DVD-copying code loses free speech shield

Tuesday, 26 August 2003, 12:10 AM EST

The state's high court overturned an earlier decision that said blocking Web publishers from posting the controversial piece of software called DeCSS, which can be used to help decrypt and copy DVDs, would violate their First Amendment rights. An industry technology coalition called the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) had sued dozens of people in California courts, contending that posting the software online violated its trade secrets rights.

Monday's state Supreme Court decision did leave room for another legal about-face, asking a lower court to revisit the question of whether any industry trade secret rights actually were violated.

But judges said that for now, property rights outranked free speech rights in this case, because DVD copy-protection technology was never meant to be public. Nor did the DeCSS code itself contribute significantly to a debate over whether DVDs should be encrypted at all, the judges said.

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