November 29, 2001

EFF: Judge denies scientists' free speech rights in digital music case

Author: JT Smith

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
today represented a team led by Princeton Professor Ed
Felten in the first skirmish of a case challenging the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Without addressing
important First Amendment considerations and after less
than 25 minutes of debate, a plainly hostile Judge Garrett
Brown of the Federal District Court in Trenton, New Jersey,
dismissed the case. EFF intends to appeal.

"This judge apparently believes that the fact that hundreds
of scientists are currently afraid to publish their work
and that scientific conferences are relocating overseas
isn't a problem," noted Robin Gross, EFF Intellectual
Property Attorney. "This decision is clearly contrary to
settled First Amendment law, and we're confident that the
3rd Circuit Court will reverse it on appeal."

The court granted two separate motions to dismiss the case,
one brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the
second by private defendants led by the Recording Industry
Association of America (RIAA).

"Since the government and industry could not even agree on
what the DMCA means, it is not surprising that scientists
and researchers are deciding not to publish research for
fear of prosecution under the DMCA," said EFF Legal
Director Cindy Cohn. "Scientists should not have to ask
permission from the entertainment industry before
publishing their work."

Professor Felten and a team of researchers from Princeton
University, Rice University, and Xerox discovered that
digital watermark technology under development to protect
music sold by the recording industry has significant
security vulnerabilities. The recording industry,
represented by the Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA) and the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI)
Foundation, threatened to file suit in April 2001 if Felten
and his team published their research at a conference. They
subsequently issued a press release denying having
threatened the researchers. On behalf of the research team,
EFF then filed a lawsuit seeking a clear determination that
publication and presentation of this and other related
research is speech protected under the US Constitution both
at this conference and at other conferences in the future.

Together with USENIX, an association of over 10,000
technologists that publishes such scientific research,
Princeton Professor Edward Felten and his research team
had asked the court to declare that they have a First
Amendment right to discuss and publish their work, even if
it may discuss weaknesses in the technological systems used
to control digital music. The DMCA, passed in 1998, outlaws
providing technology and information that can be used to
gain access to a copyrighted work.

For all of the motions and declarations in the case:
http://www.eff.org/sc/felten/

About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil
liberties organization working to protect rights in the
digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages
and challenges industry and government to support free
expression, privacy, and openness in the information
society. EFF is a member-supported organization and
maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world:
http://www.eff.org/

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