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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Hackers' hero faces piracy test case
2600 The Hacker Quarterly
Eric Corley publishes a magazine for computer hackers
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington

A court case pitting Hollywood against a computer hacker has started in the United States.

Movie giants, including Disney, Universal and Paramount, accuse Eric Corley of posting links to software on his website that allows users to break the copy protection system on digital video discs.

Lawyers for the Hollywood firms say that the software, developed by teenagers in Europe, will foster the illegal trade of films on the internet.

The music industry is already fighting a high-profile battle against digital music trading on the Internet.

Next target

The movie studios fear they could become the next target of these so-called digital pirates.

Mickey Mouse character
Disney says it is protecting its business
The film industry estimates that it already loses $2.5bn a year because of piracy, mainly through the illegal copying of video tapes.

But Hollywood is concerned that, unlike video tapes, digital copies are just as good as the originals.

In court, studio lawyers demonstrated a pirated copy of the popular film The Matrix, which an expert said was almost indistinguishable from the genuine DVD release.

Civil liberties groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have rallied behind Mr Corley, who publishes a hacker magazine known as 2600 The Hacker Quarterly.

Hero of 1984

Mr Corley is known to the hacker community as Emmanuel Goldstein after the hero of George Orwell's novel 1984.

The studios are basing their case on the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The act makes it illegal to distribute technology that bypasses copy protection.

But the civil liberties groups say that the law goes too far, infringes on the user's right of free speech and undermines their fair use of music, movies and other copyrighted material.

The trial, which is taking place at a federal court in New York, is being seen as the first test of the new law and is expected to last for several weeks.

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