[Air-l] DVD encryption vs. source code

Sherri Condon scondon at mitre.org
Fri May 24 11:18:52 PDT 2002

I happened across this story on the CMU website and thought that folks on this list who are interested in intellectual property and free speech issues would want to take a look.  The press release is at
Here are a few quotes:
                        The question of whether computer code can be defined
                        as speech is at the heart of a debate brewing in U.S.
                        Courts, as well as in academic and research
                        institutions. A computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon is
                        helping to make U.S. legal history by presenting a
                        compelling argument to the courts and to the public at
                        The backdrop for this legal drama began in January,
                        2000, when the Motion Picture Association of America
                        (MPAA) filed a lawsuit against the hacker magazine
                        2600, charging that the online publication had violated
                        the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by
                        posting code for decrypting DVDs....
                        Carnegie Mellon Principal Research Computer
                        Scientist David Touretzky testified as an expert witness
                        for the defense. At the trial, Touretzky argued that
                        computer code has expressive content that conveys
                        ideas just like other forms of speech...
                        The Carnegie Mellon computer science faculty
                        member is now presenting his argument to the public
                        on the World Wide Web with his "Gallery of CSS
                        Descramblers," a scholarly publication that
                        demonstrates there is no difference between ideas
                        expressed in a computer language or in the English
                        language. Touretzky created the site to raise important
                        questions about legal opinions on whether or not
                        source code is subject to First Amendment protection
                        against prior restraint of speech.

The Gallery of CSS Descramblers is at
You can even get a t-shirt with one of the descrambling algorithms printed on it, but be careful:  the t-shirt vendor is being sued...


Sherri L. Condon, Ph.D.
The MITRE Corporation
7515 Colshire Dr.
McClean, Virginia 22102-7508
Phone:  703-883-5522
E-mail:  scondon at mitre.org

NOTE:  Fortunately, my words and actions are entirely my own and do not reflect the views or endorsement of The MITRE Corporation.

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