Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes
111 F.Supp.2d 294 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) aff'd 273 F.3d 429 (2d Cir. 2001)

  • Universal and other movies studios used an encryption system called CSS that made so that DVDs could only be played on licensed DVD players that wouldn't allow the user to copy the data.
    • CSS was shared with the companies that made the DVD players.
  • Johansen was a hacker who reverse engineered a DVD player and developed a program called DeCSS that would let users copy the data DVDs.
    • Johansen was only 15 at the time!
  • Universal started sending out cease and desist letter to all the web sites that allowed users to download the DeCSS code. Corley's website hosted the code, but deleted in when Universal threatened to sue. However, Corley provided links on their website to other websites that still had the code available.
  • Universal sued Corley for copyright infringement.
    • Corley argued that this was a 1st Amendment freedom of speech issue because he didn't think CSS should be legal.
    • Universal argued that this was akin to publishing the combination to a bank vault to encourage people to rob the bank.
  • The Trial Court found for Universal.
    • The Trial Court looked to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (17 U.S.C. 1201(a)(2)) and found that DeCSS was a copyright violation because it's only purpose was to defeat copyright protection.
      • Therefore offering to transfer the DeCSS code to a user was not legal.
    • The Court found that Corley engaged in the functional equivalent of transferring the DeCSS code to the user by linking to sites that hosted the code.
      • Especially because many of the sites Corley linked to had nothing on them but the DeCSS code. The Court noted that if a site Corley linked to had the DeCSS code and also a lot of other content, then maybe that would be ok.
    • The Court addressed 1st Amendment concerns, and found that 101(a)(2) could not be used enforce an injunction against a linking site (like Corley's) absent clear and convincing evidence that the person responsible for the link:
      • Knows that the relevant material is linked to the site,
      • Knows that the material linked to the site is technology that may not lawfully be offered, and create or maintain the link for the purpose of disseminating the technology.
    • The Court issued a permanent injunction barring Corley from posting DeCSS or links to DeCSS.
      • The Court found that damages would be difficult to calculate because who knows how many movies would be copied, and who knows how those copied movies would affect DVD sales.
      • Corley argued that an injunction was silly because there was many places on the internet where you could get DeCSS, so it was too late to stop it. However, the Court found that an injunction was the best they could do to limit the damage.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that 1201(a)(2) was not a violation of the 1st Amendment because it was content-neutral and furthered a substantial government interest unrelated to the suppression of free speech.