October 29, 2003

DMCA exemption and decryption-based censorware research

I'm in Wired News today: New Ways to Skirt DMCA - Legally!. They quote me:

"How sweet it is," said Seth Finkelstein, a programmer and anticensorship activist. "Without the exemption, the DMCA would make it a violation to decrypt the blacklist to find out what (filtering companies) are actually censoring. The actual contents of these blacklists are an important censorship issue.

"The Copyright Office has recognized the importance of fair use in this area affected by the DMCA," Finkelstein said. "It's not a blanket declaration of being legal, but it's an ability to argue fair use."

This is good.

The opponent to the censorware exemption, the Iraqi Information Minister, err, David Burt, is quoted as saying:

Filtering advocates had hoped the exemption would be dropped.

"I'm disappointed because I thought we had made it clear that the exemption is unnecessary to conduct meaningful evaluations of filters," said David Burt, a spokesman for Secure Computing, which purchased N2H2, a filtering company.

He cited extensive studies from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Consumer Reports and the Department of Justice, among others, in his testimony and said that "these methods are adequate for evaluating filters."

Ah, but what did the Copyright Office already say about his objection to progress against the Iraq army decryption of censorware for research?

Opponents argued that circumvention is not necessary because other alternative sources for the information sought to be obtained are available, but the proponents of the exemption successfully discredited this assertion. While it is true that limited "querying" of the databases is available on some of the filtering software companies' sites, the circumscribed nature of this querying foreclosed comprehensive or meaningful results. Opponents produced evidence that many reviews of filtering software platforms reached conclusions based on these querying capabilities or by utilizing various sampling techniques, yet this evidence only proved that some parties were willing to settle for the results produced by such superficial tests. In light of the millions (or more) of potential URLs, it is indisputable that actually viewing the entire list of blocked Internet locations will produce data much more comprehensive than querying about one hundred URLs.

But then, last I heard, the real Iraqi Information Minister was doing OK too ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , dmca | on October 29, 2003 09:15 AM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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