Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students, Kevin Winstein and Marc Horowitz, have published seven lines of code that can crack the Content Scrambling System (CSS) encryption code, commonly used to protect multimedia DVDs. The students wrote the code in Perl for use on a UNIX system and made the code available to the public on Carnegie Mellon University Professor Dave Touretzky's Web page.

About a year and a half ago, a Norweigian teenager released to the public other code, called DeCSS, used to descramble DVD content. The DVD licensing group and members of the movie industry quickly moved to sue Web sites that linked to the DeCSS code.

One group, 2600 Magazine, refused to remove its links and took the matter to court, where a judge ruled that the group could not link to the DeCSS code regardless of where that code is located. The case is now in appeal, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is helping with the defense.

Winstein and Horowitz's position is that their code in no way violates copyright law. The two MIT students, along with 2600 Magazine and its defenders, consider computer source code to be a free form of expression that should be protected under freedom of speech laws.

Among other points, EFF argues in their appeal that "\[the fact\] that the computer code may be 'functional' when used by others—is not a legitimate basis on which to lessen First Amendment protection for those who publish it. Courts cannot silence the messenger simply because others might misuse the message."