Definitions Edit

DeCSS is

a software utility, or computer program, that enables users to break the CSS copy protection system and hence to view DVDs on unlicensed players and make digital copies of DVD movies.[1]

DeCSS is "a free, effective and fast means of decrypting . . . DVDs and copying them to computer hard drives.[2]

Origins and history Edit

DeCSS was devised by three people, two of whom remain anonymous. It was released on the Internet mailing list LiViD in October 1999. The one known author of the trio is Norwegian programmer Jon Lech Johansen, whose home was raided in 2000 by Norwegian police. Still a teenager at the time, he was put on trial in a Norwegian court for violating Norwegian Criminal Code section 145,[3] and faced a possible jail sentence of two years and large fines, but was acquitted of all charges in early 2003. However, on March 5, 2003, a Norwegian appeals court ruled that Johansen would have to be retried. The court said that arguments filed by the prosecutor and additional evidence merited another trial. On December 22, 2003, the appeals court agreed with the acquittal, and on January 5, 2004, Norway's Økokrim (Economic Crime Unit) decided not to pursue the case further.

The program was first released on October 6, 1999 when Johansen posted an announcement of DeCSS 1.1b, a closed source Windows-only application for DVD ripping, on the livid-dev mailing list. The source code was leaked before the end of the month. The first release of DeCSS was preceded by a few weeks by a program called DoD DVD Speed Ripper[4] from a group called Drink or Die, which didn't include source code and which apparently did not work with all DVDs. Drink or Die reportedly disassembled the object code of the Xing DVD player to obtain a player key. The group that wrote DeCSS, including Johansen, came to call themselves Masters of Reverse Engineering and may have obtained information from Drink or Die.

On January 22, 2004, the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) dropped the case against Jon Johansen.[5]

Jon Lech Johansen's involvementEdit

The DeCSS program was a collaborative project, in which Jon wrote the graphical user interface. The transcripts from the Borgarting Court of Appeal, published in the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang, contain the following description of the process which led to the release of DeCSS:[6]

Through Internet Relay Chat (henceforth IRC), [Jon Lech Johansen] made contact with like-minded [people seeking to develop a DVD-player under the Linux operating system]. 11 September 1999, he had a conversation with "mdx" about how the encryption algorithm in CSS could be found, by using a poorly secured software-based DVD-player. In a conversation [between Jon Lech Johansen and "mdx"] 22 September, "mdx" informs that "the nomad" had found the code for CSS decryption, and that "mdx" now would send this [code] to Jon Lech Johansen. "The nomad" allegedly found this decryption algorithm through so-called reverse engineering of a Xing DVD-player, where the [decryption] keys were more or less openly accessible. Through this, information that made it possible [for "mdx"] to create the code CSS_scramble.cpp was retrieved. From chat logs dated 4 November 1999 and 25 November 1999, it appears that "the nomad" carried through the reverse engineering process on a Xing player, which he characterized as illegal. As the case is presented for the High Court, this was not known by Jon Lech Johansen before 4 November [1999].

Regarding the authentication code, the High Court takes for its basis that "the nomad" obtained this code through the electronic mailing list LiVid (Linux Video) on the internet, and that it was created by Derek Fawcus. It appears through a LiVid posting dated 6 October 1999 that Derek Fawcus on this date read through the DeCSS source code and compared it with his own. Further, it appears that "the creators [of DeCSS] have taken [Derek Fawcus' code] almost verbatim - the only alteration was the removal of [Derek Fawcus'] copyright header and a paragraph containing commentaries, and a change of the function names." The name [of the code] was CSS_auth.cpp.

The High Court takes for its basis that the program Jon Lech Johansen later programmed, the graphical user interface, consisted of "the nomad's" decryption algorithm and Derek Fawcus' authentication package. The creation of a graphical user interface made the program accessible, also for users without special knowledge in programming. The program was published on the internet for the first time 6 October 1999, after Jon Lech Johansen had tested it on the movie "The Matrix." In this, he downloaded approximately 2.5%, 200 megabytes, of the movie to the hard drive on his computer. This file is the only film fragment Jon Lech Johansen has saved on his computer.

Legal response Edit

The chief complaint against DeCSS (and similar programs) is that once the unencrypted source video is available in digital form, it can be copied without degradation, so DeCSS can be used for copyright infringement.

The first legal threats against sites hosting DeCSS, and the beginning of the DeCSS mirroring campaign, began in about early November 1999.[7] As a response to these threats a program also called DeCSS but with an unrelated function was developed. This program can be used for stripping Cascading Style Sheets tags from an HTML page. As of 2007, DeCSS and several clones (which have not been specifically brought to court) can be readily obtained over the Internet.

References Edit

  1. Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes, 111 F. Supp. 2d 294, 308 (S.D.N.Y. 2000)(full-text) (footnotes omitted).
  2. Id. at 315.
  3. Norwegian Criminal Code section 135-147.[1]
  4. See "The Truth about DVD CSS cracking" (Nov. 4, 1999).[2]
  5. "EFF: DVD Descrambling Code Not a Trade Secret" (Dec. 5, 2005).[3]
  6. See Transcript. Hele DVD-dommen
  7. See Reimerdes, 111 F. Supp. 2d 294 (S.D.N.Y. 2000).

External resources Edit

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