DeCSS Mirror

The VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman alone.

--Jack Valenti, MPAA President (1982)

DeCSS is a small program that unscrambles movies on DVDs, which are encrypted with an algorithm called the Content Scrambling System (CSS). DeCSS was created by a group called Masters of Reverse Engineering (MoRE) in the process of developing a DVD player for the Linux operating system.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has been trying to suppress the software. They claim that by circumventing copy protection measures, it violates 17 USC 1201, introduced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In fact, subsection (f) that very code explicitly permits reverse engineering access controls for the purpose of interoperability.

The MPAA’s characterization of CSS as copy protection is a lie. DVDs have no copy protection. None. You can copy a cassette tape onto a blank tape, and the copy can be played on any cassette player. In the same way, you can burn a copy of a DVD — without decrypting it — and the copy can be played in any DVD player. Indeed, Hong Kong DVD mills were churning out unauthorized copies of DVDs over a year before DeCSS came out, and the MPAA was trying to stop them. CSS encryption does not prevent bit-for-bit copying.

Less expensively, one could easily copy a film from DVD onto videotape by simply connecting a DVD player to a VCR. CSS encryption does not prevent that, either. (However, some recent model VCRs are crippled not to record digital video inputs, which also prevent recording from digital camcorders.)

What the scrambling interferes with is not the making of unauthorized copies, but the making of DVD players which have not been licensed by the MPAA. This allows the MPAA to dictate terms to player makers, allowing them to mandate, for example, that all DVD players refuse to play DVDs released on other continents, or disable fast forwarding through the commercials at the start of a DVD.

Despite the groundlessness of the MPAA’s claims, New York District Judge Lewis commerce trumps the first amendment Kaplan has unconstitutionally ruled that it is illegal in New York for 2600 Magazine to even link to DeCSS source code. Rejecting free speech arguments, he wrote in his opinion, Computer code is not purely expressive any more than the assassination of a political figure is purely a political statement.

When the MPAA had the original site shut down, mirror sites immediately sprung up. When the MPAA tried to suppress them, even more sprung up. Now the code is mirrored all around the globe. Some say that the MPAA is playing the world’s biggest game of Whac-a-Mole.





Other creative presentations of the source code: