May 17, 2002 10:35 AM PDT

DVD-cracking code ban upheld

In another setback for free speech advocates, hacker magazine 2600 has lost its bid for an appeal of a ruling banning it from posting code that can be used to crack DVD copy protections.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals refused 2600's request to reconsider a ruling that prohibits the publication from posting or linking to code known as DeCSS.

The ruling, issued last week, is another blow to the efforts of some free speech proponents, journalists and researchers, who have argued that new copyright laws designed for the digital age are thwarting the free flow of information.

The major movie studios sued 2600 two years ago, alleging that the code contributed to copyright infringement and violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which bans the offering of programs that can be used to crack copyright protection schemes.

A federal judge agreed and sided with the Motion Picture Association of America. The Electronic Frontier Foundation appealed the case on 2600's behalf, but an appeals court panel upheld the ruling. 2600 then asked the full panel to reconsider that decision.

The publication still has the option of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. The EFF said it is still considering whether to do so.

Attempts to chip away at the DMCA on the grounds that it violates free speech have for the most part failed so far, giving the entertainment industry more ammunition to go after people who post or make public code that could be used to unlock copyright protections, even if such use is only theoretical. So far, digital content companies have wielded the law to crack down on companies, programmers and even professors, fearing their research and programs could lead to widespread piracy.

However, some lawmakers and technology companies are beginning to mount challenges to Hollywood-backed attempts to control content--at least on the public relations front. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., has been promising legislation for more than a year that would reel in portions of the DMCA. And representatives from companies including Gateway and Intel are warning against measures that would require government-mandated anti-piracy technology in their products.

 

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