Hacker backers fold

Privacy org backs off on DeCSS appeal

HOLLYWOOD — The Electronic Frontier Foundation has opted to cease and desist on DeCSS.

Ending a case originally brought by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the online privacy org on Wednesday announced it will not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling against an online computer hacking magazine.

The magazine wanted to print the code that can break the encryption on DVDs and link to sites that offer the software.

The EFF anticipates that there will be other court cases down the road that will better suit its stated goal of protecting expression online.

Future tests

“We took several steps forward with this case, forcing the courts to recognize that freedom of speech was at stake,” said EFF legal director Cindy Cohn. “Later cases will provide a better foundation for the Supreme Court to act on the problems created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”

Representatives of the MPAA were not available for comment. When the federal appeals court in New York upheld the original ruling late last year, MPAA topper Jack Valenti applauded the decision, saying that “it makes very clear that anyone who makes available material which circumvents encryption of creative works violates the law.”

The battle over the DeCSS code began in December 1999 when major Hollywood studios, including Universal, Paramount, MGM, Columbia TriStar, Warner Bros., Disney and Fox, sued 2600 magazine over an article about DeCSS and the Norwegian teenager that developed it.

Wider application

That teenager, Jon Johansen, said he created the code in order to play DVDs on computers that use the open source Linux operating system. It became widely known, however, that the same software could be used to defeat the copyright protections on the disc, making them easy to copy.

In a statement on its Web site, 2600 magazine wrote: “While we share the disappointment many of you will feel — our chances of the case being taken up by the Supreme Court were very slim.” The statement went on to say that it was also unlikely the Supreme Court would have ruled in favor of the magazine and that either outcome would have set back the overall fight.

“To continue would have meant putting our egos ahead of the best legal strategy, something we’re not about to do,” the statement noted.

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