Leading up to Today's Hearing
- by Emmett Plant
Emmett Plant is Slashdot's newest author.
Monday, DVD Copy Control Association, Inc. filed for a restraining order in a California court. The targets of this cease-and-desist order were individuals and organizations who had made DVD decryption source code freely available on the net, by hosting the code themselves or linking to a website that did. Commmunity response has been fast and furious, with a deluge of Slashdot comments and submissions, and the immediate organization of Open Source community members to attend the hearing this morning.
Technically, the argument boils down to the issue of reverse engineering. Ideologically, the argument challenges the ideals of free speech, freedom of information, and the ability to innovate on behalf of computer users, hardware engineers and software developers all over the planet.
On Monday night, I spoke to a gentleman who had received the order just minutes prior, and although he didn't want his name mentioned, he provided with me with his thoughts.
"It should be legal when you've got people reverse engineering this kind of stuff. But a small minority in the business community want to lock down the information, citing that it's a trade secret. It's sort of like being busted in math class for passing answers around. [The code] is basically a mathematical equation that decrypts poorly encrypted DVD data. I support the free human right to freedom of thought. That's how civilization has gotten to where it is today, without lawyers heading innovators off at the pass."
Would he be willing to go to court to defend himself?
"Probably not. There are a lot of sites that are mirroring [the code], and they'll keep the program alive. I'll sleep easy at night knowing I did my part."
In many ways, the cease-and-desist only made it easier for people to get their hands on the code. As soon as the community heard about the order, many people posted the code on their websites as a sign of protest. Many community members have made the code available on overseas servers that don't face the possible legal repercussions associated with sites located in the United States.
Another interesting point of this case is that anyone who linked to a site that contained the information is also being held liable in the case. This is particularly frightening. This means that in the spirit of the cease-and-desist order, almost everyone on the web with a site that links to anywhere else falls into the legal maelstrom, as long as it eventually leads to a site with the code posted on it.
The legal ramifications of the case are extremely influential. The DVD CCA lawyers are fighting a battle against reverse engineering, an engineering process that enables the computer industry to utilize powerful tools like the IBM-compatible personal computer and countless hardware device drivers.
The hearing will take place this morning at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, California.
Funny and Sad at the Same Time
- by Hemos
The particularly humorous section of the lawsuit, at least for me, is that what they are trying to do is make linking illegal. That's right. Linking. Is. Illegal. Once we cross the the bridge of dictating what can and cannot be linked to, than we open ourselves up to a world of people being able to sue whenever something they don't want linked is linked. Without linking, the Web is dead.
Shaky Legal Grounds
- by Michael Sims
The legal standing for the DVD companies is so shaky it's not even funny. The danger is that they can effectively paint the opposition as a bunch of crooks and the judge will feel that *justice* requires a ruling in their favor despite the law - that can be averted if the defense makes a strong competent showing tomorrow, presumably. The second danger is that they will inflict sufficient costs on the defendants that others will be dissuaded from doing even perfectly legal things. That can't be prevented.
Planning to Join the Protest in Person?
The best source of information on how to help out at the Santa Clara County Courthouse is this page from Chris DiBona's Web site. It tells you where and when to be, what to wear, and what to expect. Worth reading even if you can't make it. Nice to know that Chris and others, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, are doing a great job for all of us on this!
Update by Emmett @ 1:20 p.m. EST:
Chris DiBona called me at 8:30 a.m. PST from right outside the courtroom, letting me in on the scene. The Open Source community has about 25 people there, as well as a lawyer or two of their own. The community members present are busy distributing the DeCSS source code on floppy disk as well as leaflet hard copy. No pictures will be taken of the interior of the courtroom, and there wasn't enough time to apply for the permit to record what happens inside.
Chris will be calling me as soon as they let out with up-to-the-minute information and notes from the community members inside the courtroom.
Links to Other DVD CCA Stories and Sites
Chris DiBona's excellent page
PZ Communications DeCSS Resource Site
Lemuria.org DeCSS Defense page
Dan Gillmor (SV.com columnist)
Santa Clara County Superior Court info
EFF to the Rescue!
Please send additional links to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add them to the list. Thanks.