scotartt on Tue, 7 Mar 2000 22:17:09 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] MPAA pressures Australian government over DeCSS


Hollywood presses for ban on movie software

The Motion Picture Association of America has demanded that a Sydney Web
site stop distributing free software that allows the copying of DVD movies.

A representative from the MPAA also raised the issue last week in a meeting
with the Federal Attorney-General, Mr Daryl Williams.

The software is illegal under US law, but not in Australia. However, the
Federal Government is considering a wide range of changes to digital
copyright protection in Australia.

DVDs, advanced types of CDs that can store entire films, were designed to
be "copy-proof".

But last year a small group of Norwegian programmers designed software to
get around the content-scrambling system (CSS) that protects DVDs from
being copied.

The programmers designed the software, called DeCSS, so they could watch
DVD movies on computers using the Linux operating system, which is not
supported by DVD manufacturers.

But their discovery also allowed consumers using more popular Windows and
Macintosh computers to copy DVDs to their hard drives.

The Sydney chapter of an international hacking and security interest group,
2600, has been offering DeCSS from its Web site.

Offering the software is not illegal - there is no legislation in Australia
to prevent the use of such software.

However, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US does prohibit the
use of such software and was cited in a US District Court case in January
as grounds for a preliminary injunction to prohibit online distribution of

The MPAA, which represents seven major studios in the US, cited the US law
and a possible injunction in its demand to 2600 to stop "trafficking in an
unlawful circumvention device" which it believes is aiding piracy.

2600 claims it is within its rights to keep offering the software in

"2600 Australia is obviously Australian and any links from this site ...
are clearly beyond [the MPAA's] legal jurisdiction," the group states on
its Web site.

The MPAA's fears about piracy are considered unfounded by some DVD experts,
who say using DeCSS to make illegal copies of DVDs is inefficient and

"DVD movies are an impractical size to copy to anywhere except onto a large
hard drive," said Mr Michael Demtschyna, the proprietor of "Michael D's
Region 4 DVD Information Page".

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General confirmed that DeCSS software was
"raised as an issue" at a meeting between the MPAA and the Attorney-General
last week.

"The Government is taking this issue into account in the context of
considering amendments to the Digital Agenda Bill due to be debated during
the current sitting," she said.

But the Opposition spokeswoman on information technology, Senator Kate
Lundy, expressed concern that the Government was bowing to pressure from
the MPAA.

"I am at a loss to explain why the Government is entertaining a formal
approach from an organisation that is operating outside its jurisdiction
and using intimidating means to secure their market space," she said.

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