Court blocks online publishing of DVD decryption tool

A California court temporarily bars numerous individuals and Web sites from posting online a program that disables the security on DVD movies.

A California court has temporarily barred numerous individuals and Web sites from posting online a program that disables the security on DVD movies.

The lawsuit was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court in California by the DVD Copy Control Association, which includes the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Business Software Alliance and the Electronic Industries Alliance. The association licenses out the DVD Content Scrambling System--a technology used by all major U.S. movie studios to control the authorized use of DVDs.

Like a lawsuit filed in New York, the California complaint aims to eliminate a program called DeCSS that the movie industry says was designed to let computer users circumvent DVD security, allowing them to view the movies on unauthorized players. The association says the program violates trade secrets.

In addition to filing lawsuits, the MPAA has sent cease-and-desist letters to hundreds of Web sites.

But the defendants in the suit, who are being represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say the DeCSS program is intended to make DVD movies compatible with the Linux operating system, not to create pirated copies of movies.

Judge William Elfving has granted the DVD association's request for a preliminary injunction blocking the Web sites from publishing DeCSS until the case is decided.

"Under the law, a system to protect secrecy does not become unreasonable simply because a clever thief finds a way to penetrate the security," the order states. "Under these circumstances, the court is satisfied that plaintiff has shown a likelihood of prevailing on the issue of trade secret."

The judge did not go as far as banning sites from linking to other sites that contain the program or information about it, however.

"The court refuses to issue an injunction against linking to other Web sites which contain the protected materials, as such an order is overbroad and extremely burdensome," Elfving wrote. "Nothing in this Order shall prohibit discussion, comment or criticism, so long as the proprietary information (about the DVD Content Scrambling System) is not disclosed or distributed."

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