October 16, 2003

No Sympathy For The Devil - SunnComm's Peter Jacobs v. Alex Halderman

But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

- "Sympathy For The Devil" lyrics

Ordinarily, I have a great amount of sympathy for people on the wrong end of press machine. But in the case of SunnComm (the company which threatened to use the DMCA to sue a Princeton student over his research), I have no sympathy at all. None whatsoever.

Both Ed Felten and Derek Slater have excellent criticisms of the SunnComm positions. I want to point out a different dynamic at work.

I understand Peter Jacobs' (SunnComm CEO) complaint. I just don't find it pulling at my heartstrings. One major thread of his discontent is that the press echo-chamber is working against him, not for him. The pack-journalism is tearing him apart, not the grad student who he wants attacked.

If one carefully reads the SunnComm PR, the whole shift-key-as-circumvention sound bite isn't where they get to the DMCA. Instead, their core complaint is about reverse-engineering itself:

In addition, SunnComm believes that Mr. Halderman has violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by disclosing unpublished MediaMax management files placed on a users computer after user approval is granted. Once the file is found and deleted according to the instructions given in the Princeton grad students report, the MediaMax copy management system can be bypassed resulting in the copyrighted protected music being converted or misappropriated for potentially unauthorized and/or illegal use. SunnComm intends to refer this possible felony ...

That's what they use for the DMCA threat (possible felony!). In a way, it's actually worse, because this attacks the ability to critically describe how their product functions.

But they're unhappy. Because instead of being viewed as the aggrieved party of a "cat-and-mouse game that hackers and others like to play", they're portrayed as utter morons. I think they'd like a spin of being smart-good, they'd settle for smart-evil, but they've gotten stupid-evil.

It's not exactly factually right, but neither does my heart cry for them. My sympathy vanishes with the legal threats. It's less two wrongs making a right, but a "clean hands" doctrine. I'm not going to get worked-up about them getting bad press, when they've used legal threats to attempt to suppress examination of their system.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in dmca | on October 16, 2003 11:11 AM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

Subscribe with Bloglines      Subscribe in NewsGator Online  Google Reader or Homepage