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The Village Voice: Down By Law:

May 04, 2000, 19:51 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jeff Howe)

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"When Movie Moguls Wage War to Protect Copyright, the First Amendment Ends Up on the Cutting Room Floor."

"In the world of Martin Garbus, we are all teachers and he is the student. This at least partly explains why an otherwise innocent DVD player lies in pieces on the coffee table in his Madison Avenue law office. The teacher today is Chris DiBona, prominent evangelist of the open-source creed-the belief that computer code, like speech, wants to be free."

"DiBona is teaching Garbus, who only recently learned how to work his own e-mail, why a miniscule bit of silicon in this player-and an equally miniscule program built to bypass it-have sparked a federal case that will determine whether we pass through the digital age with the First Amendment intact."

"As DiBona speaks, pointing at various organs in the innards of the DVD player, Garbus leans forward and listens intently. Very intently. You can almost hear the sound of files shifting and expanding inside Garbus's cerebrum. The force of this man's concentration could bend spoons, or laws. "I chose this life so I could forever remain a student," Garbus says, in a not-infrequent display of mock humility."

"This life, as it happens, has also allowed Garbus to remain a high-profile rebel. Perhaps the closest thing in New York to a modern-day Daniel Webster, Garbus has made a living by fighting the dark side in all its forms. A laundry list of Garbus's clients reveals a Zelig-esque talent for being on the right side of the right fight at the right time. Garbus fought for Lenny Bruce in '64, for Timothy Leary in '66, and against Alabama governor George Wallace in '68. A few years later he hid the Pentagon Papers in his attic for reporter Daniel Ellsberg. He has argued before the Supreme Court on 20 occasions, winning each time. Garbus has fought to protect the copyright of work by Samuel Beckett, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, and John Cheever."

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