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Shlomi Fish’s Opinion on DeCSS

Note

I removed the offending files from here. The reason for that is that I don’t want to drag the Technion’s undergraduate students’ server into the MPAA witch-hunt.

What I did prepare is a port of DeCSS to JavaScript. You can’t find it here, but it can be found in the DeCSS Gallery.

Comments

Well, to show my empathy with the DeCSS side of the MPAA vs. DeCSS hackers fiasco that is going on, I decided to set up this page which will explain my take on this subject. No, I am not an anarchist or a nihilist or anything like that. I am a Neo-Tech Objectivist. Still, I believe that objective ethics is not on the side of the MPAA in this regard. And following are my reasons:

1. Code is Speech - computer source code can do many things that speech alone previously could not do, but it still speech and is protected by the First Amendment of the American Constitution and objective ethics in general. And the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act” or any other law that jumps from the head of the American Government cannot change that fact.

2. No code is illegitimate - whether it was acquired by reverse engineering or not, code cannot be made illegitimate or illegal.

3. Links are speech - the fact that links are convenient does not categorize them as weapons or anything like that. They are speech because they are made of ASCII characters and that all there is to it. Assuming the DMCA, now my homepage as well as everything in it, becomes something you are not allowed to link to. So if you are scared of the “Big Brother”, don’t. ;-)

4. The MPAA should find better ways to protect their intellectual property. Protecting your data in a (very weak) encryption is not the solution. Neither, is trying to illegitimate the code that deciphers it. In a couple of years, DVD copiers will become commonplace, so people will be able to copy them without opening the encryption.

Perhaps the point of the fiasco is to charge a fee for those players which can play it. But that has nothing to do with protecting intellectual property rights. (!)

Another option is that the MPAA is afraid that people will decode the movies, reduce their size and distribute them on-line, in a similar manner in what happens today with mp3s. But this will probably become meaningless too, because of DVD copiers.

5. Decrypting such methods is possible and easy,  so it cannot and must not be enforced. Cryptology proves that it is impossible that a digital data be decryptable by someone and not decryptable by another (assuming the other has enough information).

While software vendors can try and take precautions to prevent such things, they cannot decree them as illegal. The reason for that is that making something like that illegal only makes it worse. For instance, illegal drugs are undoubtedly harmful, but their prohibition only creates trouble. Likewise, for gambling, free development and distribution of medication, etc.

The DeCSS case is just another irrationality of this kind.

6. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones - the MPAA-related companies have been attacked and are attacked for their film containing too much violence or pornography, or because they simply make certain people angry.

I believe it is perfectly legitimate to film such motion pictures. However, they should understand that if they call for the government’s help to censor code, web-sites and links, they in a fact giving it the power and legitimacy to censor them. IMO, they above all should hold the liberty of speech and it’s a shame they don’t.

Links