LWN: Mike Godwin on DeCSS

“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.”