On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (March 1-3), the popular comic strip "The Boondocks" made very specific and on-target reference to the banning of the DeCSS code.
On Thursday, two characters find "the DeCSS code that breaks the encryption on DVDs." (Note that this is one of the few times the code's use is properly defined - in most instances it's referred to as a tool for COPYING DVDs.) When one of them asks, "Is this legal?" the other responds, "The code? Of course!" The rest of the strip is blacked out with the words "CENSORED" printed in white. (This was done by the artist, not the newspapers.) Instantly, the absurdity of computer code being deemed illegal came across loud and clear.
On Friday, 90 percent of the strip was obliterated and replaced with the following words: "CENSORED. This comic contains numerous references to the DeCSS code used to bypass the Content Scrambling System of DVDs, which, by order of Judge Lewis Kaplan, is illegal to reproduce in any way. We apologize for the inconvenience, but speech that damages the profits of our corporate friends is NOT protected by the First Amendment. Thank you."
When you consider that this stinging commentary appeared in highlighted text in newspapers all around the world, the effects are profound. Here we've been waiting for someone to get it right on the editorial page - and the most intelligent commentary so far has come from the comic page!
On Saturday, one of the characters asks his teacher, "Why is it perfectly legal to post a diagram of how to build a bomb on the net, but you can't post a code that descrambles DVDs?" The rest of the strip is blacked out with the words "CENSORED. We just don't like where he's going with this."
It definitely shocked us to see someone get it so right and reach so many people with the message we've been trying to convey since November 1999. Our thanks go out to author Aaron McGruder for taking the time to learn - and to care.
Let's hope this is just the beginning.