January 16, 2001, 2:17 PM — I guess the only solution if the MPAA has its way is to shut down the Internet
IT LOOKS LIKE WE BETTER pull the plug and shut down Yahoo, AltaVista, and Google. Or, based on reading the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA's) threatening letter, that's what we'll have to do. Search engine powerhouses such as Yahoo, AltaVista, or Google may be premised on the idea of linking to sites, but the MPAA has gotten an injunction against linking to Web sites that host DeCSS, the utility that cracks the encryption on DVDs.
In an eminently predictable move, the MPAA is viewing the recent court decision banning hyperlinks to the DeCSS utility as a license to carpet bomb Web sites with threatening letters demanding DeCSS be pulled. (The magazine 2600 posted a copy of the letter on its Web site). After the MPAA's legal victory over 2600, it's making the lawyers earn their retainer by trying to cripple DeCSS distribution.
The court injunction prohibits linking directly to a copy of the DeCSS utility hosted on a site or even a general link to such a site.
So the MPAA in its letter states that the district court has granted a permanent injunction against "linking [to] any Internet Web site, either directly or through a series of links, to any other Internet Web site containing DeCSS."
Scratch what I said before about Yahoo, AltaVista, and Google. It looks like we have to shut down the entire Internet. The cocktail-party game Six Degrees of Separation proves it: I defy you to find a Web site that doesn't link through a series of links to another Web site that has DeCSS.
A series of links. Wasn't that the entire point of the Web?
Let's boil it down: It is illegal to type the words a href = followed by a Web site. This is about half a step shy of the thought police. Does it strike anyone else as strange that a person is liable for providing a link whereas a machine is offered "safe harbor" under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)?
There is a slight ray of hope in all this: As corporate behemoths get ever more gigantic, they start having more and more diverse interests. Meaning, for a juggernaut such as Time Warner or Disney, the right hand doesn't always know what the left is doing.
Look at Gnutella, the open-source file-sharing app that will step into the void if Napster gets permanently shut down. It was crafted by the guys at Nullsoft, which is owned by ... drumroll please ... America Online. No wonder the app was pulled almost immediately after it was posted -- but too late for Internet time. AOL doesn't want to upset Time Warner before their impending nuptials.