Torvalds lambastes DVD lawsuits

The developer of Linux thumbs his nose at Hollywood and the companies that are suing to keep DVD under wraps

Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux, roundly criticised on Wednesday the companies that have sued Web sites and programmers -- one as young as 16 years old -- to keep the secrets of digital versatile discs under wraps.

"This is a perfect case of companies that want to screw their customers over," he said during the opening keynote speech at LinuxWorld. "DVD companies want to control the market, and not by offering a good technical solution, but by suing their own customers."

Last October, an international group of programmers published the source code to a program that broke the encryption protecting DVDs from playing on unauthorised platforms. One of the programmers, 16-year-old Jon Johansen of Norway, was brought up on charges of copyright violation and interrogated by police.

The program, known as DeCSS, circumvents the Content Scrambling System, which is intended to block unauthorised players from playing DVDs. The movie and computer industry have labeled the programming initiative as pirates attempting to -- and succeeding at -- copying the protected content.

Torvalds refuted that version of events. "It was just a case of people wanting to play DVDs on their Linux systems," said Torvalds. While DVD movies can be played on Windows and Mac systems, Linux has not been officially supported by movie makers.

The suit against Johansen, brought by the Motion Picture Association, is not the first. In December, the DVD Copyright Control Association sued 500 unnamed plantiffs for linking to the source code of the program.

Another suit brought by the Motion Picture Association of America charges three Web sites with violating trade secret statutes by posting the DeCSS program.

Torvalds thumbed his nose at the suits. "I watch DVDs on Linux myself," he said.

But don't ask him for the program he uses -- he'll only go so far: "I cannot give out the binaries."

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