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US bans DVD copying code

Courts say decision doesn't violate free speech

US courts have decided in favour of DVD makers, as the California Supreme Court ruled this week that it's not a violation of free speech rights to ban the publication of computer code that can be used to copy DVDs.

This reverses a previous ruling that a ban on publishing code went against the American constitution.

This ruling only applies if the code is a trade secret, however, and the issue of whether the code can be described as such will be investigated by the California Court of Appeal.

The case centred on the publication of DeCSS (De-Content Scrambling System) on the web, by Californian, Andrew Bunner. This allows users to copy movies protected by CSS. The code was first published by a Norwegian teenager, Jon Johansen, who is awaiting retrial after being acquitted of all charges earlier this year.

The case has been brought by the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA), in an attempt to prevent the replication of DVD movies.

The California court initially found that DeCSS contains trade secrets found in CSS technology, and that those secrets should be protected by law. Brunner appealed against this citing that the ruling violated the US' free speech rights. But although this appeal was successful, the latest ruling overturns the appeals court's decision.

The DVD CCA issued a statement saying it is "gratified" by the high court's affirmation that trade secrets are protected, and that free speech is "not a shield to allow thieves to distribute stolen intellectual property".

Related links:
DVD Copy Control Association

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