infamous hacker publication known as 2600, is being sued in Federal
Court by eight major motion picture corporations. Defended by renowned
attorney Marcus Garbus, 2600, and its assumed editor "Emmanuel
Goldstein," 2600 is being charged with "circumvention of copyright
protection systems" - for publishing how to circumvent the Contents Scramble
Systems (CSS). CSS protects Digital Video Discs (DVDs) from unauthorized
access and copying. 2600 posted a program that can decrypt CSS
called DeCSS on www.krackdown.com. DeCSS has since been removed from www.krackdown.com.
With its legal bills being paid for by the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
an ACLU-ish type of Internet non-profit organization dedicated to free
speech, 2600 is going to need a strong defense team to take on
these industry heavyweights. This case will challenge the bowels of free
speech and censorship and inevitably set a lot of legal precedents moving
U.S.C. 1201(a)(2) states specifically that, "No person shall manufacture,
import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology,
product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that is primarily
designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological
measure that effectively controls access." There are numerous pieces of
software out on the Internet that violate this code, however, 2600
is the first to be challenged in court.
Garbus is a founding partner of Frankfut, Garbus, Klein, and Seltz, a
Madison Avenue (NYC) based law firm that was founded in 1977. A trial
lawyer who is known for his expertise in selecting juries, Mr. Garbus
has as a part of his intellectual property practice represented the publishers
of Salmon Rushdie and Henry Miller, as well as major motion picture stars
Spike Lee, Robert Redford, Richard Gere, and Al Pacino. Mr. Garbus has
taught law at Columbia and Yale Universities, and has authored the following
- Ready for the Defense (Out of print.)
- Traitors and Heroes (1989)
- Tough Talk: How I Fought for Writers, Comics, Bigots, and the
American Way, August 1998
is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post, the LA Times, and the
New York Times.
It is not surprising that 2600 did not seek out San Francisco based
defense attorney Jennifer Granick. Granick defended Kevin Mitnick, who
went on to spend 5 years in jail after stealing source code from numerous
Internet high-profile companies. It is obvious there is more at stake
here than just intellectual property protection.
The court date has been set for December 5th of this year. Having appeared
before the United States Supreme Court, and multiple other high-level
state and federal courts, Mr. Garbus will undoubtedly be using the next
nine months to prepare a competitive defense.
will be particularly interesting to watch for is the outcome of whether
or not the writing of the decryption program, known as DeCSS, is deemed
a violation of existing Copyright Protection Laws, or whether the pubishing
of DeCSS is a violation of Copyright Law. If the writing of DeCSS is deemed
a violation of Copyright Protection Laws, this has a lot of implication
on other software decryption programs that exist. Computer games in particular
suffer from an exorbitant amount of publications on how to circumvent
the licensing programs. In part to escape lawsuits, authors of decryption
programs commonly state that their programs are written to test and validate
the actual security of the program it is decrypting. Whether or not this
is actually the case is very difficult to determine.
who has been sued knows that a lawsuit, whether it is justified or not,
puts undue stress and overhead on an organization regardless of the outcome.
Lawsuits like this are enough to make anyone with better things to do
than defend themselves in court think twice about posting decryption programs
to the net.