SAN FRANCISCO (08/28/2000) - The movie industry won its first Internet-related copyright fight Thursday when U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ordered a permanent injunction against hacker magazine 2600.com for posting a controversial link to information on how to illegally unscramble DVDs for playback on Linux operating systems.
The suit against 2600.com is one of many copyright cases currently engaging the entertainment industry. The most prominent of them heated up last month when the recording industry won -- and then lost on appeal -- an injunction against file-sharing service Napster Inc.
Judge Kaplan said that in posting the link, 2600.com violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by circumventing the content-scrambling system. He called the defendants "adherents of a movement that believes that information should be available without charge to anyone clever enough to break into the computer systems or data storage media in which it is located."
Representatives for the eight major studios that filed the suit will now urge ISPs to remove the code, known as DeCSS, from their networks. This could cause problems for publications that link to the code or to sites carrying the code.
Lawyers for 2600.com claimed the code is free speech protected by the First Amendment since developers express themselves via the code they write and the notes that they leave for one another within their code. Kaplan dismissed that argument.
The defendants plan to appeal the case. "This is not so much about piracy," says Ed Cummings, a writer for 2600.com. "It's about who controls how Americans view the things they paid for." When the code was posted, there was no legal way to view DVDs on machines using Linux. A Linux viewer is now in development.
During the trial, the movie industry's counsel did not provide any examples in which movies were pirated through the use of DeCSS.
DeCSS became an issue in October, when a Norwegian teenager created the code and posted it on his site. Local authorities forced him to remove it, but 2600.com posted a link to the code, posted elsewhere, soon after. In January, Kaplan ordered the link removed from 2600.com in a preliminary hearing.