DVD Copying Charges Dropped

The DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) has dropped its case against a California man accused of misappropriating trade secrets by posting copies of the DeCSS program, which defeats DVD security technology.

The DVD CCA has asked the California Superior Court to dismiss its complaint, the organization says in a statement Thursday. Citing an "evolving legal strategy," the group's action ends a four-year legal battle that pitted the media industry against technology companies and intellectual property experts. Some worried that a victory by the DVD CCA would outlaw practices, such as reverse engineering, that are vital to technological innovation and competition.

"The dismissal is only the first step in the evolved strategy, which is being updated to reflect current factors in the rapidly changing market place," the group says in its statement.

The unilateral dismissal will end legal action against Andrew Bunner, a California resident, and scores of others, says attorney Allon Levy of the Silicon Valley Firm Hopkins & Carley, who defended Bunner. They were charged with misappropriating the DVD CCA's trade secret after reposting on their Web sites the code for DeCSS, which defeats the DVD security technology known as CSS.

"I'm very happy and pleased that the plaintiffs finally saw the light and agreed with our position," Levy says.

However, the DVD CCA is considering further action to protect its CSS copy protection system from unauthorized use, according to the statement.

Similar Cases

The decision follows a similar legal victory by Jon Lech Johansen, creator of DeCSS, the software program that defeated the CSS encryption. Johansen claims he originally created the program so that DVDs could be played on computers using the Linux operating system.

In January, the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit decided not to appeal a unanimous decision by the Norwegian Court of Appeals to uphold an acquittal of criminal charges that Johansen illegally pirated copyrighted films using DeCSS.

In January 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt the DVD CCA another defeat when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor ended a stay of an earlier California Supreme Court ruling. The California ruling said another defendant in the DeCSS case, Matthew Pavlovich of Texas, could not be tried in California courts for breaking a state law against violating trade secrets.

"This is very important--especially to my clients and folks in Silicon Valley," Levy says. "Technology companies depend on the free exchange of information."

The DVD CCA says in its statement that the legal actions have successfully maintained CSS as the standard protection system for DVDs, and established that publishing the CSS code is not protected by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

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