In 1996, a new dimension to legal use of cryptosystems entered the fray. The World Intellectual Property Organization, which seeks to harmonize the protection of intellectual property worldwide, developed the WIPO Copyright Treaty. Article 12 of the treaty prevents circumvention of technological measures for the protection of works. Technological measures almost invariably refer to cryptosystems used to protect said works. Article 12 therefore becomes a means to control such cryptosystems in countries that adopt laws pursuant to the agreement[4, WIPO Copyright Treaty].
The US upgrade of its copyright laws was titled the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and included provisions to satisfy article 12. Furthermore, the US's stance on what article 12 means in practice is that the copyright holder for a work that is encrypted is the only person who can create or give permission for creation of the associated decoder. What this means for US citizens is that should you own a DVD and require a single picture from the movie, as you are allowed under fair-use doctrine for certain purposes, you may only do so if the DVD decoders support extracting a single image. You may not build your own decoder to extract a single image because it would be construed as circumventing a technological measure for the protection of works.
In 1999 these laws had not been exercised and this particular interpretation of the law had not yet been established. This was the year a Norwegian, Jon Johansen, released a program called decss. The decss program was an unapproved DVD decoder that had been developed by reverse engineering other authorized DVD decoders. With decss, exercising fair-use to extract a single frame of a DVD become possible. So did watching DVDs on computer platforms that otherwise wouldn't support it. Because it potentially runs afoul of the law, the Norwegian white-collar crime prosecution organization, Okokrim, tried twice to prosecute Jon for computer crime charges however both attempts failed. The Norwegian interpretation of Article 12 allowed for the creation of unauthorized decoders.
In the US, a magazine called 2600, after the 2600Hz tone used to control phone trunks, distributed the code for decss. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed an injunction to prevent 2600 from further distributing the code. The surprising outcome of the injunction was that not only is 2600 not allowed to distribute the code, but they are also not allowed to link to the code. This judgment was surprising because it seemingly violates the freedom of speech; however, the judge makes a razor fine distinction to separate free speech this unprotected speech: links that allow a computer to automatically download the code when clicked have a non-speech component to them that allows them to be barred, whereas a link that doesn't do anything when clicked would not be restricted. The author of this paper wonders whether this decision would extend beyond computer code to English once computers can understand and perform instructions in both equally well. One Slashdot reader acutely pointed out: ``Why can't they [WIPO] harmonize the laws to be less restrictive?''