The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Edward Felten are
suing the Recording Industry Assocation of America, the Secure
Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), Verance, and US Attorney General
John Ashcroft over the RIAA's threatened use of the Digital
Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) to prevent Felten from publishing
his findings regarding his work to crack SDMI. The suit seeks to
permit public discussion of Felten's work to crack SDMI, forbid
Ashcroft from prosecuting for publication of Felten's material, and
requests a declaration of law finding the DMCA unconstitutional.
The EFF has set up a page
with links to a FAQ, the filing itself, and more.
Press Release -- Trenton, NJ -- The Electronic
Frontier Foundation (EFF) today asked a federal court to rule that
Princeton University Professor Edward Felten and his research team
have a First Amendment right to present their research on digital
music access-control technologies at the USENIX Security Conference
this August in Washington, DC, despite threats from the recording
When scientists from Princeton University and Rice University
tried to publish their findings in April 2001, the recording
industry claimed that the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act
(DMCA) makes it illegal to discuss or provide technology that might
be used to bypass industry controls limiting how consumers can use
music they have purchased.
Like most scientists, the researchers want to discuss their
findings and publish a scientific paper about the vulnerabilities
of several technologies they studied. Open discussion of music
customer control technologies has resulted in improved technology
and enhanced consumer choice.
"Studying digital access technologies and publishing the
research for our colleagues are both fundamental to the progress of
science and academic freedom," stated Princeton scientist Edward
Felten. "The recording industry's interpretation of the DMCA would
make scientific progress on this important topic illegal."
Felten's research team includes Princeton University scientists
and plaintiffs Bede Liu, Scott Craver, and Min Wu. Also members of
the research team and plaintiffs are Rice University researchers
Dan Wallach, Ben Swartzlander, and Adam Stubblefield. Another
scientist and plaintiff is Drew Dean, who is employed in the
Silicon Valley. The USENIX Assocation has joined the case as a
The prominent scientist and his research team originally planned
to publish the paper in April at the 4th International Information
Hiding Workshop. However, the scientists withdrew the paper at the
last minute because the Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA) and the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) Foundation
threatened litigation against Felten, his research team, and the
relevant universities and conference organizers.
SDMI sponsored the "SDMI Public Challenge" in September 2000,
asking Netizens to try to break their favored watermark schemes,
designed to control consumer access to digital music. When the
scientists' paper about their successful defeat of the watermarks,
including one developed by a company called Verance, was accepted
for publication, Matt Oppenheim, an officer of both RIAA and SDMI,
sent the Princeton professor a letter threatening legal liability
if the scientist published his results.
EFF filed the legal challenge in New Jersey federal court
against RIAA, SDMI, Verance, and the U.S. Justice Department so
that the researchers need not fear prosecution under DMCA for
publishing their research.
"When scientists are intimidated from publishing their work,
there is a clear First Amendment problem," said EFF's Legal
Director Cindy Cohn. "We have long argued that unless properly
limited, the anti-distribution provisions of the DMCA would
interfere with science. Now they plainly have."
"Mathematics and code are not circumvention devices," explained
Jim Tyre, an attorney on the legal team, "so why is the recording
industry trying to prevent these researchers from publishing?"
USENIX Executive Director Ellie Young commented, "We cannot
stand idly by as USENIX members are prevented from discussing and
publishing the results of legitimate research."
EFF is challenging the constitutionality of the
anti-distribution provisions of the DMCA as part of its ongoing
Campaign for Audiovisual Free Expression (CAFE). The CAFE campaign
fights over-reaching intellectual property laws and restrictive
technologies that threaten free speech in the digital age. "The
recording studios want to control how consumers can use the music
they buy. Now they want to control scientists and publishers, to
prevent consumers from finding out how to bypass the unpopular
controls," said EFF Staff Attorney Robin Gross.
Media professionals have been invited to attend a June 6 press
conference and simultaneous teleconference on the Felten case
featuring the legal team and Professor Felten.
The legal team includes EFF attorneys Lee Tien, Cindy Cohn, and
Robin Gross. Outside lead counsel Gino Scarselli, argued the Junger
case where the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that
computer code is creative expression worthy of First Amendment
protection. Also members of the legal team are James Tyre, a
technology savvy lawyer from Southern California who co-founded the
Censorware Project and wrote an amicus brief in Universal v.
Reimerdes, and Joe Liu, a Professor of Law at Boston College. Local
counsel in New Jersey are First Amendment specialists Frank Corrado
of Rossi, Barry, Corrado, Grassi and Radell, and Grayson Barber,
chair of the ACLU-NJ privacy committee.
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 Web sites in
the world: http://www.eff.org/
The USENIX Association, an organization representing some 10,000
computer research scientists is dedicated to the free exchange of
scholarly information through its many conferences and
publications. See its website at: http://www.usenix.org/