Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes
The DeCSS code printed on a T-shirt.
This case was the first major test of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It involved a computer program known as DeCSS, written by a Norwegian named Jon Johansen, that allowed anyone to read information stored on a DVD that had been encrypted using the Content Scrambling System (CSS). The court found that this program was in direct violation of the DCMA's prohibition of technology that circumvents controls on accessing content.
Eric Corley had originally posted the DeCSS code on the website of his magazine, 2600, The Hacker Quarterly. After a preliminary injunction, Corley removed the program but maintained links to websites that offered DeCSS for download. However, the court was not satisfied, and part of the ruling in this case ordered those links to be erased.Many have criticized the court's decision to ban the publication of DeCSS as an infringement on free speech. Some have protested the decision by turning the computer code into more artistic forms of expression, including printing it on a t-shirt (shown left). Others have found that DeCSS can be encoded in a single prime number, which, due to the program's outlaw status, is known as the first "illegal prime."
Jon Johansen was tried twice in Norwegian courts for his involvement in creating DeCSS, but was acquitted both times. He has since gone on to write other decryption programs, including one that circumvents Apple's FairPlay content access controls. This program was then incorporated into a product known as Hymn, written by others, that removes any digital rights management protections from music files downloaded from the iTunes music store.