Users of the Linux operating system who are anxious to watch DVD movies on their computers lost on two fronts this week.
In New York, a district judge sided with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) on Thursday, granting a preliminary injunction against three defendants--programmers who posted a DVD descrambling program, DeCSS, to their World Wide Web sites, as well as the owner of an Internet provider whose customer had made DeCSS available online. And in a separate case brought by the DVD Copy Control Association (CCA), a California state court granted a similar injunction yesterday afternoon.
Under both injunctions, the defendants have to yank any downloadable copies of DeCSS, which unlocks security codes that prevent DVD movies from being copied. With this deadbolt removed, a user can watch a DVD on a computer even if a licensed player program for it isn't available, as is the case with Linux. One also can make perfect digital copies of the video, albeit only at considerable expense.
The MPAA, in its case, argues that DeCSS violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 because it circumvents DVD's security measures. The DVD CCA, on the other hand, alleges that the still-unidentified programmers of DeCSS stole DVD "trade secrets" to write the software.
In the New York case, Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected arguments by attorneys from the Electronic Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is providing pro bono counsel in both cases. Kaplan offered a speedy trial for the suit, "as early as next Tuesday if you want it," he reportedly told MPAA counsel during the hearing.
One of the defendants in that case, Roman Kazan, runs a small Internet provider in Manhattan called Escape.com. He was named in the suit because one of his customers posted the DeCSS program on a personal Web site. Kazan said he was unaware of DeCSS until served with the lawsuit last Friday. "I didn't even know DVDs were encrypted before last week," he said.
"This is a danger to the Internet if an ISP can be sued for a customer's content," Kazan said. "I'm sort of like the landlord--they're renting a room and they're doing whatever they want to in there."
In a statement, Jack Valenti, president and chief executive of the MPAA, called Judge Kaplan's ruling "a great victory for creative artists and consumers everywhere."
Both injunctions will only be in force until a formal trial, though sources familiar with the New York case say that Kaplan's rulings and comments so far will likely mean a tough case for the defendants.