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Phoenix Feathers is updated on Tuesday and Friday

I found an amusing website on a newsgroup the other day and thought I'd share it. The background is as follows; a 15 year old Norwegian named Jon wrote a little program that included a DVD decryption algorithm. The program in question was a DVD player for Linux. The algorithm was named DeCSS, and it could be used to copy DVDs, since it breaks the encryption on them. Because it *could* be used illegally, certain large companies weren't very happy about this. You can read about the charges and the trial here, and about what Norwegian courts ruled here. There's a discussion about this and a similarly weird case on the wiki (be warned, it's rather a mess right now).

Anyway, I found this web site, which explains rather better than I can what happened when an American Judge basically tried to claim that source code doesn't count under the First Amendment (the relevant bit of which is 'Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech...'). This is contrary to earlier decisions. The question is, if the First Amendment doesn't count, and source code can be repressed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, when does source code cease to be source code? What about a simple description of the algorithm? The website has links to the various different versions of the algorithm (which is DeCSS) - in Perl, in SML, in both a mathematical description and a mathematical proof, in Javascript and VBScript and even in a minimalist Turing-machine like language. There are screenshots of the C code, the code described in English, described in both English and C on the same page (very heavily commented C, in other words), there's a haiku version, a music version, and even a couple of movies (some people have way too much time on their hands). There's a cryptanalysis, a dramatic reading, a logo, a Yahoo greeting card, a Verilog circuit implementation, and an entry in a High School Yearbook. My favourite is the T-shirt, though, the text on which begins with the line 'I am a circumvention device forbidden by 17 USC 1201(a)(2). Do not manufacture me, import me, offer me to the public, provide me, or traffic in me or in any part of me. You have been warned.' Copyleft, who sell the T-shirt (also responsible for the O Really T-shirts), have apparently been sued over it. That is predictable, I suppose.

Oh, by the way, this is the 100th strip  ^.^

- Sun Kitten, 10th January '03

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