When people go to far
When people go to far to make a point:
Somebody has posted the source code for the infamous DeCSS to all comp.* Usenet groups. What is DeCSS you might ask? Well here's my unsolicited opinion on the fiasco:
When the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America, which is to the movie industry as the RIAA is to the music industry) created the DVD standard, they were worried about techo-savvy consumers pirating their movies over the Internet. Rather than embrace the Internet as an awesomely powerful new medium, the MPAA figured it would be better for their bottom dollar to install encryption devices to prevent consumers from copying DVD movies. The MPAA divided the Earth into seven regions, with each region having its own encryption scheme built into the hardware of the DVD player. So, the MPAA reasoned, if someone buys a DVD in China, they can't mass-pirate it and sell it to the US. Unfortunately, due to arcane encryption export regulations in the United States, they could only use low-grade (40-bit) encryption, which a modern computer can crack in just a few minutes. In short, the MPAA ignorantly relies on weak CSS technology to prevent duplication of DVDs. Further, they charge nearly $1million to license CSS to companies who manufacture DVD players, allowing them to closely monitor the use of CSS (according to OpendDVD.org).
Enter Linux users, with a predisposition for hacking and tinkering with technology. They are unable to watch legitimately purchased DVD movies on their Linux computers because Linux companies have not been able to license the CSS technology to develop DVD player software for Linux. The solution? Break to CSS encryption. After hacking on a DVD player for a while, a few people broke the CSS encryption, and the published the software for breaking CSS to the Internet as a program called DeCSS.
The MPAA starts suing like crazy, outraged that their encryption was broken. Though the fallibility of CSS technology was readily apparent to an experience programmer or Internet user, the MPAA continues to fight against the inevitable. In court, they have been able to get injunctions forbidding web sites to post the DeCSS code, or to even link to it.
In response, Linux users, free speech advocates, and people who are simply excited about the possibility to pirate DVDs have tried to turn the banning of DeCSS into a free speech issue. Software code, they advocate, is not a tool, but an expression. They have made attempts to distribute the DeCSS "speech" as much as possible, either by converting the code into the lyrics of an MP3 song, printing it on a t-shirt, or by mass-posting DeCSS to Usenet.
The ideal solution, or at least my solution, would be somewhere in the middle of the MPAA and the Linux users. The judge of the case, in forbidding other sites to link to the code, has made a haphazard precedent for future lawsuits. Forbidding this removes a check in our demacratic society so that learning about something that is illegal is itself illegal. The MPAA was idiotic in thinking that some half-assed attempt to control access would stop DVD copying (of course, considering the current legal fiascos regarding MP3s, embracing technology does not seem to be the strong suit of the entertainment industry). DeCSS advocates are also unreasonable in thinking that what they program on their computers should be protected as free expression. Of course, I'm certainly not an expert on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which is the relevant legislation, and don't have a fair solution that would please everyone.
But such is life. So it goes.