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The ethics of DeCSS posting: towards assessing the morality of the Internet posting of DVD copyright circumvention software

Author(s): K.R. Eschenfelder | R.G. Howard | A.C. Desai

Journal: Information Research: an international electronic journal
ISSN 1368-1613

Volume: 11;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 273;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Keywords: assessing the morality of the Internet posting of DVD copyright circumvention software

Introduction. We investigate the conditions under which posting software known as 'DeCSS' on the Internet is ethical. DeCSS circumvents the access and copy control protection measures on commercial DVDs. Through our investigation, we point to limitations in current frameworks used to assess ethical computer based civil disobedience. Method. The paper draws on empirical findings of actual DeCSS posting to consider the limitations of current frameworks. Findings were generated from content analysis of Web sites that post DeCSS using search engine sampling with file name, language, and server location delimiters. Content analysis examined the number of Websites hosting DeCSS, the presence or absence of speech related to DeCSS and Free or Open Source software, and the arguments explaining DeCSS posting. Analysis. Drawing on theorizing from political philosophy and the existing frameworks, the paper compares characteristics of actual DeCSS posting to the existing frameworks. Results. The paper points out six areas that require further attention in ethical frameworks: determining motivation for posting, deciding whether some groups have more moral standing to post, assessing knowledge of the laws related to circumvention and posting, determining if protesters have taken related political actions, the legality of various formats of circumvention devices, and the physical geography of the participants.
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