DeCSS case going to U.S. Supreme Court

An interesting facet of digital media is that DRM systems trump legal systems. That is, even if you legally have fair use rights or the right to personal-use copying, those rights are useless if the DRM system prevents it and you don’t have the knowledge or tools to restore your legal rights.

From Hollywood’s point of view, DeCSS cracked their precious content protection scheme for DVDs — something that any first-year computer science student could’ve told them was going to happen. From a more rational point of view, DeCSS simply (yet infamously) returned precendence to legal (rather than technological) controls over DVD content.

In 1999, movie studios and consumer electronics manufacturers organized themselves as the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) in order to sue — under the guise of California trade secret violations — over 500 people who re-posted DeCSS to other sites. To make it cheaper and easer for them to do so, they sued all of them at once, in one lawsuit filed in California’s Santa Clara county, and a California judge granted a blanket injunction.

The only problem is that many of the defendants weren’t from California, and the California Supreme Court ruled that at least one Texas resident could not be sued in California. But last week, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the California judge’s injunction, and will soon decide how to handle this precedent-setting case about where people can be sued when the jurisdiction is the internet. | Associated Press | InfoWorld story | story | ZDNet story