ACLU loses first DMCA challenge

Thursday, 10 April 2003, 3:38 PM EST

In a strongly worded decision, a federal judge in Boston dismissed a lawsuit aimed at defanging part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The ACLU's suit, filed against filtering-software company N2H2 last July, claims the law unconstitutionally interferes with researchers' ability to investigate and evaluate the effectiveness of Internet filtering software.

"There is no plausibly protected constitutional interest that...outweighs N2H2's right to protect its copyrighted property from an invasive and destructive trespass," U.S. District Judge Richard Sterns wrote.

Sterns' ruling dealt a sore blow to opponents of the DMCA, who claim it violates free speech rights protected by the First Amendment, but who have faced a stinging series of defeats in court. So far, every judge who has considered section 1201 of the DMCA has upheld its broad restrictions on the "circumvention of copyright protection systems."

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