4 May 2000 - For Immediate Release

EFF Challenges Ban on DVD Software

EFF presses court to lift injunction and challenges linking ban


Katina Bishop, Communications Manager
Electronic Frontier Foundation
(415) 436-9333 x101

Robin Gross, Staff Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation
(415) 863-5459

San Francisco, CA -- EFF today asked a court to vacate its order gagging a New York web publisher, and opposed an expansion of the order that would also ban Web links. The gag order had been issued when there was little public record about whether controversial DVD software violates anti-circumvention provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

"The free discussion of controversy is essential to this country's health," stated lead litigator Martin Garbus of Frankfurt, Garbus, Klein, and Selz in New York. "There is no reason that the Internet should have more restriction than radio, television or print. When the New York Times makes reference to the same controversial material, no one tries to stop it."

DeCSS is controversial because it is free software that serves as a basis to develop DVD players for Linux (and other operating systems not currently supported by industry-approved players), without technological restrictions preferred by movie studios, such as region codes. It is just a legitimate way to use a purchased copyrighted work. Suppressing publication of this software with a preliminary injunction violates basic First Amendment standards, because the movie studios can't demonstrate irreparable harm.

"EFF opposes technical restrictions that limit consumers' legal rights," said staff attorney Robin Gross. "The DMCA anti-circumvention provisions that protect these restrictions are unconstitutional because they violate the public's right to publish and receive software. (Two appeals courts have now held that software is protected by the First Amendment.) The interpretation used by the New York court is also vague and overly broad, not giving clear guidance to citizens on the exact boundaries of their right to publish."

Sixteen people filed declarations supporting the motion, including prominent cryptographers Bruce Schneier and David Wagner, MIT professor Harold Abelson, copyright professor Lewis Kurlantzick, Free Software Foundation counsel Eben Moglen, ACM president Barbara Simons, and CMU computer scientist Dave Touretzky.


The movie industry initiated legal attacks against Web publishers in California, New York, Connecticut, and Norway over the DeCSS software on their sites. EFF is defending the DVD cases as part of its Campaign for Audiovisual Free Expression (CAFE). CAFE was launched last year to address complex social and legal issues raised by new technological measures for protecting intellectual property. EFF has established a special fund to support this effort, which will cost more than $1 million this year. Donations are tax-deductible, and can be made online at:

EFF's New York DVD Legal Defense Team consists of Martin Garbus and Ed Hernstadt of Frankfurt, Garbus, Klein, and Selz; Eben Moglen of Columbia University Law School; Allonn Levy of Huber Samuelson; and Robin Gross of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

For complete information on these cases, see:

EFF's Campaign for Audiovisual Free Expression is at:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation ( http://www.eff.org ) is the leading global nonprofit organization linking technical architectures with legal frameworks to support the rights of individuals in an open society. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression, privacy, and openness in the information society. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most-linked-to Web sites in the world.