Who Won The DVD Trade Secret/Free Speech Case?

from the a-bit-confusing dept

A California Supreme Court has ruled on the question of whether or not posting the DeCSS code (that lets people view DVDs on computers) to a website is considered free speech. However, depending on which article you read, you might be confused about who actually won the case. This article says that the court ruled in favor of the DVD Copy Control Association. However, a different article claims that the guy who posted the code won. It’s all a bit confusing – and seems to be the result of biased reporting on both sides. It appears that the Supreme Court was simply ruling on a matter of law and sending the case back to a lower court. The Supreme Court says that violating trade secrets is not protected by free speech – which makes sense. That’s the stuff discussed in the first article. However, the second article takes a “concurring” opinion, and assumes that it is the actual ruling. It’s not. It’s just another Justice saying that, in his belief, the court should not only have ruled on the Free Speech issue, but also on the fact that there’s no proof that the DeCSS code release was actually a violation of trade secrets. I tend to agree with this opinion. Free speech rights do not trample trade secret laws – but you still have to prove that there’s a trade secret being violated, and that’s pretty difficult to prove in this case.

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Comments on “Who Won The DVD Trade Secret/Free Speech Case?”

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Ed Halley says:

No Subject Given

Much of this case is moot now, except for the poor guy who actually wrote and published the very first version. Generally the person who leaks a trade secret is liable for damages, but there’s no other protections: it’s no longer a secret, so “DeCSS-alikes” are much more insulated from prosecution. You can’t put the secret Coke formula back in the bottle if it is leaked.

Patents are intended to encourage innovation by securing the rights for a given time, but then *documenting* and *releasing* the methods used for other inventors after that time. Patent law is maligned, but without patents, everything would be a highly guarded trade secret. The advent of anti-cracking laws like DMCA/CBDTPA and competent strong encryption will entrench technological secrecy at the expense of ‘advancing the arts’.

Peteo says:

Really a trade secret?

Is his code really a trade secret? I can understand that if I found a copy of the companies code and made it public, that would be a trade secret. But if I made Code my self that did the same thing the companies code did, how can that be a trade secret?
Another thing they are going after sites that just had links to the code. Why aren’t they suing goggle then, or even every web site since every site is 6 degrees from each other.

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