May 04, 2003

My censorware/DMCA activism month in review

Given the latest lawsuit topic, I decided to do a review of my last month or so of free-speech work. Is it worth it?

Late March: My proposed tutorial on censorware had been accepted for presentation at the 13th Annual Conference on Computers, Freedom & Privacy (aka CFP 2003). Then (literal) war was declared, and all conference tutorials were cut. And also cut was the travel/hotel expense money for tutorial presenters. I simply couldn't justify spending hundreds of dollars of my own money for travel/hotel expenses in order to attend the conference (it's not my job)

Late March: Gave a talk at MIT's AI lab (called it "Net Control"). Well-received, though only around 27 people showed up.

Late March - Early April: Went to the court dismissal-motion Edelman v. N2H2 hearing. This was a case asking researchers be declared to have every right to reverse-engineer censorware, and publish tools to do so. Ultimately, N2H2 prevailed, getting the case dismissed, roughly because the plaintiff hadn't done anything (not yet "ripe" for judgment). The legal core of the case, issues of "standing", (rightly) dominates discussion about it. However, as one of the few people in the courtroom (as a spectator! - this time ...), the most relevant aspect to me was the attitude of the judge. It was an almost palpable hostility against the ACLU side.

April 11: I testify at the Copyright Office DMCA exemption hearings. A grueling 22-hour trip, where I had to pay all my expenses out of my own pocket. I seem to have done well and made good points. Might even have preserved the DMCA censorware exemption, to be immodest. I received some private compliments for my efforts. But very few people hear about it all.

Late April: An opportunity collapses regarding my getting some extensive recognition for the above testimony. An off-and-on week of wrangling with various issues. Between certain legal discussions, my job-hunting woes, and various politics, it doesn't happen. It's the sort of thing where I think that if I were perfect, I could maneuver among all the grudge-holding and work/credit issues. But I'm just human. It's not a solution to tell me to be perfect, as nobody is.

April 30: Website server crash. The hosting company seems to have lost backup data too, and I relied on them. Days of work rebuilding everything. No, it's not just a matter of putting back static pages. When you have PHP variables, a cgi-script based blog, web-driven mailing-list software, and more, it's a massive job even to debug the restoration. The mailing-list isn't back yet, and some of its important data may be permanently lost.

Sigh. I don't know. I have a deep sense that, as I think of it, I'm disbelieving mathematics. It's again the old issue of what is sustainable.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on May 04, 2003 07:13 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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