A consortium of film companies has dropped a DVD descrambling case against an individual who republished a computer program called DeCSS on the Internet. DVD Copy Control Assn., which represents Calif

New York--A consortium of film companies has dropped a DVD descrambling case against an individual who republished a computer program called DeCSS on the Internet.

DVD Copy Control Assn., which represents California entertainment and technology companies, moved to dismiss a lawsuit pending against Andrew Bunner, a California resident who published DeCSS online.

The motion was filed in California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit on Jan. 21.

Bunner had argued that he had a constitutional right to publish the software online. A California appeals court in 2001 agreed, saying that barring Bunner from future disclosures of DeCSS was "a restraint on [his] First Amendment right."

The recent retreat follows on the heels of a Jan. 3 U.S. Supreme Court reversal of an emergency stay on a similar case involving Texas resident Matthew Pavlovich.

There, the high court affirmed a decision of the California Supreme Court, which had ruled that the entertainment industry could not force a Texas resident to stand trial in California.

In Bunner's case, the DVD-CCA bailed out of a longtime effort by the Hollywood film community to have online distribution of DeCSS declared a violation of California trade secret laws.

"We're pleased that the DVD CCA has finally stopped attempting to deny the obvious: DeCSS is not a secret," says Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"DeCSS has been available on hundreds--if not thousands--of Web sites for 4 years now" she stresses.

DeCSS, which is distributed for free, enables users to play DVDs without technological restrictions, such as forced watching of commercials imposed by movie studios.

The program became enormously popular shortly after its dubious debut in 1999, being distributed by thousands of individuals worldwide the first year it was posted.