For those into Linux and DVDs, DeCSS needs no introduction. For those who don’t know their abbreviations, here’s a quick primer.
The DVD Copy Control Association (CCA) employs what is called the Content Scrambling Scheme (CSS) to encrypt data on DVDs. Only CCA licensed decoders may decrypt this data. By decoders, I mean all types of decoders, whether standalone DVD players or software players like WinDVD that you use on your PC. The purported aim of such a system is to prevent privacy and allow DVD producers a measure of control over the distribution of their work.
I will not go into the politics of this system, i.e. no elaborations on why this is a dumb system and that you don’t need to break CSS to make DVD copies. The only fact I’ll bring to your knowledge is that there are no licensed players for any OS other that MS Windows and Mac OS. Moreover, the DVD CCA has shown no inclination to issue a license for a player running on any of the alternate operating systems.
So playing DVDs on other OSes like Linux and BeOS is a difficulty. But notice that I used the words ‘may decrypt’ and not ‘can decrypt’ ! Because DeCSS is just that. An unlicensed piece of software that decrypts the DVD contents.
The credit for the original DeCSS goes to Jon Johansen who was just 15 when he published the first code that cracks CSS. The current version of DeCSS, I believe, is substantially different from that original code. But still, Jon deserves kudos for bringing the ability to everyone to play their legally purchased DVDs in a manner they see fit and not under the diktat of some commercial entity.
Okay. That’s for the background. The cool hack - the subject of this entry - is not DeCSS itself ! Rather, it is the extreme variety and creativity of methods by which you can get DeCSS.
The site lists 42 different ways to get a copy of the DeCSS source code. Yes, that’s forty two different ways! Some of the methods are really cool, like embedding the code in an image or as Star Wars style flying text!
And if you are not satisfied with those, take a look at
http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/DeCSS/Gallery/ for more! This one includes some wacky ideas like code on a T-Shirt and a dramatic reading of the code!