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Publisher appeals DeCSS ruling

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From the Winter 2002 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 23.

From the Winter 2002 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 23.

The publisher of an Internet magazine barred from posting decryption codes on his Web site has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City (2nd Cir.) to reconsider its ruling prohibiting publication of such software.

In a Nov. 28 ruling, a three-judge panel of the court affirmed a lower court ruling that barred Eric Corley and his online publication 2600 Magazine from publishing the DeCSS code, software designed to break the encryption on DVD movies so they can be copied and freely played on computers.

Corley’s case poses the most significant challenge to date to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law enacted by Congress in 1998 to bolster copyright protection on the Internet by outlawing the distribution of programs designed to circumvent codes protecting copyrighted materials. (See NM&L, Summer 2001)

According to the appellate court panel, DeCSS “is like a skeleton key that can open a locked door.”

The decision also upheld restrictions against Corley from posting hyperlinks that direct site visitors to other Web sites with copies of the program.

But the Electronic Frontier Foundation said the ban on posting the code or links to sites with the code infringed on Corley’s free-speech rights. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press joined a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Corley, noting that the ban effectively could prohibit publications such as The New York Times from printing or posting links to prohibited Web sites.

The appeals court is expected to rule on Corley’s request this spring. (Universal v. Corley) — PT