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Battle Over DVD Code Moves to Hyperlinks

7 May 2000

In what civil liberties proponents are calling a major battle over online freedom of speech, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is fighting a court injunction that would prevent the defendant in a high-profile DVD encryption case from posting certain links on his Website.

Earlier this year, a cabal of major movie studios, backed by the Motion Picture Association of America, convinced a federal judge to grant an injunction ordering New York-based 2600 Magazine to remove information about DVD encryption from its Web site. Now the movie studios want the Web site operator to pull all hyperlinks to the DVD crypto information from the site.

If granted, the amended injunction would be an unprecedented violation of First Amendment rights, Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Robin Gross told Newsbytes last week.

"Really all a link does is tell a person where a particular document can be found," Gross said. If the court rules that news organizations can't point readers to additional information, that ruling "will have a tremendous chilling effect on free speech."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is defending Web site operators in New York and California in separate DVD encryption cases.

While the MPAA and others say that the DVD encryption codes are trade secrets and should be treated as such, the EFF contends that not only do the DVD protocols not meet the minimum standard for "trade secrets," but that the Website postings are a clear example of constitutionally protected free speech.

Many of the attempts to break the DVD industry's Content Scrambling System system stem from the fact that no DVD viewing devices have been licensed for computers running Linux and other alternative operating systems. The tech-savvy Linux community responded by working to break the protocols and develop its own devices.

The MPAA was not immediately available for comment on this story.

Both the New York and the California DVD-encryption cases are still pending.

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