The DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) has dropped its case against a California man it accused of misappropriating trade secrets by posting copies of a program, DeCSS, which defeated the DVD security technology known as CSS.
The DVD CCA asked the California Superior Court to dismiss its complaint, citing an "evolving legal strategy", ending a four-year legal battle that pitted the media industry against technology companies and intellectual property experts, who worried that a victory by the DVD CCA would outlaw practices, such as reverse engineering, that are vital to technological innovation and competition.
"The dismissal is only the first step in the evolved strategy, which is being updated to reflect current factors in the rapidly changing market place," the group said.
The unilateral dismissal will end legal action against Andrew Bunner and scores of others who were charged with misappropriating the DVD CCA's trade secret after reposting the code for DeCSS on their websites.
The DVD CCA is considering further action to protect its CSS copy protection system from unauthorised use.
The legal decision follows a similar legal victory by Jon Lech Johansen, the creator of DeCSS. Johansen claimed he originally created the program so that DVDs could be played on computers using the Linux operating system.
In January, the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit decided not to appeal a unanimous decision by the Norwegian Court of Appeals to uphold an acquittal of criminal charges that Johansen illegally pirated copyrighted films using DeCSS.
In January, 2003, the US Supreme Court dealt the DVD CCA another defeat when a judge ended the stay of an earlier California Supreme Court ruling. The California ruling said another defendant in the DeCSS case, Matthew Pavlovich of Texas, could not be tried in California courts for breaking a state law against violating trade secrets.
The DVD CCA said in its statement that the legal actions have been successful in maintaining CSS as the standard protection system for DVDs and in establishing that publishing the CSS code is not protected by the US Constitution's First Amendment.
Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service