Gallery of CSS Descramblers
David Touretzky, United States
Gallery of CSS Descramblers, 2000
Web site
This DVD logo formed out of the characters in the css-auth source was generated by someone using the MosASCII tool created by Robert DeFusco.
Selected by: Jon Ippolito
David S. Touretzky’s Gallery of CSS Descramblers aims to debunk a particular myth about computers–and in the process overturn a legal judgment that he believes abrogates the free speech guaranteed by the US Constitution. The judgment in question, Universal v. Reimerdes, challenged the right of online magazines and Web site operators to publish or link to a computer program that the plaintiff claimed was “illegal” according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Against the defendants’ argument that censoring the DeCSS software was akin to stifling free speech, Judge Kaplan contended that computer code was unlike speech because it was executable. As a practicing programmer, however, Touretzky believed that there was a slippery slope between software and speech, and he set out to prove it. Touretzky’s call for variations on the “illegal” DeCSS code generated a vast array of responses on the spectrum between execution and expression. Some of the variations are utter geekhood: Professional programmers translated DeCSS into numerous computer languages (C source code, Perl code, and Standard ML). Those with a more a “artistic” bend embedded the code in familiar artistic mediums, such as a GIF image, a movie, a T-shirt, a Yahoo greeting card, a song, and even a haiku. While Touretzky’s gallery has influenced the course of legal history, it wasn’t meant to prove a case, but to disprove one by demonstrating inherent ambiguities in a seemingly black and white situation. The fact that it asks rather than answers questions is what makes Touretzky’s gallery, together with the artifacts it contains, an important work of art.
David Touretzky