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EFF Files First Anti-DMCA Lawsuit 266

The first direct legal challenge to the DMCA was filed at 9 a.m. EDT today by EFF-sponsored attorneys at the United States District Court in Trenton, New Jersey on behalf of Princeton Professor Edward W. Felten and others who helped crack a series of digital watermarking schemes as part of an SDMI Challenge sponsored by the RIAA. Named defendents include the RIAA, SDMI, Verance Corporation (producer of one of the cracked watermarked schemes) and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

If this were a movie, it might be called "Saving Professor Felten" and would open with thunder and bombast. In real life, filing a civil suit in a federal court is one of the most boring activities imaginable, even though it's a necessary first step in the process of overturning the DMCA.

Gino J. Scarselli, Outside Lead Counsel for EFF on the case, says, "We got to the courthouse at 8:30, filed around 9, and made motions to seal exhibits to the complaints." As explained in the Complaint itself, EFF filed several of their Exhibits with requests for them to be sealed, because they believe publication of them may invite a lawsuit. The Exhibits to be sealed are Professor Felten's completed paper for the upcoming USENIX conference, and two documents written by Princeton post-grad Min Wu about the investigation performed by Felten's team against the SDMI watermarks.

It was an overcast day in Trenton. Scarselli, along with local (New Jersey) attorneys Grayson Barber and Frank Corrado, and two of the plaintiffs, Princeton residents Bede Liu and Min Wu, went through a metal detector just like anyone else (aside from staff) who enters a courthouse these days.

Scarselli says, "the only person we talked to was a law clerk." Neither the defendants nor any lawyers representing them were present. There will be plenty of conflict later, but the opening round of this drama was so low-key that it was a total yawner for all involved parties. The whole thing was over by 9:45 a.m.

The Complaint Itself, Very Briefly

Prof. Felten and others, mostly professors and graduate students from Princeton and Rice Universities, accepted the SDMI challenge to crack a specific set of digital watermarks, but instead of turning their results over to SDMI in hopes of winning the $10,000 prize offered for a successful crack, they chose instead to publish their findings in the form of an academic paper, and to present that paper at the Fourth International Information Hiding Workshop [IHW], held in Pittsburgh on April 25-27, 2001. Felten and crew believed they had every right to present their research in this public, peer-reviewed scientific forum even though they had accepted a "click through" agreement before taking on the SDMI challenge, in large part because the license to which they agreed with their click contained these words:

"You may, of course, elect not to receive compensation, in which event you will not be required to sign a separate document or assign any of your intellectual property rights, although you are still encouraged to submit details of your attack."

Despite this, SDMI threatened Felten and the other involved parties, including IHW organizers, with legal action under the DMCA. After a long series of emails between Felten, his fellow researchers, IHW people, a representative of Verance Corp., and an attorney who works for both SDMI and RIAA, the original paper, "Reading Between the Lines: Lessons from the SDMI Challenge," was first modified, then finally withdrawn.

Now Felten and friends plan to present the same paper at a USENIX Security Symposium in Washington, D.C. on August 13-17, and are asking the court to tell the defendants not to sue or threaten legal action over this new publication or any other publication, and to tell the U.S. Department of Justice, run by Attorney General John Ashcroft, not to file criminal charges against USENIX or anyone else over this matter under the DMCA. As it says in the complaint:

68. In chilling publication, the DMCA wreaks havoc in the marketplace of ideas, not only the right to speak, but the right to receive information -- the right to learn. The main mission of USENIX is to organize forums where scientists and researchers learn from each other. By intimidating the individual plaintiffs into withdrawing their paper from the IHW, however, the private Defendants prevented people from learning. If the source of Defendants' power to threaten, the DMCA, is not dispelled, Plaintiffs will not be the only victims. Without full and open access to research in areas potentially covered by the DMCA, scientists and programmers working in those areas cannot exchange ideas and fully develop their own research. As a consequence, the DMCA will harm science.

69. By imposing civil and criminal liability for publishing speech (including computer code) about technologies of access and copy control measures and copyright management information systems, the challenged DMCA provisions impermissibly restrict freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom and other rights secured by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This is just a brief "taste" of what the complaint says. Full text is available here.

The Press Conference

It was held at noon Eastern time, in person simultaneously at EFF headquarters in San Francisco and at a room borrowed from Princeton University. A few reporters were at EFF headquarters in person, but most of us dialed in and participated by phone. The media turnout was impressive; reporters from the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, AP, NPR, Reuters, Wired, and other major news outlets showed up, which was nice to see; Slashdot has been rather lonely in covering many DMCA matters and complaints. It was nice to see so many "mainstream" pressies finally paying attention.

Felten was in San Francisco. So was most of the legal crowd. USENIX Board member Avi Rubin was on the conference call telephone. The Princeton contingent was tiny, composed only of the people who had been at the court house earlier. EFF legal director Cindy Cohn opened the show from San Francisco with a rehash of the events leading up to the suit, most of which I recapped above. (You can find more information here.)

Felten spoke briefly. The basic thrust of his prepared speech can be summed up thusly: "We are asking the government to let us do what scientists have always done -- share the results of our research."

The USENIX people noted that they hold many conferences and may be subject to both civil suits and criminal prosecution if they publish papers DMCA legal threateners (like SDMI and RIAA) don't like, and view this suit as an attempt to maintain their First Amendment rights to freely distribute technical and scientific information to USENIX members and other interested parties.

Then the press questions began. The first dozen covered ground that is familiar to most regular Slashdot readers. There is no point in rehashing these questions when a Slashdot search for "SDMI + DMCA" or just "DMCA" will give answers to every one of them.

Then Hiawatha Bray, a tech columnist for the Boston Globe, wanted to know if the case would be dropped if the SDMI and/or RIAA decide to stop hassling Felten and USENIX. The attorneys said "No." Their point here is to prevent both private companies and the DoJ from bringing DMCA threats not only against the SDMI crack researchers but against anyone who might go through the same sort of ordeal in the future, so a settlement that affected only this case would not cause the EFF to drop it. Other questions and answers followed, but again, long-time Slashdot readers already know most of them, so we won't repeat them here.

Follow the Money

Ms. Cohn says the cost of this suit, "if fully litigated," could easily reach $2 million. She estimates that the EFF-sponsored 2600 DeCSS defense has already cost nearly $1.5 million, and that suit is still cranking up the appeals chain. She also says -- yes, this is a plug -- that Slashdot readers who want to donate money to help fund all this expensive legal action can check out the EFF Web site.

(Here's the EFF membership/donation page if you'd like to whip out your credit card and pop a few bucks their way; they need all they can get!)

This is Just the Beginning

Now, basically, we sit and wait. The lawyers do lawyer-dances involving lots of paperwork. Discovery motions pass back and forth. Amicus briefs get filed. A hearing date gets set, then there's a hearing, and another hearing, and so on.

The 2600/DeCSS case has been going on for a year and a half and still isn't over. This one is likely to drag out even more. Even if Prof. Felten, his associates, and USENIX win all the relief they seek, chances are high that the RIAA, SDMI or at least one of the other defendants will appeal -- and keep appealing all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For more info, read the EFF Press Release

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

EFF Files First Anti-DMCA Lawsuit

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:05AM (#171128)
    The Attorney General of the United States is always sued when the plaintiff is trying to enjoin enforcement of a given law. Look up * v. Janet Reno and you'll see what I mean.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:10AM (#171129)
    The difference is simple: I own a book. You cannot take this book away from me . It is in my house; to try to get it from me is against all sorts of other laws.

    The only basis of the laws is custom. Not all cultures have the idea of provate property (as I already mentioned, I assume your read the whole post?)

    I have a certain obligation, not to sit down and type it, word for word, into the computer. This is possible, but difficult.

    So you support IP rights?

    IP is an idea that floats around in your neurons. There's a concrete difference there.

    Not really. A house has a function: to give you a place to live. An encryption algorithim also has a function: to protect IP. Just as it is wrong to destroy your home with a wrecking ball (defeating the function of the house), is it not wrong to defeat the purpose of the algorithim?
  • Please follow the link I provided in the story to the full text of the complaint. That should answer your question.

    - Robin
  • If RIAA isn't planning on suing anybody, then why did they insist on changing the paper back in April, and why is Usenix so terrified about litigaction? Is it just because that press release only applies to Dr. Felton, and RIAA may still sue anybody else who tries to read (or attend a workshop on) the document under the DMCA? After all, that paper and the ideas contained within it is a "circumvention device" and quite to own under the DMCA.

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • by phil reed ( 626 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:47AM (#171133) Homepage
    How the hell can the RIAA call itself nonprofit?

    Quite easily. RIAA is an industry representation organization. It charges membership dues sufficient to pay for its expenses: office space, staff, office equipment and supplies, operational expenses (lobbying, lawyers, power, etc). It does what it does on behalf of its membership, which DOES consist of profit-making organizations. The RIAA itself is not profit-oriented.

    Most companies are members of at least one such organization, even if it's only the local Chamber of Commerce. Yes, the organizations exist to help their membership make money, but the organization doesn't make money itself.


  • by Riktov ( 632 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @06:25PM (#171134) Journal
    What do I think the chances are? I would say they are about the same as the chances of me dating Sarah Michele Gellar next week; realistically as close to zero as anything can be.

    This calls for nothing less than an all-out letter writing campaign: write to Sarah Michelle Gellar and beg her to please, please, please go out with Veteran this weekend! (And no, Sarah, you don't have to put out at all.)
  • The DMCA doesn't support IP rights at all. It supports monopolization by giving the content creator 100% total control over all the means of deployment of his works. This is not the way other types of property work. If I sell widgets to person X, he is free to resell them to person Y, and I have no say in it at all. The DMCA also makes it so that alleged violators are assumed guilty until proven innocent.
  • by Sanity ( 1431 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @12:03PM (#171142) Homepage Journal
    The opinion that all property is a lie is not a logical consequence of the view that information cannot be treated as property, and the claim to the contrary is little more than a transparent attempt to set up a strawman*.

    What is property, and why is it important? Property is important because if you have some property, and someone else takes it from you, then you can no-longer benefit from it. Yet information doesn't work like that. I can give a piece of information to someone else without taking that information away from anyone. Perhaps Thomas Jefferson said it better:

    "He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement, or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."

    Letter to Isaac McPherson, August 13, 1813.

    * A "strawman argument" is advancing your opinion by arguing against a false definition of your opponent's view in the hope that nobody will recognise the difference.


  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:19AM (#171143) Homepage
    DMCA exists for one and only ONE reason- to CONTROL "intellectual" property.

    Current patent and copyright law protects that already.

    DMCA makes it illegal to own, make, or teach someone else how to make tools to exercise your fair usage rights. You're entitled to make copies of the content you've purchased for your own personal use (meaning for you and you alone). Doesn't matter what form the media is or the content- you're allowed that. DVDs don't let you play disks that are from different regions and if you've got a player that the DVD cartel didn't sanction (i.e. got a license from the DVD CCA to use CSS descrambling) then you don't get to play anything. The disk itself is not locked out (i.e. I can make an exact image copy with a DVD press and expect it to work, implicitly- if it were "protection" as you claim, it wouldn't work out that way).) and CSS is only there to prevent re-encoding to a new format or to play disks not in your region- it doesn't really protect anything

    That, sir or madam, is content control not protection. It is there to keep people from making portion copies (fair use right) for personal projects, re-encoding to a lower bandwidth format (space/time shifting- another fair use right), and to keep them purchasing a disk in some other part of the world (Say, I buy in Singapore to watch on a DVD player there, but I live in the US- unless it's a region 1 disk, it's not going to be playable in a region 1 player...).

  • by Odinson ( 4523 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @12:51PM (#171145) Homepage Journal
    Good Heavens! That's over the course of what span of time???

    About a half a year before I pay up. It's cds and movie rentals, and rock concerts, but mostly movies in the theatre. US$8.50 a pop for me and my girlfriend up fast. :)

    I suppose those boycotting will have already done their part under your system....

    I thought about boycotting, but our culture in the USA and in NY where I live is ripe with movie refrances and song quotes. I'm afraid I would fall out of touch and become even more stange to the unaware.

    I want to watch DVD's on a Linux laptop with GPLed programs, that is what I am after. Why this should be illegal boggles my mind. (2600 and Judge Kaplan are here too.)

  • by Odinson ( 4523 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:18AM (#171146) Homepage Journal
    The MPAA and the RIAA are now offically the enemy of the constitution (copywrite not impeading progress/science clause)

    I have donating dollar for dollar to the EFF for every product I buy from the RIAA or MPAA member companies. My last donation was about US$130 and I excpect my next to top US$150.

    It feels great, I suggest tring it. I watched some good movies too.

  • by TBone ( 5692 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @12:47PM (#171149) Homepage

    I posted this below on it's own thread, but it's important, so I wanted it to get some instant visibility

    before you donate, check your HR benefits if you work at a decent company. Many companies have policies of matching employee donations to charitable organizations up to a certain dollar amount. My last company would match up to, IIRC, $500, and my (hopefully) next will match $150.

    It doesn't cost you anything more, and hey, it gives them another write-off. Make sure you get the forms you need and check to see how you have to make the donation to get the extra money to your causes.

    This space for rent. Call 1-800-STEAK4U

  • by TBone ( 5692 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @12:44PM (#171150) Homepage

    For those of you who work for big companies, look into your benefits you may find that your company will, up to a certain dollar amount, match any donations you yourself make to qualifying charitable organizations. I would suspect that the EFF would qualify.

    If you want to donate, make sure you get the paperwork or forms you need to get your company to match your donation. My last company would match, IIRC, $500 of my donation. That's $1K to EFF for the $500 you might have given them anyway.

    This space for rent. Call 1-800-STEAK4U

  • Thanks for the link, I just joined.
  • by Gromer ( 9058 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @04:39PM (#171158)

    Are you sure you posted this to the right article? I don't buy any of these arguments, and some of them just don't make sense.

    • Are you saying that in a battle between a collection of large, faceless corporations and a small group of scientists at top-flight research institutions, the corporations have the respectability edge? Said scientists are "scruffy malcontents"? Come on. Academic speech is one of the most clear-cut instances of first-amendment-protected speech there is. The SDMI et. al. have a huge task ahead of them just avoiding looking like the goon squad- interfering with academic publication isn't a very pretty picture. Besides, who's this "we" you're talking about? The plaintiffs aren't hackers- they're academics. In the eyes of most judges, there's a world of difference.
    • The fight isn't really over technical issues at all- it's over whether or not some scientists can publish a paper. The technical details of the paper are pretty much irrelevant. Besides, cases of this nature are seldom handled by a jury, and judges tend to make a good-faith effort to understand the technical issues they are confronted with.
    • This argument is too ridiculous to be rebutted. Felten et. al. will loose the case because it would be a horrible miscarriage of justice? You make it sound like Hon. Justice Snidely Whiplash has been appointed to the case. A few ugly cases do not make a legal system which thrives on miscarriage.
    • Erm, the government (U.S., state, or local) is a party in every criminal case in the country, yet somehow accused crmiminals are occasionally found innocent. The U.S. Government has been on the losing end of any number of major court cases, including many more important than this one (yes, there is such a thing). Besides, the U.S. government is not a defendant- the attorney general is, and he is a defendant only in a rather formal sense- nobody's accusing him of a crime. They need to include Ashcroft as a defendant in order for the case to have the scope necessary to get an order preventing possible future prosecutions of USENIX and others. In short, they need to get the government involved, even though the case is not a DMCA prosecution, in order for the case to have the necessary scope.
  • I've just had my computer make a billion copies of your article. Does this take the article away from you? No. Does this article prevent hundreds of thousands of /. readers from reading the article? No. Do my actions remove even a single cent from your pocket? No.

    That is the essential difference between physical property and intellectual property.

  • The difference is simple: I own a book. You cannot take this book away from me . It is in my house; to try to get it from me is against all sorts of other laws.

    I have a certain obligation, not to sit down and type it, word for word, into the computer. This is possible, but difficult. In the same category are things like building your own car (from scratch, not a kit), and so forth.

    IP is an idea that floats around in your neurons. There's a concrete difference there.
  • This case is not about black and white stances such as "All intellectual property is wrong" and "All intellectual property is good" as your post implicitly suggests.

    This case is about grey areas, and deals with questions such as: Does the DCMA go too far? Are copyright / trademark / existing IP laws adequate? The question is not, as much as you would like it to be, whether all IP is evil and wrong. It's whether the broad new IP powers granted by the DCMA are unconstitutional.

    I think you might have an interesting topic for some other debate, but in the context of this story it's BARELY even on topic.
  • The DMCA includes both civil and criminal penalties. If anyone were charged with violating the criminal parts, the US Attorney General would be responsible for prosecuting the case. Since the plaintiffs want to prevent that from happening, Ashcroft, the current US Attorney General, is named in the suit. It's nothing personal.
  • by sethg ( 15187 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:11AM (#171169) Homepage
    You've missed paragraph 3 of the plaintiffs' complaint, where they quote Japan Gas Lighter Ass'n v. Ronson Corp., 257 F.Supp. 219, 237 (D.N.J. 1966):
    The Declaratory Judgment Act was designed to relieve potential defendants from the Damoclean threat of impending litigation which a harassing adversary might brandish, while initiating suit at his leisure -- or never. The Act permits parties so situated to forestall the accrual of potential damages by suing for a declaratory judgment, once the adverse positions have crystallized and the conflict of interests is real and immediate.

  • That is a damn good idea. EFF should advertise it on their site.

    Yes, even if for no other reason than to show people how much they really spend on "entertainment". Personally, I find bike riding, network building, and Perl coding more gratifying that most movies, tv, radio, and "popular" music, so I'll have to find some other way to calculate how much to donate (hardware cost matching? It would certainly generate some big revenue for EFF).
  • by IanCarlson ( 16476 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:04AM (#171174) Homepage
    What's interesting about the document written by Felten and his associates is the fact that it goes into no details on how to actually circumvent SDMI, but just details the inherent weaknesses in the system.

    This will be a very important verdict for free speech as a whole, and the case is being fast-tracked because the USENIX conference is quickly approaching (and because matters of this nature are usually treated in this fashion).

    I found out about the teleconference through the 2600 web site, but I was shocked to hear some of the things that the EFF's Cindy Cohn said about 2600's lawsuits. According to her, the EFF has a better chance of winning this case because colleges are who the laws are "meant to protect", insinuating (at least to me) that 2600 has lost its cases because they're seen as hackers and subversives. That didn't leave a very pleasant taste in my mouth.

    Cohn does make a very good argument for the case against the DMCA, saying that the RIAA needs to "stop interfering with the scientific process."

    The conference was quite interesting, however. I really regret not recording it. There was definitely a good news media turnout. Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe, NewsBytes [], NPR, AP, and a whole slew of independent radio and newspaper reporters that Roblimo completely has failed to mention.

    Very informative. You all should have called in.
  • by IanCarlson ( 16476 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @12:03PM (#171175) Homepage
    It is absolutely worth listening to. To hear about the case in the EFF's own words was quite enlightening.

    I suppose part of me is unhappy to find out about the recording, though...

    At about 12:10PM EST, I called in and got an operator who asked me for a whole slew of information, which I gave. Before she tossed me into the mix, I asked her if callers were muted by default and she told me that they were. So, I put the conference on my work speakerphone and a few people begin gathering around, listening and talking about the case while Felten is going into details about the report that started all of this.

    All of a sudden, the whole conference erupted into a chorus of people telling us to shut up. It was around this time we realized that the call was not muted at that everyone on the conference could hear us.

    You would think the friggin' EFF would moderate their conferences a little better, but obviously not.

    Embarrassed, I cover the mouthpiece and start to kick myself for making an ass of myself in front of reporters from about twenty major news organizations.

    But then I realized, there are people who go through life without ever even having the chance to make an ass of themselves on such a grand scale, and I quickly began feeling an awful lot better about myself.

    I never really liked the Associated Press or NPR much anyway.
  • Yeah, it's a setup. Just like those uppity Negroes who sat down at lunch counters CLEARLY marked "Whites Only".

    Sometimes you gotta set up The Man...and then beat him with his own laws.


  • by TWR ( 16835 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:32AM (#171177)
    Just as it is wrong to destroy your home with a wrecking ball (defeating the function of the house), is it not wrong to defeat the purpose of the algorithim?

    If there was a DMCA-style law against house-destroying, you would now be guilty. You just described how to destroy a house. You didn't actually destroy a house, approve of someone else doing so, but the act of description is itself a crime.

    That's what Professor Felton did. He didn't hack anyone's data. He just said, "here's how to do it."

    So, you going to turn yourself in now, thought criminal?


  • by wbraunoh ( 22509 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @02:10PM (#171181) Homepage
    This morning's press conference is now available [] on EFF's web site.

    mp3 format, open audio licensed [].

  • I haven't read the filing, but I believe that including Ashcroft is a formality to include the DOJ.

  • by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:16AM (#171186) Homepage Journal
    Physical property is a limited resource. There are only so many acres of land, so many barrels of oil, so many bushels of grain, and so many tons of steel.

    Ideas are limitless in quantity.

    Limited items require more protection than unlimited items. Which requires more protection: the Hope diamond or 1000 tons of coal?

    I have not decided whether or not I agree that IP is a legal fiction. Regardless, your arguments are not convincing.

  • I've been in the mood to feed the trolls today:

    Felten is doing what is right and proper in the United States to change things: he is using the courts.

    At least there is *something* here. Frequently, these type of suits are brought before there is ANY issue.

    I don't give two shits whether this case is about money. If it means the DMCA is dumped like it should be, so be it.

    This suit has a better chance of success than Corley's.

    First, Corley is a bit of a wanker. Sure, Felton may look smug, but Corley IS smug.

    Second, Felton and the gang are researchers, trying to publish their original work. There must be some legal terminology, but I have no doubt that the originator has greater rights than a reporter.

    Third, Corley ignored (or intelligently skirted) an injunction.

    Fourth, Corley's case had some weirdness involving to what extent code is speech. This case is much clearer.

    Finally, Corley was/is a defendant, using the problems of the DMCA as a defense. Felten being a plaintiff changes the way the game is played. Much like the MPAA set the rules in the decss case, Felten et al. get to set the groundwork in this case.

    It's clear that Corley's case is going poorly, and so now it is time to open up the second front. In addition to the reasons mentioned above, the EFF has learned from that experience, and will apply those lessons to this case.

    So, of course this lawsuit is a setup. That's the way the US legal system can work.

  • by mav[LAG] ( 31387 ) on Thursday June 07, 2001 @01:09AM (#171190)
    I should also point out that one of the biggest achievements in the fight against Church power was the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther gave the people an alternative to the Church, and that opened the floodgates of pent-up frustration and dissatisfaction. Suddenly, there were choices that had never existed before.

    Absolutely correct. The Reformation followed two huge changes in society:

    • literacy - people could read the Bible and other works in their own language for the first time without having it dispensed to them from the (often corrupt) pulpit; and
    • trade. The vast quantities of money extracted by Rome could be better used for economic gain once people could make up their own minds whether compulsory church taxes were a noble cause or not.

    But I would say that the enabler for the Reformation was technological. It was the printing press that allowed people to read the Bible and commentaries on it in their own language and decide for themselves instead of letting Rome decide for them. I read somewhere that Martin Luther himself was responsible for nearly half of all sales of published works in Germany during his lifetime.

    The modern parallel to the printing press is of course the Internet. To follow your example, it's easy to see what the most popular activity is on the Net: communicating with other people directly. Whether it's IRC or e-mail or chat forums or Slashdot, people prefer to use the Net to interact with other people more than they do to buy stuff or interact with corporations. But that's another topic altogether...

  • Sounds like you've never read _The Prince_. Machiavelli did not write about some "fictional prince"; his book was openly a discussion of the maintenance of political power. There were no characters and there was no fiction.
    Further, the concept of Machiavelli's ideas being "evil" was one developed intentionally by the Catholic Church because they did not feel that his writing was religious enough (despite Machiavelli writing that a proper relationship with God and the church was important) and wished to supress his ideas. The other poster quoted _The Prince_ as saying "it is more important to be feared than loved" but obviously didn't read the rest of the paragraph that he is quoting from. Machiavelli was very careful in making that statement, noting that it was his opinion and clarifying that he believed that for a ruler to be loved is also very important.
    Please do not make false statements about important literary works that you have not read.
  • Except that encryption offers no threat to anyone else. I cannot kill my neighbors accidently with a bit of code. You could kill them accidently with a howitizer. Since code offers no threat to anyone and it is a weapon, banning it for the public good won't fly. It is only a threat to the government in that case, and the courts have traditionally sided for the citizen in those cases. Besides, encryption software has been classified as a weapon for almost 30-40 years. Not once in that time has the US government prevented a citizen from using and creating cryptography for internal use (Any reason why? Could it be the 2nd). It is only cared about export, which isn't covered by the 2nd Amendment. Since export is so easy over the internet, they seem more heavy handed then they actually are.
  • If memory serves me correctly,
    It doesn't.
    the Miranda ruling that resulted in the now famous "You have the right to remain silent" Miranda rights, was initiated by a convicted inmate (Mr. Miranda) hand writing an appeal to the Supreme Court from his jail cell. He had been convicted, never having had a defense lawyer, or knowing that he didn't have to answer any questions in court.
    He had lawyers. They were unable to have his confession excluded at trial, appealed it through to the Supreme Court, who ordered a new trial with the confession thrown out. Miranda was again convicted. He died in 1976 after being stabbed during an argument in a bar. The police arrested a suspect, but were forced to release him when he chose to remain silent after being advised of his rights, and noone was ever charged.
  • by mcfiddish ( 35360 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:41AM (#171197)

    The RIAA has been very clear [] in communicating to everyone that they have no intention to sue Professor Felten.

    The Secure Digital Music Initiative Foundation (SDMI) does not - nor did it ever - intend to bring any legal action against Professor Felten or his co-authors.

    Right. They waved a big baseball bat in his face and then said "Oh this? We weren't going to hit you with it. Honest."

    The RIAA realized in hindsight that the threat made them look bad and backpedaled. I'm with the smartass on this one.

  • by mcfiddish ( 35360 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:00AM (#171198)

    DMCA exists for one reason: to protect intellectual property.

    No. Intellectual property was already protected; if Disney can show that you're infringing on its copyrighted material, they can take you to court. That has nothing to do with the DMCA.

  • It does not matter who they blame it on as long as they are broke they can't bribe the congress critters.
  • by wiredog ( 43288 )
    Someone sure is humor impaired around here.
  • I don't think its that bad. After all, the EFF thinks it has enough merit to support it. The problem here is that the RIAA threatened.. but after the threats had their desired effect (and the paper was pulled) RIAA backpedaled in the face of public opinion and stated they had no intention of suing Felton. Why? because Felton's case is even stronger than 2600's and could set a bad (for the RIAA) precendent.

    Here the DMCA is clearly limiting a form of speech (scholarly study) that is generally regarded as protected. In the 2600 case they are having a tough time claiming that DeCCS, since it wasn't originally intended as a tool of study. Instead its computer code designed for the express purpose of bypassing an "content protection system" and is in clear violation of the DMCA while being questionable protected speech

    This is also a nice chance to spotlight corporate "bullying" where the threat of a lawsuit can be used to silence critics, regardless of whether the threat has any merits.

  • To reject IP as a legal fiction only leads us back to a terrifying fact that all property is, in essence, a lie. But it is a useful lie, which is why we Civilized People argue for it so strongly.

    Right; but the particulars of these two fictions (physical property and intellectual property) are quite different (difference in duplication costs and everything else that implies), and so a justification of one doesn't, per se, justify the other. I might say that a life-plus-70 copyright term for software strongly encourages monopolisation.

    Besides, the point here is not that the DCMA protects intellectual property. The point is that it can be used to prevent people from doing things which they were allowed to do in the previously existing Intellectual Property framework. Like writing software to play DVDs, or fast-forwarding through the trailers, or watching a DVD bought in a different part of the world, that has a built-in artificial incompatibility with local players. Or writing a report about the lack of security in an encryption system.

  • Also remember that Machiavelli was more or less a toady to the very prince he was instructing in methods of attaining and keeping power. What would you do? Proclaim the benefits of democracy, free love, and tai chi? The Prince is at least a look at the ugly underbelly of politics for which we should design systems to keep in check.
  • "I have donating dollar for dollar to the EFF for every product I buy from the RIAA or MPAA member companies."

    Me too. $0. Oh wait, I didn't give EFF $60. So I guess that's -$60. Woah, am I sticking it to "da man"!
  • AGH! s/didn't/did !

    I DID give EFF $60. I'm a good boy. Ok.
  • Encryption and encryption algorithms have long been legally considered "munitions". By this same logic, it is our second amendment right to have encryption software and to encrypt anything we wish. We also have the opposing decryption algorithm. So having DeCSS would be no different than owning a 9mm pistol. The same could be applied to the cracking of the watermarks.
  • by Gorimek ( 61128 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @12:01PM (#171212) Homepage
    According to the EFF web site [], their yearly budget is only $2M, which is less than nothing compared to the giant bullies they're fighting. So if you have any money to donate, they do count!

  • Why should the professors be in fear of being sued now (since they are doing this pre-emptive "I'm going to sue to make sure you can't" thing). It is already known that they have cracked or found a way to circumvent the watermark, so the damage has been done. The watermark is useless.

    Because the company in question has already threatened to sue them if they publish HOW the watermark is defective and how to circumvent it - and the potential penalties are draconian.

    The company probably threatened suit because it would like to do a somewhat tightened-up version of the watermarking scheme and sell THAT. Publication of the research would give the readers (researchers in the field):

    a detailed list of what the researchers found

    powerful tools to investigate related schemes

    a strong insight into the ways the company's designers were hiding the watermark information

    This would compromise all related schemes, effectively destroying not just the original set of schemes, but everything the company might develop in the future.

    If the company can sue and win, it means major financial damage for the researchers, their college, their peer-reviewed journal, and the specialty's academic organization. This amounts to the bulk of the academics and professionals that are currently working in the field. Such a result would have the proverbial "chilling effect" on further research into weaknesses of copy-protection and watermarking systems. (Chilling as in liquid nitrogen.)

  • The RIAA's power comes from the money they amass from the music-buying public. Without money, they are dead in the water. There is only one way to defeat them, don't buy their products. If you like an artist's work, send him/her a personal check instead.

    Don't let them take away our remaining liberties a little bit at a time until there is none left. The internet is our weapon of self-defence. We must use it to fight all would-be enslavers. We must do everything we can to keep it free. Send them a message they will not soon forget. Show them who is really in charge.

    Download it all and copy it all!

    Demand liberty! Nothing less!
  • Any time I think of buying a CD or DVD while this case is on, I'll donate at least the same amount to the EFF for this case. I'd hate to be funding the defense ...
  • Because the department of justice has "soverign immunity" (in short: those who govern do not have to comply to all of the rules they govern with) but John Ashcroft in his official capacity does not have such immunity.

    In short, you can't sue the DoJ to not press charges against USENIX, but you can force Ashcroft to make the DoJ not press charges.

  • I'll simplify for ya: 1. Felten and All were threatened.
    2. Threat of legal action possible because DMCA allows it.
    3. Paper not shown because of legal threat.

    Thus, DMCA prevents scientific discussion of ideas in areas covered by DMCA. This violates basic Constitutional rights and makes the DMCA illegal.

  • The RIAA is a non-profit organization. It happens that it is an organization of for profit recording companies all of which are quite profitable. It also happens that the major purpose of the RIAA is to protect the profits of the member organizations. Despite all of this, the RIAA itself doesn't actually produce any products besides industry propaganda. Non-profit really doesn't say all that much about an organization either, it's just some accounting practices and more favorable tax regulations that go along with them.

  • Encryption and encryption algorithms have long been legally considered "munitions". By this same logic, it is our second amendment right to have encryption software and to encrypt anything we wish. We also have the opposing decryption algorithm. So having DeCSS would be no different than owning a 9mm pistol. The same could be applied to the cracking of the watermarks.

    In US v. Miller in 1934, the Supreme Court rather clearly stated that the 2nd ammendment applies only to arms that are suitable for militia use (which is why the weapon in question, a sawed-off shotgun, was deemed unprotected).

    One could, however, make the point that secure communications are invaluable to the militia and thus encryption algorythms would be a protected "arm"--this would certainly not include DeCSS however, as it serves no military purpose.

  • is basicly what Felton is trying to say (or "SDMI isn't") - but when he tried to say that he was threatened with law suits by the emperor's flunkies - of course no one in a position of power wants to hear this sort of stuff - denial can be very easy.

    However reality is different - we now have a reliable, cheap, decentralized mechanism for moving information around - the RIAA is redundant - the asteroid has landed and we mammals just need to run around and make sure we don't get crushed by falling dinosaurs

  • I just made a donation in the amount of $75.00. I would have donated a whole lot more for this cause, but I've been spending WAY too much lately and money is tight now.

    Somehow this makes me feel like my existence is validated when I donate cash that I earned to such a good cause. This isn't like most charity donations where you don't have any clue what is done with your money, such as donating to your local police. Don't we already pay taxes for that? Somehow I feel that they squander all that money.

    Please, everyone, if you can afford it(or not), please donate something to the EFF. Remember, they do not run on a high budget, so every bit you donate is a big help, for real. This is a REAL cause and it is worth it.

    Let's do what we can to take this country back.

  • Actually, there is a HUGE difference in the two examples you gave.

    While bombs can literally kill thousands of people and are a direct threat to the citizens of this country, copyright control circumvention is only an extremely minor threat to a monstrous international corporation, which in the end will probably not even affect it's bottom line in a visible way.

    Therefore, the real intent of the DMCA is to allow certain corporations to gain ever increasing control of IP and create a permanent government granted monopoly on all sorts things, from music, movies, to software and anything else that isn't a physical object.

    Obviously, the DMCA is a direct result of corporate corruption in our government, to say otherwise is ridiculous.

  • why do afford physical property the privilege of protection under law?

    One primary reason: exclusivity. If I'm using a plot of land, or a hammer, or a hamburger, or any other valuable physical thing, then nobody else can use it until I'm done. If I have a digital copy of a novel, or a song, or a piece of software, or any other valuable informational thing, other people's use of it has no effect whatsoever on me.

  • A house has a function: to give you a place to live. An encryption algorithim also has a function: to protect IP. Just as it is wrong to destroy your home with a wrecking ball (defeating the function of the house), is it not wrong to defeat the purpose of the algorithim?

    That depends on how well thought-out your method of protection is. Imagine if someone were to put a screen door on a submarine, then submegered. Who is at fault here - the water for breaking through the door? or the dumbass who fullfilled the cliché?

  • by Gerad ( 86818 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:31AM (#171236)
    I just had a random thought. The 2nd Amendment says that people have the right to bear "Arms"., other than the normal definition as a part of one's body, has one definition of "arms" as weapons. Given the MPAA's recent comparisons of DeCSS to a crowbar, which is a weapon, I wonder if DeCSS could be argued under right to bear arms? While the 2nd Amendment does say that the purpose of the Amendment is to allow militias, which are "necessary to the security of a free state", hasn't it also been interperted to allow firearms to prevent against tyrany if necessary. Of course, this opens up the whole can of worms of gun control laws and regulation, but it's something I'd love to hear some feedback on.
  • Oh really?

    A sI remember the original issue is that they DID threaten to sue him. It was only AFTER he came out, withdrew the paper, and made statments hinting at this lawsuit comming that they "changed their tune" and said they "never intended to sue him"

    If they never intended to sue him, then why did they threaten him with legal action? Is harrassment a standard policy of the SDMI lawyers? An accepted legal practice?

    The fact is, they expected him to back down and shut up - just like everyone else that they are used to comming up against. They had no intention to sue him, because they never expected him to publish the paper after the first letter.

    I applaud Felton. He got them to make the mistake he needed them to make. So what if he is risking less? Its fighting smart.

    The RIAA is like all the other scaremongers. They go after the weak with threats of lawsuits and stop the opposition by scaring them into backing down. They would never let an issue get to court unless they knew they could win.

    Felton is fighting back, forcing the issue into court. I think thats great.

  • by Huusker ( 99397 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @12:09PM (#171245) Homepage

    Generally whoever frames the argument wins. The MPAA framed the DeCSS case as "evil hackers stealing movies". Felder frames his case as "scientists being censored in the pursuit of knowledge". Basically there is no way he can lose.

    The DMCA hinges on the concept of a circumvention device. If the DeCSS case was framed similarly, with heavy emphasis on scientific analysis the weakness of CSS [], with emphasis on abstract mathematical algorithms, it would have won. Unfortunately DeCSS was just a hack tool. Without the larger context there was no way it could possibly win.

  • Seems to me, granting of course that this case succeeds, that all someone needs to do is write a good academic paper exploring, comparing, and critiquing the various methods of encryption and copy control for "protecting" intellectual property, with a reasonable portion about DeCSS and of course discussion of the algorithm.
    Sure the above topic needs work, but if you try to get that published, then maybe some "important " people (Supreme Court maybe..?) will completely understand how locking up DeCSS could really be quite the slippery slope...

  • He is smart, but I hope that people realize that the MPAA/RIAA are not going to be happy with this. With the kind of money they have, you'll be sure they're looking for every little loophole or strategy they can use to put a halt to this. These corporations think that there's a lot of money at stake (at least that's what they tell their shareholders as an excuse for any slowed profit increase), so I'm sure there's a bounty on an effective solution which will help them maintain as much control as possible to regain their record profits and bonuses.

    I hope the EFF team hasn't become complacent in that they have won a very strong position. Like a game of chess, they have made a great move to trap the opponent, but they still have to stay entirely aware of the whole game to make sure that the opponent's sacrifice wasn't just part of a larger trap.


  • by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @08:48PM (#171255)
    I have donating dollar for dollar to the EFF for every product I buy from the RIAA or MPAA member companies. My last donation was about US$130 and I excpect my next to top US$150.

    Excellent idea! These people are modern patriots and they deserve all of the support they can get. I wish people would turn off the TV, get off their sofas and donate at least $20 (the cost of one DVD or a little more than one CD) to the EFF. I don't know why so many of us have fairly decent (high tech) jobs, but few of us take the time just to send a few dollars to support some of our strongest beliefs. I hope people don't get there and see all of the suggested amounts and decide against donating just because it's more than they can afford (or are willing to spend). Send whatever you can, but at least send something!

    The way our government has become, the only way you can get any action is to form a large group and speak with one loud voice. These guys are on our side. I've heard complaints that an individual person is too small to affect change in the government, but you can do so indirectly by supporting an organization that will be heard.

    I joined the EFF about a year ago. I guess I'm due for another donation. I really like Odinson's idea; I'm going to start doing the same thing. It certainly will help me to feel better about the few purchases that I do make that wind up inadvertently supporting the [MP|RI]AA.


  • by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:15PM (#171256)
    ... I haven't missed out much on not listening to popular music. And I haven't watched anything other than some sports on TV in the last year, and I haven't missed out at ALL in that area.

    Disclaimer: I'm going to spend a few karma points here to get a strong point across, though it might be just a little bit off-topic. Hopefully our kind moderators will be a little leniant here.

    I've been doing the same thing (no popular music, no television). The only thing that seems to regularly put me outside the norm is when someone walks up to me and asks "Hey did you see that funny new TV commercial?". However, I can proudly say, "No". As a matter of fact, I despise television even more now that I've been away from the stench for a while. If I even try to watch a short 30-minute show, I'm immediately reminded of how inane and insulting most of television is to the public (Take a laugh track for example: we need to be told when to laugh?).

    Besides that, it's my personal theory that television is the reason why so many people in our country are apathetic. It's great for me, because it empowers me with so much more freedom to do so many productive things. I feel like I've found a way out to a much greener pasture, while the rest of the herd are kept "safe" inside the fence, appeased with tasty but poor-quality fodder, and happy in their ignorance but unaware of the upcoming slaughter.

    I know it's nearly impossible to drop out of television in our modern culture, but if you really care a lot for your sanity and independence, just try to give TV a break for a week. I guarantee you might feel a bit withdrawn, but when you get back to it, you'll probably find it's much worse than you previously thought; meanwhile you'll find you suddenly had a lot of free time to catch up on things which are more important. Just remember when you're life is nearly over, do you want to say you spent 20% of it wasting your time and your mind on spoon-fed crap fed to you by large corporations to sell you to the highest bidder, or do you want to have spent that 20% exploring new and different things and advancing relationships with great people.

    Remember: with television, you are the product, not the consumer.


  • by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:26PM (#171257)
    While I agree that boycotting may help the cause in a very very minor way. I think a little more active response would be in order. Giving a few dollars to the EFF will be *FAR* more effecitve than NOT giving a few dollars to the RIAA.


  • Actually, that'd be Roman and Orthodox... And then you've got to separate Orthodox into Greek and Russian (although those two are closer to each other than either is to the Roman side of the schizm).

    Totally offtopic, I realize... But history is important, neh?


  • Actually, from what I understand, the term "munitions" is a step above "arms". When the government classifies encryption algorithms as munitions, they're saying it's the equivalent of owning a cruise missle, a functional artillery piece with ammo, or a fighter-bomber fully loaded with Mk. 84s. I don't recall a situation where anyone ever successfully claimed that they had a second amendment right to own and operate a fully equipped and loaded M1A2.

    Not to give the impression that I agree with the classification of encryption as "munitions"... I think it's ridiculous. But trying to argue that you have a second amendment right to things classified as munitions would have as much effect as banging your head against Cheyenne Mountain's front door. Repeatedly. (It'd hurt you and not the door, then the MPs would shoot you.)


  • Felten is a very smart man. Basically he knew that in order to pursue this and actually win he had to be able to prove damages resulting directly from the intimidation that the DMCA promotes. It had nothing to do with waiting to get the legal team together. It was all about legal strategy; picking the battlefield, and defining the terms of engagement.

  • The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution guarantees four freedoms: freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly. The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791. Since that time, those freedoms have been discussed, debated, fought and died for. Since that time, millions of immigrants have come to America to secure those freedoms. The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing. They believed in the power of ideas and debate, not censorship.

    The above was taken from the RIAA website, under the "Freedom of Speach" section.

    Kind of ironic...... :)

  • How exactly is this suit "against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft"?

    Read the filing. Rights advocates often sue the the Attorney General in order to overturn a bad law; see also the case formerly known as Eldred v. Reno [], which seeks to overturn the Sonny Bono Effectively Perpetual Copyright Act [].

  • hello, this is reality calling. I like pink floyd. Who should I make the check out to? Roger? David? Or maybe I should send it to the funny farm, care of ol' pink.
    Here is your direct payment form for Pink Floyd []

    Boycotts will fail for the following reasons
    • The company does not know you are boycotting their product.
    • The company does not why you are boycotting their product.
    • The public is not aware that you are boycotting a product and so cannot decide to boycott for the same reason. Likewise, you are only aware of a fraction of the products you might want to boycott if you knew the gory details.
    • You (and the public) are often not aware of an good alternative product (good means a product that satisfies your requirements and hopefully competes directly in the market with the boycotted product)
    All of these can be addressed by a website, you type in a product name, company name or barcode etc and are presented with a list of people boycotting the product, why, and an alternate product.

    Mainstream appeal can be gained because the boycotts don't have to be ethically or politically motivated - "Don't buy blarg model TV because their power switches break", "blarg potatoe chips are fried in animal fat not vegitable oil" etc.

    I would make the site, but don't want to be dragged through courts by some company who doesn't want the world knowing their product sucks. The owner of may have something similar in mind, but he has not gotten around to anything for a while.

    As for cars, in some cities you do need them, luckily not this one. I do not have a car, though I could buy one tommorrow if I needed one (On the odd ocassion I do need one, I taxi). However I often feel like I want a car... why? Because your fucked up culture is continually bombarding me with the idea that a car is a status symbol and only losers don't have one.
  • While doing some research for a potential client, I came across []. The base concept is that you can buy stuff from regular Internet retailers (probably through affiliate programs of some type) and part of the money will go to your favorite organization. I have the EFF as mine.
  • by PhrackCreak ( 136718 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:55AM (#171279)

    The RIAA and SDMI are acting like the church in the dark ages. In the old days, attempting to perform research or disseminate scientific ideas led to excommunication or death. Today, the corporations sue you out of existence.

  • It's great to see my EFF membership dues at work here. I had wondered why Felten backed off so quickly the first time around -- looks like they may have been waiting to get their ducks in line, legally speaking.

    I hope this is successful.

  • by fooyen ( 148227 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @02:14PM (#171284)
    This evening's All Things Considered [] features a long (4:30) story on the lawsuit.

    Audio will be posted online [] at 10pm ET tonight, or you might be able to catch it on the radio-- it's the next to last piece in the program.

    (oh yeah-- right now, it's titled "Napster." ignore that; someone was smoking crack.)

  • I just wrote a Perl script in 7 lines to decode the message, It was hard to get it that small but worth it. I just had to read this on my windows box, no one ever releases players for Microsoft's OSs. I'll open source this "free speech" if any one wants is under the shared source plan. I hear it works really good, and it's not communist


    Now, time to gave some more money to the EFF so they will defend me.


  • Also, is the MPAA named in this suit? Like the RIAA, they too have been heavily abusing the DMCA. Or, would it not matter in this case anyway, just as long as the DMCA is struck down. Just think of the effects a win here would have on DeCSS, etc.

    It had to be said, but we need a victory in this case.

    I am getting damn sick of constantly losing karma for no reason.
  • 13. Upon information and belief, Defendant Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. (RIAA) is a New York not-for-profit corporation with a place of business in Washington D.C. 20036. It represents entities which manufacture and distribute sound recordings, including the five major labels and many of their subsidiary labels.

    (Taken from the complaint [])

    How the hell can the RIAA call itself nonprofit? It's padding its own damn profit margins with all this secure music BS, not paying the artists, etc.

    The RIAA may be nonprofit in name, but to say that they are actually a nonprofit organization is plain BS.

    I am getting damn sick of constantly losing karma for no reason.

  • The problem with campaign finance reform, at least what's proposed by McCain and the others, is that it stifles political speech from non-profit groups, as well as building a big new bureacracy.

    Take the NRA for example: if McCain gets his way, the postcards that the NRA sends out that says "we urge you to vote for so-and-so in your local election" will count as a *campaign contribution* and they'll be tightly regulated. That goes for Sierra Club postcards too, and Greenpeace, and the EFF... Break these laws and it's fines and jail time.

    Fines or jail time... for a group of people sending out postcards saying "vote for _________." How is that an improvement?

    I was in favor of campaign finance reform until I read more about it, and I realized that in the end it would prevent my point of view from being "taken to the Hill" through the non-profit groups I am affiliated with. That's no good.

    The best article I have on the matter right now is in a gun magazine, but it should be easy to find more info online... I bet most large political groups (NRA, Sierra Club, etc.) are down on this idea, and rightly so.

    Of course, if you don't feel strongly about any political issues you may not care about it anyway.
  • I agree with you. Prof. Felten's planning was cool and calculated the whole way through. This will be a groundbreaking fight which will show us precisely the worth of the DMCA.

    I will be very interested in this case and follow it closely, but I encourage all the Slashdot readers to take the time to donate to the EFF.


  • by Wavicle ( 181176 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @01:52PM (#171301)
    An interesting addendum to all this is this RIAA response [] to the legal filing. RIAA basically says that they do not plan to sue Professor Felten, so the reasoning behind the lawsuit is "inexplicable".

    IIRC, the timing of the "clarification []" of the original "threat []" was such that once the time slot was gone and the talk would no longer fit into the Information Hiding Workshop conference schedule, then RIAA decided to mention that they aren't really going to sue the Prof and they aren't really the enemy of scientific research.

  • I agree that this is a total set up, but I think you have who was set up wrong. I believe that Felten is doing this to try and get the DMCA declared unconstitutional. Seriously, why would you name Ashcroft as a defendant if you didn't have plans to take this all the way to the Supreme Court. However, this is going to take too long to save the whole /. communtity from reading about DMCA lawsuits from now until the cows come home. I believe that the DMCA is unconstitutional, but going through with all of these lawsuits is going to take years and if it eventually reaches the Supreme Court who is to say that the court will rule unconstitutional. From my limited knowledge of the court(IANAL) once you get sworn in you are there for life, so the court is full of old guys/ladies that have no clue about today's technology. Seriously if the DMCA has an chance of being repealed a lower court has to do it, because I highly doubt a technologically challenged court would declare it such.

  • If we really want to solve this problem, we need to get a politician in Washington in our Corner. Someone sympathatic to our cause, that can work within the system to fix these issues. The DMCA should never have been passed it got passed because of lobby groups I am sure, that talked our local reps into thinking this was a good idea. We need to lobby back.
    Prohibition was bad idea, and it was reversed. This is a bad idea and if we play within the system we could get this reversed. This is the unfortunate loop hole in the US govenment by representation.
    (Disclaimer I proud to be an American please do not take this as any kind of disention on my part, just an analysis of what i think is wrong some times. Its a double edged sword, in many ways.)
    The bulk of the work that gets done in Congress is a good thing, and has good results, but unfortunately the otherside of the sword, is that it also makes it just as easy for the true reprehensible stuff to get done too, and for the most part with out the public really being aware that its happening, or getting much say in it. The Passage of the DMCA was bought by the powers that be, the publishers of the word have infinately more money to pay lobbists to talk congress, et al into voting the way they want things. If this had been voted on by the poblic at large, and worded in such a way that the common man could understand it it would have never become law.
    ie "Please vote YES or NO, the govenment would like to take away your right to freely distribute infomation as you see fit so that the publishing and recording industry can make sure they maintain thier insane profit margins. A vote of yes would make this Law, and restrict your ability to freely share your ideas, and expose you to law suit for doing anything that big business considers a violation of thier profit margins. A vote of NO would continue under the freedom of information, and free speesh as you have always enjoyed in America."
    I propose the (DFCA)Digital Freedom Continuence Act. "1. Congress Shall Pass no law restricting your ability to do anything digitally that you can do through handwritten, and or Analog means. 2. Congress shall not allow the granting of a patent for any device that would knowingly impinge upon your ability to do anything digitally that you could do via handwritten or Analog means. 3. It shall be unlawful to distribute technology which would knowingly violate the Free Speech and Fair use intentions of the Consitution of the United states of America. 4. It shall hence forth be understood that once "content" is purchased, it is the purchaser's right to do what ever they choose with that content, and shall have the right to do as they have always been able to do via handwritten, or analog means." I could probably expand on this but I figure thats a start to restoring my freedom as I understood it before the DMCA got into the wild.
  • Not to mention that if Felton's case helps weaken the DMCA, this does Corley an immense world of good!
  • Roblimo:
    Named defendents include the RIAA, SDMI, Verance Corporation (producer of one of the cracked watermarked schemes) and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
    The actual article:
    ... are asking the court to tell the defendants not to sue or threaten legal action over this new publication or any other publication, and to tell the U.S. Department of Justice, run by Attorney General John Ashcroft, not to file criminal charges against USENIX or anyone else over this matter under the DMCA.

    How exactly is this suit "against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft"?

  • This lawsuit is much more important than most people on Slashdot realize. Because of the way legal precedents are established this is effectively the ONLY shot that the good guys are going to get to fire. If this doesn't result in a win we are dead.

    What do I think the chances are? I would say they are about the same as the chances of me dating Sarah Michele Gellar next week; realistically as close to zero as anything can be.

    Why do I say that?

    • The opposition has the 'image of respectability' on their side, and they are able to paint us as a group of scruffy malcontents.
    • The fight is over technical issues. The average juror can barely stay away when technical issues are being discussed.
    • A horrible miscarriage of justice will occur if the other side wins. The legal system thrives on horrible miscarriages of justice in cases like this: look up Armstrong vs. RCA - the case in which RCA stole FM - for an example of what I mean by that statement.
    • One of the defendants is the US Government. The case will be tried in a U.S. Government court room. Doubtless some attorney is leaping to his keyboard to post a learned explanation of how that is fair because - blah blah blah . Please don't bother - I am not interested in listening to your self deluded bilge. The village idiot can see the conflict of interest involved - do you really want to expose yourself as less insightful than the village idiot?

    So, am I in favor of just giving up because it is hopeless? No, this is one of those hopeless fights that anyone who cherishes their freedom has to fight - not because it can be won - but because it can't be won; at a minimum the opposition needs to walk away holding a bloody nose. By the way, I am a paying member of the EFF, and I intend to contribute more for this case.

    Besides, every once in a while - against all odds - the good guys do win one. It could happen - the race is not always to the swift - nor the fight always to the strong - but odds are that's how it is going to turn out.

  • by AlphaOne ( 209575 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:07AM (#171322)
    Don't let Felten distract you from the real DMCA issue. Newspaper headlines translate directly into departmental funding at major universities. This isn't about freedom of speech, it's about grant money.

    You're right... newspaper headlines are certainly free publicity to the university. The road runs both ways, however... a university bringing a frivilous lawsuit forward would just result in an academic backlash, to say the least.

    This suit has merit... it directly challenges the DMCA's ability to surpress the free release of information regarding how to defeat a copyright protection scheme. This directly relates to 2600's lawsuit, which is for, fundamentally, the same thing.

    Can we speak freely about how to defeat a copyright protection scheme? The first amendment says yes, the DMCA says no.

    So what if the university gets some free press... this could be the weapon against the DMCA we've been waiting for.
  • by drift factor ( 220568 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:04AM (#171327)
    The Justice League, God, Jesus, and Satan himself will also be siding with the EFF in this case to halt the DMCA's reign of terror. Yeah, right. I highly doubt anything will ever come with this. Call me a cynic, but ever since the DeCSS case, I've lost all faith in the government using common sense when working on technology oriented legislation.

    So you've lost faith, does that mean you give up? It's attitudes like this that will help the RIAA and MPAA take over our lives. If your favorite sports team is losing badly do you stop cheering them on?

    I won't call you a cynic, I'll call you a quitter.
  • "Anyone can make a VCD or DVD"

    VCD quality leaves much to be desired and you can make that DVD, but i can't have the level of interactivness of normal DVD's and you are limited to about 1 hour of video. Not exactly a level playing ground.

  • by Auckerman ( 223266 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:18AM (#171329)
    This is NOT about Intellectual property, it is about free speech. It is about the rights of artists (thats right, artist). Let ME tell YOU why copy control will ruin culture.

    Picture it, all Media and Media creators have copy control built in. Not only that, but it uses a similiar strategy that DVD uses: Licensed keys. Now, what makes you think that some kid working on an album in his basement will be able to create that media so that it plays on standard players? If he could, then the very nature of the key system has been broken.

    They don't want to make it illegial to copy media, it has already been illegal for a VERY LONG TIME to do that. They don't want to "protect intellectual property", its already legally protected. They want to control who can create the players and who can create the content. GIven them full control over what is publish and what is not published. A monolopy based of a mutual agreement not to compete based on price or artisitic contractual obligations (RIAA anyone?).

    The government should have absolutly no vested interest limiting the free exchange of ideas. Any ideas. No matter how absurd they are, no matter what they can be used for. Without that guarantee, we all might as well be slaves.

    If i can publish a book detailing how to make bombs, why can't Fenton publish a paper on how SDMI is full of crap? There is no difference.

  • Despite this, SDMI threatened Felten and all the rest, including IHW organizers, with legal action under the DMCA

    This seems a little weird to me and I said this last time but how the hell can they challenge the DMCA over a threat? They only threatened a lawsuit. They didn't initiate one. Last I checked I can threaten to sue each and everyone of you for whatever I want.

    Watch this:
    Me: Mod me down and I'll sue Slashdot for slander.
    Slashdot: Please don't let him sue us!

    What does that exchange mean to the law? My guess is about as much as my opinion matters to most of you. Seriously though, the RIAA's use of the DMCA as a sword instead of sheild in this case is moot. All they did was invoke a name, not a lawsuit.
  • I think your quite smug in your own assessment of the Professor. Your words paint him as a smartass, but what by your words have you painted yourself as? Something about a teapot and kettle come to mind. So I'll be straightforward, call myself a smartass, acknowledge that I'm possibly being somewhat hypocritical since I'll attack your opinions as you have attacked him, and address your opinions with my own.

    In respect to smartass, go to that very page on RIAA's site you refer to and check out their words on their efforts to protect free speech. RIAA's behavior comes across as "We're all for free speech, as long as it's good for us. If it's bad, we'll sue." Hiding behind a law you helped draft, lobby, and get passed does not veil them from their true intentions. It makes them hypocrites.

    As far as doing this for his own good as you assert, hmm, I guess the RIAA/SMDI lawsuit threat had no benefit for them, either? Trying to attack one person for the behavior exhibited in kind by the other seems to me, and I apologize for the insult even though it's intentional, hypocritical itself. And pointing out such things will have little if any legal impact anyways. I doubt that the defendants in this case will use "He's just doing this for his own good" as a defense. That he or RIAA/SMDI get publicity (good or bad) is ancillary, a byproduct which has very little legal worth.

    The RIAA has been very clear in communicating to everyone that they have no intention to sue Professor Felten.
    Well we all know what path good intentions leads to. Guess the Professor is too smartass to take it. Also, when you threaten to sue over an issue and then say "Umm, not him, specifically" even though he is a part of the work at contention, your message gets watered down. I don't think that's "very clear" at all. In fact, that just clouds the issues and makes it even less clear what their real intent is(was). I think it would be extremely naive for the Professor to take RIAA/SMDI on their word and supposed intentions.

    So why is this case happening?
    Hmm, maybe it's because RIAA/SMDI already threatened (if indirectly) before? And since they want to publish their works in the future, the only alternative left is to seek protection from future threats again? Your right, his behaviour is obviously illogical and self-promoting, so let's just call him names.

    Don't let Felten distract you from the real DMCA issue
    I won't, and I won't let personal attacks against him sway me the other way either. It is a "real" issue, the fact that you don't like the manner in which it is being addressed or by who doesn't make it any less so.

  • I have lots of money. It doesn't physically exist, but it's "in" all kinds of accounts. Really, they're just bits in some databases somewhere. Those bits aren't my money. There are hardcopies of the database information, but those hardcopies aren't my money either. The only thing that makes it my money is that everyone agrees that it's mine, whatever it is. It's an idea that floats around in people's neurons.

    The notion of property has nothing to do with physical posession. The thing that defines property is the right to exclude. I own that money because I, by default, exclude other people from doing certain things with it. I decide what is lawful and what is not in regards to that money. When I deposit it in the bank, I license the bank to play stocks with it and invest it in other ways. In the same vein, the reason it is illegal to enter your house and take your book is that society has decided that you have exclusive rights over your house, and you can decide (though this is the default) that my entering your house without an invitation is against the law.

    There really is no concrete difference, under the law. (Morally, you may have something different to say about it.) That society has decided to give exclusive rights over ideas to the originators of them is just an extension of the idea of property.
  • I don't know that patriotism has anything to do with it. I'm English, and frankly I rather loathe many manifestations of the USA statem, government, and (I guess) nation as a whole. (NB, I'm not talking about individuals. Some of my best friends are merkins ;) But I've donated GBP30 to the EFF.

    >EFF Member #11254 - What's your number?

    I don't know, they never got back to me after I attempted to join... took the money from the credit card though... Hmmm, perhaps I'll drop them a line & see what's up. I could use another random serial number in my user_id :-)
    "I'm not downloaded, I'm just loaded and down"

  • "Could it be that a university professor presents a more sypathetic character than the publisher of a hacker magizine? Unfortunately though it shouldn't matter it does. The first amendment was written for both. Hopefully this will all lead th the DCMA getting struck down and large corporations not getting to tell us what we can or can't publish or say"

    You are right, of course. While legally everyone is guaranteed equality before the law, clearly, some are more "equal" than others.

    Though Corley and 2600 had the Constitution on their side in their case, the fact that they were "hackers" led to the invlaidation of their cause in the public eye. It didn't help that the case was heard in front of a judge who had clearly made up his minde long before any evidence was presented.

    Professor Felten stands a much better chance of prevailing, simply because he is a professor at one of America's most highly respected universities. No other reason. I don't feel that his case has any more or any less merit than DeCSS, except in that Felten's case is clearly speech of the kind expressed in the Constitution (because print and academic speech existed in the 1780's).

    So yes, I think WHO Felten is in many ways matters more than his case. Which will be extremely difficult for the RIAA to defend against.

    At best though, I don't see the DMCA being ruled Unconstitutional, but the more onerous provisions most likely will be.
  • by Kinchie ( 260645 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:59AM (#171340)

    And now we know the rest of the story.

    All of you that were railing about academic freedom being impinged upon as well as Prof. Felten's lack of courage (yes, that was commonly stated here) should apologize, sit down, and practice stfu for awhile.

    The reason they pulled the paper was simple: they created a clear instance of the DMCA enabling a "chilling effect" on free speech.

    Which leads to the conclusion that, since there has been precedence for "chilling effect" making laws unconstitutional for 1st amendment thingies, that this case is intended to go to the Supremes, BEFORE the composition of the court is changed any further towards corporatism.

    Elegant, sneaky, and truly Machiavellian.

    We owe all parties concerned a profound debt of thanks...

  • by Sarcasmooo! ( 267601 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:42AM (#171346)
    The original threat [] sure looked like a legal-threat to me:
    "In addition, any disclosure of information gained from participating in the Public Challenge would be outside the scope of activities permitted by the Agreement and could subject you and your research team to actions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DCMA")."
    And what exactly is your stake in this, Mr. 'I have only one post, and it's a pre-written statement'?
  • by SomeoneYouDontKnow ( 267893 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @04:00PM (#171347)

    FYI, the information I was "spoon fed" was from church-history classes at a Catholic high school, so I doubt they'd have any reason to make things sound any worse than they were. And nowhere did I say that most people were put to death, but getting convicted of heresy by an ecclesiastical court was for all intents and purposes the end of your life, even if they didn't kill you. There was no separation of church and state. In the Papal States in central Italy, the Church was the state, period.

    But to return to my point, you had an organization that, although it was not technically a government, had enough influence that it had many of the powers of governments. It was multinational, it was rich, it could make or break politicians almost at will, and it was accountable to no one. In short, it could make the rules, either directly or indirectly. And it controlled information. If you weanted a book copied, you didn't take it to the local Kinko's, you had to use monks, and they were pretty picky about what they copied. But I'm not writing this to beat up on the Church; I'm writing it to illustrate the parallels we face today. Look at the power that the multinational corps have. Did the DMCA or the Telecom Act of 1996 become law because of a groundswell of public support for them? Of course not! They were bought and paid for by the companies who stand to gain from them. Money talks, and these companies have so much of it that it's almost impossible for the average person to have an impact. If you don't believe me, call the White House and ask to have lunch with President Bush next week. Tell whoever you speak to that you'd like to discuss the DMCA with the president. Do you think you'll get that lunch date? Now suppose that Rupert Murdoch, Steve Case, Jack Valenti, or Hillary Rosen made that call. Need I say more? The same goes for having a meeting with your Congressman or Senator. You won't even get in the door, but these folks can practically hand over a draft of a bill and get it introduced in Congress, and if they have enough meetings with enough politicians, they might even get it passed.

    And to touch on control of the mass media, consider spectrum auctions. Want to get a chunk of frequencies? Unless you can outbid the big telecom companies for it, forget it. The whole thing is justified by saying that it avoids companies freeloading off of the public airwaves, since they have to pay for their frequencies, but what it does in reality is ensure that only the richest companies get to use them. Once again, money talks. Even the regulations that we used to have restricting how much one broadcaster can own have been almost completely thrown out. The big fish eat the little fish, people are exposed to fewer and fewer voices, and we're told it's a good thing. Except in the mass media, where most people still turn for information. The mass media says nothing, nothing about the dangers of the DMCA, nothing about fair use, nothing about concentrated media ownership; in short, nothing that will make people question the status quo. The public gets its daily dose of sex scandals, Hollywood gossip, and puff pieces promoting the latest movie of CD, a product that may even be produced by the same company that produced and aired the "informative news story". And everyone is happy, the money keeps rolling in, and anyone who makes trouble is quietly crushed.

  • by SomeoneYouDontKnow ( 267893 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @12:23PM (#171348)

    Somebody mod this guy up. This is an excellent point. In the Middle Ages, the Church had reached a status that essentially put it above the law. In fact, it had its own laws and "justice system". Get out of line, and you were dead...literally. It was an international entity that was beyond the regulatory reach of any nation-state. In fact, any political figure who dared to oppose it did so at grave peril. We can see the same lines developing with the multinational corporations.

    It's also worth noting that this dark time lasted for centuries, and there were many setbacks to breaking the Church's grip on power. Let us not forget that Gallileo was forced to recant his theories. We can look back now and say that his ideas prevailed in the end, but I bet he didn't see it that way at the time. We're in this for the long haul, and we will face setbacks along the way, but the important thing is to never give up. I should also point out that one of the biggest achievements in the fight against Church power was the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther gave the people an alternative to the Church, and that opened the floodgates of pent-up frustration and dissatisfaction. Suddenly, there were choices that had never existed before. In the same way, we can't forget that the big entertainment companies don't own our lives. There is alternative content, and we need to expose as many people as possible to it. And there's even an alternative to that: Go outside, play ball, have a conversation with someone. IOW, take control of your leisure time and take it out of the hands of the corps. The less money we give them, the less money they'll have to buy the tools to control our lives. And no, this isn't an easy chore. For the past 50 years at least, our entire culture has been built around mass-produced entertainment, and to turn away from that is to remake ourselves. Couch potatoes all over the land will howl in protest, but we have to try to break this addiction and bring the corporate dealers to heel.
  • by ryants ( 310088 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:39AM (#171350)
    Since the RIAA has already stated in public that they have no intention of suing Felten, it's pretty obvious to everyone that he is just picking a fight.

    And of course, the RIAA can be completely trusted to follow through on non-legally binding public declarations.

    This is much more important than "picking a fight" or "getting attention"... this is about defeating a very bad piece of legislation that should never have been passed in the first place.

    Ryan T. Sammartino

  • by blang ( 450736 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:30AM (#171373)
    That we, the people, have to donate money in order to uphold the constitution. It should not be possible for an organisation to bulldoze the constitution by spending enough money. Does the legal system have no mechanisms to protect itself from miscarriage of justice? If the only mechanism is appeal, and filing an appeal requires big money, how can there ever be justice? If the founding fathers knew that justice was so easily thwarted by big money, would they have added some extra safeguards to the constitution?

User hostile.