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The online auction house eBay has taken action to prevent its users from selling DVD players that enable them to ignore the “region coding” of commercial DVD movies. The particular target of the action is the Apex AD600A player, which in its initial editions enabled users to sidestep region coding of DVDs by accessing a “secret menu” in the player’s firmware. Once this undocumented feature of the Apex player became widely known, there was a rush on the player at consumer electronics houses such as New York City’s J&R Computer World, which filled many Web-based orders for the device from throughout the United States. Newer versions of the player do not contain the region-code-defeating feature. The region-coding scheme, which most commercial DVD movies include, prevents DVDs that are sold in one region of the globe from operating on DVD players sold in other regions. The movie industry maintains that region coding is necessary to maximize the revenue from DVD sales; some movie representatives have also argued that the region-coding scheme is an anti-piracy measure. Legitimate DVD player manufacturers must have obtained a “CSS license” -� a license to decrypt the Content Scramble System-encrypted content on movie DVDs as they are played. DVD players that ignore region coding or that enable high-quality copying from DVD to VHS are said to violate the CSS license. In response to a complaint from Macrovision, a company that specializes in copy-protection schemes for VHS and DVD movies, eBay began canceling auctions of the Apex DVD player. Macrovision is a member of eBay’s “Verified Rights Owner Program” -� as such, it filed a sworn statement with the online auction house that the Apex DVD player violates its intellectual property rights. Macrovision maintains that other DVD players that enable the circumvention of region-coding schemes, including players from Sampo and Raite, also violate its intellectual property rights. The company has also asked eBay to cancel auctions of cloned “EPROM” chips that, when plugged into certain models of DVD players �- including the later-model Apex players �- enable users to sidestep the region- coding or copy-protection schemes encoded into the DVDs. The EPROM chips are copies of chips from ESS Technologies that control region coding in DVDs. A Macrovision spokesman said the company has made a collective request to eBay to halt auctions of any item that “violates CSS licensing, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” or Macrovision’s or ESS Technology’s intellectual property rights. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act outlaws the dissemination of devices whose primary use is to circumvent the access-control or copy-protection mechanisms that may be used by publishers to protect their copyrighted works. Lawsuits concerning the use of the DeCSS utility �- a piece of software that unscrambles DVD movie content that has been scrambled by CSS �- are ongoing in federal court in New York and state court in California.

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