Case of the week

The film industry in the US is locked in a battle which lawyers believe could have massive implications for the future of the new DVD medium. DVD – Digital Versatile Disc – is the new high quality medium for distributing films for viewing at home. The discs have an encryption built in that stops a user copying the film onto his or her computer and then copying to other discs or distributing via the internet. Unlike pirate copies of videos, each DVD copy is perfect. Last November, however, a 15-year-old Norwegian posted the code that breaks that encryption on his website. There followed three major lawsuits against hackers and internet authors. Jeffrey Kessler of Weil Gotshal & Manges argued that breaking the code was equivalent to stealing the formula of Coca Cola. But the defendants, all represented by the Electronic Frontier Federation, argue that users own the DVD and using the code to 'look under the hood and see what's in there' is not illegal and that the technology allows users of Linux machines to watch DVDs. Furthermore, the defendants are challenging the constitutionality of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which bans the distribution of any technology that can bypass a copy protections scheme. 'It prohibits more speech than the Constitution allows,' the EFF says.