July 22, 2024

Archives for 2002

My DMCA Exemption Request

Yesterday was the deadline for submitting to the Librarian of Congress any requests for exemptions from the DMCA’s ban on circumvention of access control technologies. I submitted a request, asking for an exemption for legitimate research study of access control technologies.

Law Firm Accused of Computer Intrusion

According to James Grimaldi’s column in Monday’s Washington Post, lawyers at the prominent firm Jones Day are accused of making unauthorized accesses to the password-protected web site of an opposing expert witness. Grimaldi writes,

W. Kelly Stewart, of Jones Day’s Dallas office, testified last month that he entered Egilman’s site after Jones Day attempted and failed to purchase access online. Then, after getting the pass code from co-counsel Behr, who had guessed it, Stewart entered the Web site, Stewart testified. The material gathered was used to discredit Egilman as an expert witness in a high-profile trial.

It remains to be seen whether a court will consider the conduct illegal. Computer law specialist Marc J. Zwillinger of Kirkland & Ellis said guessing a password, getting in and getting information is a technical violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

[link credit: GrepLaw]

Apparent Overblocking by CyberPatrol

Today, while visiting a large company, I tried to visit some of the websites on this site’s link-list. I found that three of them were blocked due to “possibly inappropriate content.”

The three blocked sites were Eszter Hargittai’s blog, Arnold Kling’s “The Bottom Line”, and Donna Wentworth’s “CopyFight”. (The whole Corante site, which hosts several blogs besides Bottom Line and Copyfight, appeared to be blocked.)

My hosts told me that their company uses CyberPatrol to filter their web access. So apparently CyberPatrol erroneously blocks more than 10% of the blogs I read.

More On Elcomsoft's Acquittal

Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy explains why ElcomSoft’s ignorance of the law was an excuse in this instance.

Also, some are suggesting that jury nullification may have played a role in ElcomSoft’s acquittal. (“Jury nullification” refers to a jury’s refusal to find guilt under a law because they consider that law unjust.) An AP story says:

The defense argued that the program merely enabled owners of Adobe eBook Reader software to make copies of e-books for personal use. If an owner makes a backup copy of an e-book or transfers it to another device he owns, they argued, that is permitted under the “fair use” concept of copyright law.

Jury foreman Dennis Strader said the argument made a big impact on the jurors, who asked U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte to clarify the “fair use” definition shortly after deliberations began.

“Under the eBook formats, you have no rights at all, and the jury had trouble with that concept,” said Strader.

ElcomSoft Acquitted

Lisa Bowman at news.com reports that the jury has found ElcomSoft not guilty of criminally violating the DMCA.

It will be interesting to watch the reaction to this. Some people may try to read a lot into the verdict, but this is probably a mistake. Apparently, the verdict relied not on the drawbacks of the DMCA, and not on whether ElcomSoft’s actions were morally justified, but on the narrow question of what ElcomSoft knew about the DMCA when they sold their product. Not knowing the precise limits of the DMCA, ElcomSoft could not knowingly violate it.