May 29, 2017

Diebold to Stop Suppressing Memos

Diebold has filed a court document promising not to sue people for posting the now-famous memos, and withdrawing the DMCA takedown notices it had sent previously. It’s a standard-issue lawyer’s non-surrender surrender (“Mr. Bonaparte, having demonstrated his mastery of the Waterloo battlefield, chooses to withdraw at this time”), asserting that “[u]nder well-established copyright law” Diebold could win an infringement suit, but that Diebold has decided anyway not to sue, given that it no longer has any realistic hope of suppressing distribution of the memos.

Diebold’s filing also contains this interesting sentence:

Diebold has informally encouraged the students to refrain from publishing passwords, source codes, information protected by employees’ privacy interests, and trade secret-type information, none of which is essential for purposes of criticism.

Some of these things certainly are essential for criticism. Diebold’s source code, for instance, is the most precise description of how their technology works, so it has obvious relevance to criticism of the technology’s security or reliability. Trade secret information includes facts about the failure history of the product, which are also highly relevant.

I’m not saying that it is always legal or ethical to publish companies’ source code or trade secrets, no matter what the circumstances. But in this case, some code and some trade secrets are essential for criticism, and Diebold’s assertion to the contrary doesn’t pass the laugh test.

[Link via Larry Lessig.]