Oxford University targeted by MPAA

The Motion Picture Association of America gets heavy with a student's web page...
Written by Will Knight, Contributor

Oxford University has been forced to take a student's Web page offline following threats of legal action by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The Web page, which contains information about the DeCSS DVD application for Linux, was taken down by the University Wednesday following a call from the MPAA. The organisation is currently prosecuting the creator of DeCSS and a number of US sites which posted it alleging copyright violations.

Oxford University student Adrian Baugh, who created the page last year, says that it did not contain the DeCSS program just information about it as well as a link to US Web site DeCSS Central. "I was told by my college computer officer that it was in breach of UK copyright law," says Baugh. "Although I don't see how it can be a breach of any copyright."

Legal expert Donald Ramsbottom believes the University should have checked whether the site did contain the controversial application. He tells ZDNet that the University's actions are a violation of Baugh's rights. "It is a breach of freedom of expression and freedom of speech," he says. Director of Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties Yaman Akdenis agrees with this assessment adding, "My advice would be to put this link back up".

Ramsbottom suggests that under British law the application may not be illegal. "All the protection that exists under acts of parliament is against copying, while the DeCSS decrypts. Even had the code been there, it wouldn't have mattered," he says.

A statement issued by the University confirms that the site was removed for potential copyright violation, but the University denies failing to respect its student's rights. "While we support freedom of speech," reads the statement. "We have the duty to ensure that copyright is not breached or potentially breached on any University Web site."

An official for the University however, says that if the page is found to contain nothing illegal it will be put back online.

The MPAA did not return phone calls by press time.

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