February 6, 2002

EFF: Security researchers drop DMCA censorship case

Author: JT Smith

Citing assurances from the government, the
recording industry, and a federal court that the threats
against his research team were ill-conceived and will not
be repeated, Professor Edward Felten and his research team
decided not to appeal the November dismissal of their case
by a New Jersey Federal Court.

The government stated in documents filed with the court in
November 2001 that "scientists attempting to study access
control technologies" are not subject to the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The Recording Industry
Association of America echoed this, stating "we felt Felten
should publish his findings, because everyone benefits from
research into the vulnerabilities of security mechanisms."

"Based on these and other statements from the government
and the recording industry, the judge dismissed our case,"
noted Princeton Professor Ed Felten. "Although we would
have preferred an enforceable court ruling, our research
team decided to take the government and industry at their
word that they will never again threaten publishers of
scientific research that exposes vulnerabilities in
security systems for copyrighted works."

The research team led by Professor Felten included
professors Bede Liu and Daniel Wallach and researchers
Scott Craver, Min Wu, Ben Swartzlaner, Adam Stubblefield,
and Richard Drews Dean.

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.

The recording industry threatened the researchers under the
DMCA for their planned release of a research paper
describing the defects in the proposed Secure Digital Music
Initiative (SDMI) lock-down schemes for audio CDs. The
original threats led the researchers to withdraw the paper
from a planned conference. In response to the lawsuit, the
recording industry promised not to sue the research team or
USENIX for presenting the research at a USENIX security
conference in August 2001.

"The statements by the government and the recording
industry indicate that they now recognize they can't use
the DMCA to squelch science," added EFF Legal Director
Cindy Cohn. "If they are as good as their word, science
can continue unabated. Should they backslide, EFF will be

Documents related to the case:

This media release:

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
statement, 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 at

Click Here!