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LWN: Mike Godwin on DeCSS

Apr 14, 2000, 17:08 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Mike Godwin)

"So if CSS isn't really relevant to the piracy question (commercial pirates can already bypass it, and consumer would-be pirates will just buy the movie), what's the fuss about? Critics of the movie-industry litigation say these cases are less about copying and more about controlling the market for DVD players. Commercial DVD players are licensed to use CSS. These critics say the licensing scheme for players is designed to enable moviemakers to segment and control the market -- ensuring that DVDs sold in the United States do not work on DVD players in the Pacific Rim, for example. Not so incidentally, the CSS technology also gives movies studios the ability to impose conditions on player manufacturers -- making it more difficult to record a DVD movie onto a VCR tape, for example -- in possible violation of antitrust law."

"To fully understand these cases, you need to understand the role of the Linux/Open Source movement -- basically a worldwide network of software researchers and developers laboring to construct a fully functional Unix-like alternative to commercial operating systems like Windows or the Mac OS. But if it turns out that Linux programmers can't legally develop a DVD player, this will do much to undermine any claim that Linux is a serious alternative to Microsoft."

"...a successful court argument, or a successful appeal to Congress, is contingent on one thing: whether the software researchers who uncovered the workings of the CSS technology are perceived as legitimate researchers and developers or as "pirates and thieves." If the latter view prevails, not only the Linux/Open Source movement, but also the software industry as a whole, will be a lot poorer for it."

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