Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur

August 28, 2000

Nothing like watching one arm of a company doing something that another arm of the company is trying to stamp out. Last week, Dave Winer found a link to DeCSS in an article at CNN.com discussing the MPAA's lawsuit against 2600.

Some quick background: DeCSS is a program that allows Linux users to decode the encryption on a DVD. The stated purpose for this software is to allow Linux users to view their DVDs, as there are no officially liscensed DVD players that run on Linux. However, it also allows people to take the DVD, save a decrypted copy, and distribute it. The MPAA, understandably, is not too happy about that prospect, so they sued 2600 when it posted a copy of the program. 2600 took it down but posted a link to other places with copies and the MPAA sued again. This brings up the whole question of when a hyperlink is or is not illegal, or whether a link can be illegal.

In any case, a judge ruled that the links were illegal. Now, here's the interesting part: CNN did the same thing 2600 did and is owned by Time-Warner, which also owns Warner Brothers, which is a member of the MPAA.

Once word got out, CNN removed the link. Dave Winer has posted images showing the page before and after. An article on Upside gives some background, noting that the article came from LinuxWorld which had accumulated a list of DeCSS-related links through a series of articles and hadn't gone through to eliminate the now-presumably-illegal ones.

Interestingly, I came across this while following a link from the Doc Searls Weblog discussing Tuneprint, a technology which will potentially allow anyone to identify a piece of recorded music as long as it hasn't been altered to the point of introducing distortion. I'm skeptical about how accurate that could be, but I always tend to emphasize the difficult-to-impossible 10% when I think about these things. Tuneprint gives a number of possible uses for the technology including helping piracy and helping prevent piracy (both listed under terrorism, amusingly).

Next: More on copyright and the slimy, underhanded dealings of the RIAA.