[MPlayer-users] DeCSS legal status

Justin Moore justin at cs.duke.edu
Tue Apr 1 07:50:49 CEST 2003

> > > There has never been such a ruling, and probably not even such a
> > > claim. The reason the lawyers go after decss itself (the source) is
> > > probably because it can be used in making something to copy dvds.
> > > That's quite different from a binary that only plays them.
> >
> >    Actually the "2600 case" outlawed DeCSS simply on the grounds that it
> > _could_ be used to circumvent encryption, regardless of the end use.
> > And, no, in the court's eyes there was not and is not a distinction
> > between copying and playing since the law makes no distinction between
> > copying and playing.  The court's ruling is (unfortunately) quite clear.
> Saying that the law makes no distinction between copying and playing
> is both ignorant and plain wrong. The law does not even mention
> playing whatsoever. RTFL.

   First off, I agree that the DMCA is a horrible, horrible piece of
purchased legislation that stands in the way of real, useful technology,
and will end up harming the U.S. (and possibly world) economy in the
long run.  It need to be repealed or overturned in the courts.  In any
event, it need to GO AWAY AND NOT COME BACK.  It *should* make a
distinction between copying and playing.  But it doesn't.

   Now, I actually RTFL.  And since you didn't actually RTFL (perhaps
the words were too large), I'll go ahead and post some of the relevant
parts here.

"The injunction primarily bars the Appellants from posting DeCSS on
their web site and from knowingly linking their web site to any other
web site on which DeCSS is posted. Id. at 346-47. We affirm."

   So it looks like the Appellants (2600) can't traffic in or knowingly
help others traffic in DeCSS.  Why is that?  Let's see ...

"The Plaintiffs then sought a permanent injunction barring the
Defendants from both posting DeCSS and linking to sites containing
DeCSS. After a trial on the merits, the Court issued a comprehensive
opinion, Universal I, and granted a permanent injunction, Universal II."

   The Plaintiffs (essentially the MPAA) asked for and got a permanent
injunction against posting DeCSS.  Nowhere in there does it mention use
versus copying.

   So what was the court's opinion of DeCSS in general.  Let's see ...

"The Court explained that the Defendants' posting of DeCSS on their web
site clearly falls within section 1201(a)(2)(A) of the DMCA , rejecting
[...] as irrelevant their contention that DeCSS was designed to create a
Linux platform DVD player, id. at 319."

   Oh, what's this?  The court *rejected* as *irrelevant* the fact that
you could use DeCSS to play DVDs on Linux.  Is that clear enough, or do
you need more proof?  What's that?  RTFL?  Ok, I'll keep going ...

"The Court also held that the Defendants cannot avail themselves of any
of the DMCA's exceptions, id. at 319 22, and that the alleged importance
of DeCSS to certain fair uses of encrypted copyrighted material was
immaterial to their statutory liability [...]"

   The Court also said that it *doesn't matter* that DeCSS can be used
for non-infringing uses; they (2600) are still liable.  Again, another
round against your "Saying that the law makes no distinction between
copying and playing is both ignorant and plain wrong." assertion.

"The Court observed that DeCSS was harming the Plaintiffs, [...] but
also because, even if there was only indirect evidence that DeCSS
availability actually facilitated DVD piracy,[11] the threat of piracy
was very real."

   Hrm, so even though there was scant evidence that DeCSS actually
helped piracy, that was enough since DeCSS is a "circumvention device"
as far as the law cares: not a player, just a circumvention device.

"The DMCA targets the circumvention of digital walls guarding
copyrighted material (and trafficking in circumvention tools), but does
not concern itself with the use of those materials after circumvention
has occurred."

   What's this?!?  Oh, it seems to be another "We don't care if you're
copying or watching, it's just plain illegal to use DeCSS" clause.

"Third, the Appellants argue that an individual who buys a DVD has the
"authority of the copyright owner" to view the DVD, and therefore is
exempted from the DMCA pursuant to subsection 1201(a)(3)(A) when the
buyer circumvents an encryption technology in order to view the DVD on a
competing platform (such as Linux). The basic flaw in this argument is
that it misreads subsection 1201(a)(3)(A)."

   Boy, it sounds like 2600 tried your argument of use-vs-copying.  Did
the court buy that view?  Quick poll:

___ Yes
___ No


   Everyone that checked "no", very nice.  Everyone that checked "yes",
well ... RTFL.

   Still not convinced?

"That provision exempts from liability those who would "decrypt" an
encrypted DVD with the authority of a copyright owner, not those who
would "view" a DVD with the authority of a copyright owner.[15] In any
event, the Defendants offered no evidence that the Plaintiffs have
either explicitly or implicitly authorized DVD buyers to circumvent
encryption technology to support use on multiple platforms.[16]

"We conclude that the anti-trafficking and anti-circumvention provisions
of the DMCA are not susceptible to the narrow interpretations urged by
the Appellants."

   Ouch.  And the grand finale?

"We have considered all the other arguments of the Appellants and
conclude that they provide no basis for disturbing the District Court's
judgment. Accordingly, the judgment is affirmed."

   Sorry, try again.

   Yes, the DMCA needs to DIE.  Until then, know it, live it, love it.
And don't just say "RTFL" unless you yourself have actually RTFL.


Department of Computer Science, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0129
Email:	justin at cs.duke.edu
Web:	http://www.cs.duke.edu/~justin/

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