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
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
Corley argued that this was
a 1st Amendmentfreedom
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
The Trial Court looked to
the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
U.S.C. §1201(a)(2)) and found that
DeCSS was a copyright violation because it's only purpose was to defeat
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
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