Code Is Speech

Hackers attempt to write themselves into the Constitution.

(Page 5 of 5)

The protests had an immediate effect. Adobe withdrew its support for the case, and eventually the U.S. attorney dropped all charges against Sklyarov on the condition that he testify in the subsequent prosecution of his employers, which he did. In December 2002, the jury in that case acquitted Elcomsoft.

Johansen was acquitted a bit more than a year later. A judge concluded that the charges against him were inappropriate, since the law under which he was arrested had nothing to do with digital rights management. Johansen still writes free software, including programs that subvert digital rights management technologies.

Although these prosecutions fizzled, that does not mean the equation of software with free speech is widely accepted in the legal system. Most of the other DeCSS lawsuits were decided between 2001 and 2004, and even though the courts were persuaded that DeCSS was a form of speech, they consistently ruled that it nonetheless violated the copyright protections of artistic material. In one of the 2600 cases, Universal City Studios Inc. v. Corley, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan went so far as to declare that he aimed to “contribute to a climate of appropriate respect for intellectual property rights in an age in which the excitement of ready access to untold quantities of information has blurred in some minds the fact that taking what is not yours and not freely offered to you is stealing.”

Developers and hackers were deeply disappointed by these decisions, which essentially equated DeCSS with theft. But by continuing to create a separate cultural reality, even a rival liberal morality, in which expression and autonomy are elevated above the potential for piracy, these outsiders are constructing a broader legal regime that will eventually challenge the way we interpret the Constitution.

Today new copyright legislation threatens online freedoms and free expression. But while the Digital Millennium  Copyright Act passed in 1998 with almost no public outcry, critics prevented the Stop Online Piracy Act from passing in 2012. Legislative support waned amid fierce opposition from the technology community, which included open source developers, corporate giants such as Google, protest groups such as Anonymous, and digital rights organizations. Threats may loom larger today than they did a decade ago, but advocates and institutions are better prepared to respond more effectively and swiftly than before. 

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  • Professional Target||

    Everybody's an anarchist about what they want to do.

  • ||

    I am getting so sick of seeing that Guy Fawkes mask. Can they not change it up every couple of weeks or so? Say maybe Guy Fawkes this week, Don Knotts the next and maybe that dildo nose mask that Alex wore in A Clocwork Orange the one after that, and so on?

  • ||

    But they made this awesome mashup of Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, and 1984 that had the slightest of anti-government messages! And Natalie Portman!

    As an aside, I fucking hate that movie. Carry out revenge with your own hand, torture innocent young women but not have the balls to blow up Parliament? You fucking pussy. What's the point of being a superhuman monster.

  • Agammamon||

    I'd like to see the "henohenomoheji" instead.

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    Too bad most Anonymous members seem to have this bizarre misconception wherein their suppression and deletion of information and ideas that conflict with their own (often through blatant use of force, as with OWS) qualifies as "Free Speech".

  • Matrix||

    Hacking software to make it more accessible to consumers is fine. I remember back in the early days of DRM, people would buy legitimate versions of software and have to download cracks just to get it installed on their computer. I'm fine with this. I'm also fine with getting around anti-copying and region locking software.

    But some of these groups have also been taking down networks, stealing user info, and such... that is not kosher at all.

    If I buy a couch, I don't care of the manufacturer says "if you buy this couch, you cannot let black people sit on it." It's my couch. I'll let whomever I want sit on it. F you and your 'rules'.

    If I buy a DVD and I want to be able to watch that movie on my iPad on the road, I will rip the movie to my computer so I can watch it later on my iPad. I don't give a shit if you don't like that.

  • mauboy_j||

    what Francisco answered I cannot believe that anyone able to earn $5877 in one month on the computer. did you look at this web page

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    At least "Francisco" is close to the name of someone who posts here. Nice try, bot. You're getting better.

  • ||

    It's most unfortunate the way Anonymous gets lumped together with F/OSS. F/OSS is an idea derived, rather directly, from the 1st Amendment. Anonymous is an activist organization that, mostly incidentally, uses F/OSS (and the 1st Am.). Associating Anonymous with F/OSS is, a *little*, like associating the Weather Underground or the Black Panthers with the 1st Amendment.

    Even at that, both of those and many other civil disobedience organizations were well known to employ violence and flagrant violation of existing law. Anonymous, by and large, is non-violent, tends to adhere to loopholes and gray-areas, and typically, as a sort-of point, uses the tools that have been employed against some perceived victim to work against the attacker. The problem isn't if someone has access to my SSN/credit card numbers (that information is easy enough to get ahold of) the problem is the crime you commit with that information.

    Sure, there are plenty of hair-brained socio-economic derelicts that are members of Anonymous, but the exact same can be said about the Libertarian movement (and many others). In Anne Coulter's eyes, we're probably all whiny, dreamy college-age dope smokers.

  • Blitter||

    This article is really deficient in having not noted Richard Stallman and his Free Software Foundation. It was not Debian but Stallman who basically invented the idea of Free Software and made the distinction between speech and beer, and he did it back in the early 80s. Stallman wrote the General Public License (with help from MIT lawyers), aka the "Copyleft", the first of its kind. You really want to check out and to learn some of the history of this. Stallman deserves major credit for starting this whole thing, and he's still an important voice in the movement to this day.

  • Barrett70||

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  • lendapatricia||

    Isabella. you think Daniel`s report is exceptional, on wednesday I bought a brand new Bugatti Veyron sincee geting a check for $9044 thiss month and-a little over, ten-grand lass month. with-out any doubt it's the coolest work I've ever done. I actually started 6 months ago and straight away began to earn over $70... p/h. I went to this website,

  • christacampbell147||

    before I looked at the check four $6664, I didnt believe brothers friend woz like realy earning money part-time from there computar.. there great aunt has been doing this for only thirteen months and by now repayed the loans on their condo and got Mercedes. go to,

  • Chadwick||

    Piper. if you, thought Julie`s rep0rt is cool... on sunday I got a new Ford from bringing in $6700 this past four weeks and-even more than, 10-k this past month. it's by-far the most-financialy rewarding I've had. I started this 4 months ago and pretty much straight away startad bringin in minimum $84 per-hr. I follow this website,,

  • bajwa||

    My mothers neighbour is functioning half time and averaging $9000 a month. i am one mum and simply got my 1st bank check for $6546! I still cannot believe it. i attempted it out cause I got very desperate and currently i could not be happier. Heres what I do,


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