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The Supreme Court backs off Texas DVD case

Hollywood received a second legal setback on DVD copy protection from the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has rescinded an emergency ruling that had prevented a U.S. Web site operator, Matthew Pavlovich, from posting a copy of DeCSS on the Internet.

DeCSS is free software that allows anyone to play DVDs without technological restrictions, such as region codes and forced watching of commercials imposed by movie studios (See story above).

The ruling means that Pavlovich, a Texas resident, is no longer barred by court order from distributing the DeCSS descrambling utility. However, Pavlovich said he no longer planned to do so since similar DVD decryption programs are already available on hundreds of other Web sites, and have been printed in magazines and newspapers.

“The entertainment companies need to stop pretending that DeCSS is a secret,” said Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a pro-consumer organization that is assisting Pavlovich. “Justice O'Connor correctly saw that there was no need for emergency relief to keep DeCSS a secret. It doesn’t pass the giggle test.”

A group of motion picture studios and consumer electronics makers filed the lawsuit in 1999 against scores of people, including Pavlovich, who posted DeCSS on the Internet. The suit alleged violations of California's trade secret laws, and a state judge granted an injunction against further posts of DeCSS by the defendants. However, the California Supreme Court ruled last November that Pavlovich was a resident of Texas with no real contact to California so he could not be sued in that state.

Justice O’Connor’s ruling removed all restrictions that had been placed against Pavolich by the earlier injunction. He was a college student in Indiana at the time he posted the software to his Web site.

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