DVD Code Injunction Overturned

Rhett Pardon
SANTA CLARA -- A California appellate court last week overturned a trade secrets injunction barring a Web site operator from posting source code for a DVD decryption program.

The 6th District Court of Appeal, for a second time, ruled in favor of San Francisco computer programmer Andrew Bunner in his dispute with the DVD Copy Control Association.

DVD CC, controlled by Hollywood studios, is the exclusive licensor for the content scrambling system that protects content of DVDs from unauthorized use.

In 2001, the court said the injunction sought by DVD CC violated the First Amendment as a prior restraint on speech. The California Supreme Court reversed that case and sent it back to the lower court to decide whether the injunction was consistent with the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

But the appeal court said the injunction did not pass the legal test under the UTSA because the code was no longer secret by the time Bunner posted it, and was even more widely known by the time the injunction was issued.

The DVD CCA said the release of the code by Bunner and others enabled users to replicate thousands of copyright-protected movies daily.

Known as DeCSS, the code was originally cracked by teenager Jon Johansen, who was acquitted in his native country of Norway of charges he pilfered trade secrets.

By the time the court heard DVD CCA’s request for a restraining order, the encrypted code had been displayed on or linked to hundreds of Web pages in 12 countries.