Computer Programs Ruled Protected by Amendment
Programming Language is Speech Too, Court Says

Associated Press   Cincinnati (AP) — Computer programs used to scramble electronic messages are protected by the First Amendment because those codes are a means of communication among programmers, a federal appeals court ruled.

Raymond Vasvari, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said the ruling is the first time a federal appellate court has decided that computer programming languages are protected by the First Amendment. This is a great day for programmers, computer scientists and all Americans who believe that privacy and intellectual freedom should be free from government control, he said.

The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling means a lawsuit filed by a Cleveland law professor will be reconsidered in federal court. Peter D. Junger's lawsuit claims the government violated his free-speech rights by requiring licenses to export programs that scramble electronic messages.

Mr. Junger, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, wanted to put the encryption codes on his Web site to help his computer-law students understand the function and purpose of computer programs, said his lawyer, Gino Scarselli. The government told him he had to have a license first.

Appeals judges Boyce Martin Jr., Eric Clay and Herman Weber reversed a lower court's 1998 ruling that the government's license requirement didn't violate the First Amendment.

Justice Department lawyer Scott McIntosh said he hadn't seen the decision and couldn't comment on it.