Friday, November 30, 1:30 p.m.
Where: McConomy Auditorium University Center
Michael Shamos, Director, Universal Library, and Principal Systems Scientist, Language Technologies Institute
David Touretzky, Principal Scientist, Computer Science Department
Moderated by Peter Shane, Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Public Policy, Heinz School
A GREAT DEBATE: ARE COMPUTER PROGRAMS PROTECTED SPEECH?
Several U.S. courts have held that computer programs are the product of
human expression and therefore are subject to the free speech protections
of the First Amendment. However, the Digital Millennium Copyright
Act (DMCA), passed in 1998, makes it illegal to distribute computer
programs that circumvent copy protection mechanisms used by copyright
owners to control distribution of their works. Which interest
should win, the First Amendment or the Copyright Act?
The first judicial test of the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA
occurred in the summer of 2000 in federal court in Manhattan in
"Universal City Studios v. Reimerdes", 111 F. Supp. 2d 294 (S.D.N.Y.
2000), the famous DeCSS case involving the right of a journalist to post
code on his website capable of breaking the encryption used in Hollywood
DVDs. Two Carnegie Mellon professors form SCS testified as expert
witnesses in that case, but on opposite sides. Michael Shamos, on
behalf of the plaintiffs, explained the methodology of decryption
and the risks to copyright owners of readily available circumvention
code. David Touretzky, testifying for the defendants, gave the court
a convincing argument that computer programs are speech and that a
program can take many forms, ranging from literal English words
through high-level programming languages and down to bitstrings.
The court found for the plaintiffs and enjoined the journalist from
posting the code. The case is now on appeal to the Second Circuit
Court of Appeals, with a decision expected very soon. In a CMU
exclusive, the two professors, who clearly have diametrically opposed
views on the subject, will debate the question face-to-face for the first
MICHAEL I. SHAMOS is Distinguished Career Professor in the School of
Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, where he serves as
Co-Director of the Institute for eCommerce. He has been associated
with Carnegie Mellon since 1975, teaching in SCS, MCS, HS&S and
GSIA. Originally a theoretical computer scientist, his early work
centered on algorithms in computational geometry now involves
electronic payment systems and experimental mathematics.
Dr. Shamos has been an intellectual property attorney since 1981 and
now acts as Special Counsel to Reed Smith, LLP, a large
general-practice firm in Pittsburgh. He has been an expert witness
in recent Internet cases involving the Motion Picture Association
of America and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
DAVID S. TOURETZKY is a Principal Scientist in the Computer Science
Department and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, and a
long-time Internet free speech activist. Dr. Touretzky testified on
the nature of computer programs as speech as an expert witness for the
defense in Universal City Studios v. Reimerdes, commonly known as the
"2600" DeCSS case. To illustrate his position, he maintains the
controversial Gallery of CSS Descramblers web site -- despite legal
threats from the Motion Picture Association of America.
PETER SHANE is theDistinguished Service Professor of Law and
Public Policy in the H.John Heinz III School of Public Policy and
Management. He is also Director of the Institute for the Study of
Information Technology and Society. He is primary investigator also
for Community Connections, an interdisciplinary research and
outreach project funded by the Hewlett Foundation, which is
exploring how Internet technology can best be used to promote
civic engagement among all Americans. At the Heinz School, he has
taught both telecommunications law and a seminar on the Internet
and the Future of Democracy. Prior to joining the faculty in the
Heinz School, Professor Shane as the Dean of the Law School at the
University of Pittsburgh.
A noted legal educator, Professor Shane has been a teacher of
constitutional and administrative law since 1981. His specialties
include separation of powers law and the application of law to the
presidency, as well as telecommunications law. From 1994 to 1998,
he served as dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law,
having previously taught for 13 years at the University of Iowa
College of Law. He has been a visiting faculty member at the Duke,
Boston College, and Villanova Law Schools. In December, 2001, he
will become the inaugural holder of the "foreign chair" for the
University of Ghent LL.M. program on the law of Europe in comparative
Sponsored by SCS in cooperation with the Heinz School.