DATELINE -- Tuesday, 23 November 1999

MPAA turns up the heat: C-Net has posted a story on the Motion Picture Association of America's looming battle with DVD hackers around the world who are posting the DeCSS crack, which was recently developed in Norway and undermines the Content Scrambling System encryption technology that was designed to keep copyrighted DVDs from being duplicated on recordable DVD-ROM media. As of this point, several cease-and-desist letters (probably much like this one) have been delivered to websites around the globe, but the MPAA isn't currently going after individuals who post DeCSS on the Internet. At least not for now. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was passed in 1998, specifically forbids the dismantling of copyright-protection technologies, but several exemptions to the law (primarily in instances of research and education) have yet to be resolved. It is when the details are hammered out, probably in the next several months, that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act will have a bite, and it's not hard to imagine that the MPAA will pursue DeCSS posters to the limit of the law, currently $2,500 per infraction. And since the law specifically prohibits the creation, sale, or distribution of copyright-protection hacks, that $2,500 per download from a single website can start to add up. Is it going to stop the online distribution of DeCSS? Not likely. But DVD providers aren't happy campers lately, and it will be interesting to see what happens if they manage to get somebody in a courtroom and potentially on the hook for millions of dollars in damages.

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