Judge bars DVD descrambling software

Federal judge bans three New York programmers from posting DVD-cracking program. But that's just the tip of the iceberg

A federal judge in New York has barred three programmers from posting on their Internet sites a piece of software used to unscramble the movies stored on digital videodisks.

Judge Louis Kaplan granted a request for a preliminary injunction filed by eight Hollywood studios who are trying to stop the proliferation of the unscrambling program. The software was created late last year by some programmers working with the free Linux operating system, and has since been posted all over the Web.

The New York case involves just three Web sites. A separate case in state court in California -- one still under advisement -- involves two dozen others.

The film industry, worried that DVD movies might one day be easily duplicated and passed around, says it is trying to protect its copyrighted materials and its trade secrets. Attorneys for the defendants, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, cite First Amendment concerns. They also say programmers need to be able to examine and discuss software techniques and methods.

A trial in the New York case hasn't yet been set. Any decision in the matter, though, is likely to be subject to a lengthy series of appeals.

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