June 15, 2024

California Court: DeCSS Not a Trade Secret

A California state appeals court has ruled in DVD-CCA v. Bunner, holding that the DeCSS program is not a trade secret, so a lower court was wrong to order Andrew Bunner not to post the program on his website.

DeCSS, you may recall, is a program that decrypts data from DVDs. It’s posted at hundreds or thousands of places on the net. Since the program was already widespread before Bunner posted it, DVD-CCA had no argument that Bunner’s posting posed any additional danger. The court also noted that Bunner played no role in the initial disclosure and spread of DeCSS.

This is a sensible ruling. The only surprise is that it took the California courts so long to reach this conclusion.

(I should note that the court left open the possibility that DVD-CCA could present more evidence to prove the trade secret status of DeCSS; but it’s hard to imagine what evidence could exist that they haven’t already presented.)

Jason Shultz has a collection of quotes from the opinion.


  1. I think they actually ruled that DeCSS may well not have been a trade secret at the time the lawsuit was filed, in late 1999 or early 2000, having been leaked several months earlier.

    Everyone agrees that it’s not a trade secret today; in fact the DVD consortium tried to withdraw its lawsuit, but the EFF opposed them hoping for a favorable decision to establish a helpful precedent for future cases.