecute people for doing what the Web was built for: posting and linking to useful information."

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