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Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes

United States Court of Appeals for the Southern District of New York
111 F. Supp. 2d 294 (2000)


Facts

Universal City Studios, Incorporated (Universal) and other major motion-picture studios (plaintiffs) utilized an encryption system called content Content Scramble System (CSS) to protect digital versatile discs (DVDs) of copyrighted films. CSS required DVD players to provide certain codes to access DVD content and prevented copying of the content. A Norwegian teenager named Jon Johansen used a CSS-licensed DVD player to reverse engineer the encryption algorithm used in CSS. Johansen posted executable code, called DeCSS, to his website. DeCSS enabled users to circumvent the CSS limitations on viewing and copying. Although Johansen claimed he made the code available so that Linux users could view DVDs, the code was compatible with Microsoft operating systems. Eric Corley (defendant), a well-known hacker who published a magazine called 2600: The Hacker Quarterly (2600), posted a copy of the DeCSS code to the 2600 website for download. Corley also listed other websites where the code was available for download. The plaintiffs sent a cease-and-desist letter to Corley and filed suit under § 1201 of the Copyright Act. Corley removed the downloadable copy of DeCSS from the 2600 website after imposition of a preliminary injunction, but he did not remove the links to other websites offering the code. Additionally, Corley updated the 2600 website to actively encourage readers to download and spread DeCSS. Corley argued that the anti-trafficking provisions found in § 1201 violated his First Amendment right to free speech. The district court held in favor of the plaintiffs and issued a permanent injunction, preventing Corley from disseminating DeCSS. Corley appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kaplan, J.)

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