Judge Rules Against Hacker Journalist Emmanuel Goldstein

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Last week a federal judge in New York permanently barred a Hacker journalist from posting or linking to a software code that unlocks the copy-protection encryption of DVD movie discs. [includes rush transcript]

Eric Corley, popularly known as Emmanuel Goldstein, is publisher of 2600, a hacker publication and Host of Off the Hook on Pacifica Station WBAI in New York, had been sued by the Motion Picture Association of America. His attorneys argued that computer code was a protected form of speech under the First Amendment. Judge Lewis Kaplan called this defense '’baseless.'’

A group of European teenagers created the Decode Content Scrambling System, or DeCSS, to allow DVDs to be played by computers using the Linux operating system.

Goldstein was targeted by the movie industry for publicizing DeCSS on the www.2600.org Web site, and linking to sites that allowed the software to be downloaded. I caught up with him this week after his show Off the Hook.


  • Eric Corley AKA Emmanuel Goldstein, the publisher of the Hacker’s Quarterly 2600.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, a federal judge in New York permanently barred hacker journalist Emmanuel Goldstein from posting or linking to a software code that unlocks the copy protection encryption of DVD movie discs.

Goldstein is publisher of 2600, a hacker publication, and he’s also host of Off the Hook, on Pacifica station here, WBAI, in New York. He was sued by the Motion Picture Association of America. His attorneys argued that computer code was a protected form of speech under the First Amendment. Judge Lewis Kaplan called the defense “baseless.”

A group of European teenagers created the Decode Content Scrambling System, or DeCSS, to allow DVDs to be played by computers using the Linux operating system. Goldstein was targeted by the movie industry for publicizing DeCSS on the www.2600.org website and linking to sites that allowed the software to be downloaded.

I caught up with him this week after his show, “Off the Hook.

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Right now it’s 8:00 here on WBAI in New York, and that means it’s time for Off the Hook. And a very good evening to everybody. It’s been — woah! — it’s been one heck of a week here. How am I doing? I’m doing OK. I’m doing fine. Ah, yes, it’s just been one of those weeks, you know?

IZAAC: Yeah.

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: You know, you have a bit of a cold at one point; you lose a multimillion-dollar lawsuit at the other the point. It’s —- you know, it’s just one of those things. But, yeah, man -—

IZAAC: The lows and the lows.

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. That’s something. I’m sure a lot of people listening right now have heard the news, before we even have to tell them the news. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people on their way to that other radio station that get snagged by us on the way, and then they just want to find out who these weird people are talking, I’m sure you already heard the news, too, without even knowing what it’s all about.

But, yes, the DVD lawsuit — the DeCSS lawsuit is over, and we lost. Well, of course, none of this really surprises us, because we expected this to happen. What surprised me more than anything was just the adamant hostility expressed by the judge. I mean, wow! Did you read the thing, Izaac?

IZAAC: People have thrown bits and pieces of it at me.

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: You didn’t actually read it, though. You’ve got to read through this.

IZAAC: I have to.

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: It’s up on the website. Go to the website. Go. Go to the website.


EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Go on. Get out of here. Go to the website and check out the PDF file we have. Actually, if anybody has one of these translation tools… fade out

AMY GOODMAN: Your reaction to the judge’s ruling?

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Well, I wasn’t actually surprised. I was a bit put off by his hostility. That really was unexpected, as far as the veracity of the statements.


EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Well, he seemed to judge a lot of his decision based on who we were and what we stand for. The explanation that we are acting as journalists seemed to go right over his head. He seemed to want to consider us as some kind of pirate. He was amazed that we actually would have a copyright on our own magazine, because of the kinds of articles we print, as if that has anything to do with what publishing is all about. We publish information. The fact that he doesn’t like the information that we publish should not have a bearing in how the law applies to us.

But, basically, he said that the intent was there to break the law and to distribute things that weren’t supposed to be distributed. And what we did was, we reported on a story, and we showed people what we were reporting on, which was the source code that was out there for at least a month before we reported it. So to say that we’re responsible for spreading it around, it tells me that he really just either doesn’t know the case or doesn’t want to know the case.

AMY GOODMAN: For listeners who are just hearing about this case for the first time — we interviewed you during the trial, and now the judge has rendered his verdict — explain what’s at issue here, what it is that you published, what this source code is.

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Well, basically what’s at issue here is a consumer’s right to use technology the way he or she wants to use it. For instance, if you buy a CD, can you play that CD in your house, or can you only play that CD in your car? Can you play a CD that you buy in England, or can you only listen to American music? These are the kinds of things that, while not in place yet, are very, very close to being put in place, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it all legal, and it makes it illegal to try and get around that. And that’s really all that DeCSS does, is try and get around some ridiculous restrictions, that in this particular case made it illegal to try and watch a DVD on a Linux computer.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what a Linux computer is.

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Well, basically you have Microsoft, and you have Macintosh. And those are the two operating systems you’re supposed to use. But if you step outside the boundary and use something else, such as Linux or NetBSD or FreeBSD, or any of the other operating systems that are being developed, and who knows how many more will be developed down the road? Well, they want to say that you’re not able, you’re not allowed, to look at a DVD on those platforms. You have to use the approved operating systems.

And it really — it’s something that’s never been done before, where you have technology, but you can only play it on certain approved corporate platforms. When CDs came out, there was nobody there to say, “Well, you can only listen to a CD if you buy a Magnavox or a Sony machine or a Panasonic. You can’t develop your own CD player.” When records were out, anybody who could develop a phonograph could listen to a record. There was no restriction as to where you could listen to it or how you could listen to it or how many times you could listen to it. That’s all changing. And that’s what the DMCA is all about. And by trying to figure out ways around this, we are breaking the law, and that’s what’s frightening.

AMY GOODMAN: Emmanuel Goldstein, didn’t the judge say that this source code was actually first developed not for Linux, but for a Windows platform?

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: It was developed on a Windows platform, because there were certain technical things that the Linux platform did not support yet. And so, what they were doing was they were developing a Linux tool on another platform, a Windows platform. This is done all the time. You basically develop a tool on a different platform, then you port it over to the platform that you want to use it on. There’s nothing at all suspicious about that. It’s a simple matter of figuring out how the technology works and using the tools you have at the moment to develop that.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s the argument of the Motion Picture Association of America, which sued you?

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: They basically want to have complete control over every copyrighted work that they put out. And it doesn’t just mean control over who copies it or, you know, how they will hold the copyright and prevent people from making illegal copies. They want to control access, as well. They want to say, “Well, only these kinds of people can look at our material; only people who buy this kind of hardware will be allowed to look at our material, and only under certain circumstances.” They’ll only be able to watch it this many times. They won’t be able to make fair use out of it, meaning they won’t be able to take excerpts of it and use it for something else, such as a movie review or a class project. That just goes right out the window. So, basically, what they want to do is —

AMY GOODMAN: How does it limit that?

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Because you technically cannot do it. The way the DVD is made, you cannot make a copy to another medium. And the judge’s response to this was, “Well, go out and get a videotape. You can do it that way.” And that just goes to show how little he knows about fair use, in that he wants you to go back to a primitive technology and grab your material off of there, because the new technology won’t allow you to do it. And that shows right there that there is no provision for fair use in the new technology. And that doesn’t even enter into the fact that there are many things on a DVD that are not included on a videotape. And I guess we just have no access to that at all.

AMY GOODMAN: So, where do you go from here? Which court is this that you lost in?

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: This was Federal Court in New York that we lost in. We’re now going to the Appellate Court, and we expect to make it all the way to the Supreme Court, because whoever loses in the Appellate Court is no doubt going to appeal. It’s an incredible waste of resources, because the MPAA has already spent, they say, $4 million in their legal costs, and they want us to pay all their expenses, which is insane, because we don’t play this kind of game. We’re not in the corporate world, in the sense that, you know, we fly first class and, you know, have shrimp for dinner and that kind of thing. These people are constantly, like, wasting money and time with these ridiculous lawsuits.

And in this case, they won, because the court happens to be in the same — I guess they think the same way as these corporate monsters do, and that’s how I think of them, because they want to control everything that we do regarding DVDs, regarding CDs, regarding technology. And it’s a really frightening thing. It’s something that needs to be challenged. And fortunately, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been there for us to challenge this and to bring this all the way to the Supreme Court, but at what a cost! It’s simply unbelievable how much in time and effort this is costing. .

AMY GOODMAN: You were at the protests in Philadelphia at the Republican National Convention. How does the source code to look at DVD movies tie into this anti-globalization protest that first really surged up in Seattle?

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Well, I think what you’re really starting to see now is mass awareness of just how bad things are getting, because you have all this conglomeration, you have all these mergers, you have all these companies that are all running the media, and you can only get a certain amount of information out of them. They’ll only tell you a certain amount of things. These are the same companies that are suing us. These are the same companies that want to control DVDs, that want to control technology, that want to control how you access things. And they’re also the ones that report the story. So how fair can that possibly be?

The reason why you didn’t see what really happened in Philadelphia, unless you were listening to Pacifica or taking part in the IMC, the reason why is because the corporate media doesn’t want you to know, and it’s very easy to control things when you have a monopoly, and that is what people are seeing now. They realize that every aspect of their lives, everything they do, is being controlled by the same people. And they’re getting just a bit fed up with that. And when you see how it’s dealt with, how one hand washes the other, how the police come in and arrest people who are just standing talking on cell phones, and the courts back up $500,000 in bail for these people, when they see how it all works together as one functioning machine, they realize just how broken that machine really is.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Martin Garbus?

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, Martin Garbus is an amazing lawyer that the EFF was able to get to represent our case. He’s represented people such as Lenny Bruce and Spike Lee, and it’s a real honor to be with somebody like that, who has such a keen awareness of what the First Amendment and what Fair Use is about. It’s frustrating to see those arguments fall on deaf ears.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think positive has been accomplished out of this lawsuit? I mean, you’ve lost so far.

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, we’ve lost, but we’ve gained in many ways. We’ve brought together people that were not together before. The computer world activists all over the place, we were kind of all fighting our own little battles. Now we’re united; we’re fighting one battle. And I’ve met so many people as a result of this that really know what’s going on, that are working towards very positive things. And I think we’re going to come out stronger as a result of this. I’ve noticed that in the hacker world that every time they try and clamp down on people, that we wind up being stronger, because we fight back, because we speak up, because we won’t be silenced. And now we have a whole lot of people that feel that way. I really am looking forward to seeing what comes out of that.

AMY GOODMAN: Your name, Emmanuel Goldstein, explain how you chose it.

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Well, it seemed appropriate enough. I actually chose the name Emmanuel Goldstein back in 1984, or maybe a little bit before 1984. I was being prosecuted by the federal government back then for computer hacking. And Emmanuel Goldstein, of course, is a character in 1984. He’s the leader of the underground. It’s rather ironic now that they look at me as the leader of the underground. Corporate America looks at me that way, and it’s frightening to realize how little they really do know. And hopefully the book won’t — hopefully real life won’t turn out like the book did, where Emmanuel Goldstein turned out to be a figment of the imagination of the government. But we’ll see.

AMY GOODMAN: If people want to get in touch with you, where can they call or go on the web?

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Our website is www.2600.com, and we always have updates there as to what’s going on, and hopefully they won’t take us down.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve been listening to Emmanuel Goldstein here on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!

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