TL;DR: Is it legal to download and read the DeCSS Haiku in the US? Is it legal to share it?

I now ask about
The DeCSS haiku
A poem written

As an exercise
Of the First Amendment right
To speak of one's views.

This particular
view was that the DVD
CCA cannot

Use their copyright
Or, perhaps, trade secret right,
To stop a coder

From decrypting
His legally acquired,
Yet encrypted, discs,

And telling others
What he found would decode
The encrypted discs.

To show computer code is speech,
Protected under the law,
He wrote a poem.

Four hundred sixty,
Oh, and five more, stanzas
Of geeky haiku.

From these many stanzas,
Another coder, who knows
C, can write their own

Program to decode
Encrypted video discs,
And thus, he proved that

Code is, in fact, speech.
Or so it was thought by some;
Others may argue,

Particularly the
DVD CCA, that
He did not succeed;

Even if code is speech,
This code is unprotected,
And thus illegal.

Who is right, O Muse?
(Or rather, SE users),
Please do inform me,

May I read this poem
Legally in USA?
Or does it infringe

Other rights, which are
Held above free speech in court?
May I read those words,

And also share them,
Written to protest against
IP tyranny?

  • Written by ChatGPT? Jan 30, 2023 at 4:22
  • 2
    @NikeDattani no, I wrote it myself.
    – Someone
    Jan 30, 2023 at 4:32
  • Congratulations, you failed the turing test, I voted to close Feb 1, 2023 at 20:14

1 Answer 1


The “decss haiku” consists, in primary part, of a long string of numbers, split up into lines by syllables. It was a clever joke, but anyone who feels that encryption keys are stripped of any legal protection by making them into “poetry” fundamentally misunderstands the difference between telling a computer to do something and telling a judge to do something.

In any case, however, the finding that the encryption key was covered by trade secret protections was reversed on appeal.

  • Also, unrelated note: Classically, Euterpe (the muse of lyric poetry) was only ever evoked. You’d ask her to help you rhyme real good, but you wouldn’t ask her rhetorical questions.
    – Sneftel
    Jan 25, 2023 at 8:43

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