March 31, 2003

Preview note on court report on Edelman v. N2H2 dismissal hearing

Today, I attended the court hearing on N2H2's motion to dismiss the Edelman v. N2H2 case. That is, N2H2 was claiming that, roughly there is no "there" there - no reason for a court to rule. Because no actual censorware decryption work had been done in the case, and hence nobody had been sued. Of course, in a way, that situation is the rationale for the case in the first place. It's a "declaratory judgment" case, concerning whether some action is permissible, before it's in fact done. These sorts of cases seem to be caught in a tension between being Catch-22's and being speculations.

The judge started off the hearing by stating that he found the case "extremely dubious", and asked the ACLU to convince him otherwise. And it didn't get much better from there. Full report to follow.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , dmca , legal | on March 31, 2003 11:43 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 30, 2003

Electronic Frontiers Australia on Australian censorware campaign

Electronic Frontiers Australia (not the same at all as the US Electronic Frontier Foundation) recently released a great comment on censorware campaign concerning "all Internet access by Australian [ISPs]":

Comments on Mandatory Filtering and Blocking by ISPs

Well worth reading. And my work is cited there.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 30, 2003 11:55 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 29, 2003

More on no CFP 2003 for me ...

My joke about No-CFP2003-for-me:

"Where Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden couldn't stop me, "the Benjamins" (i.e., the money) could do so".

That is, I'd gladly go to CFP 2003 despite war perils and terrorism threats. But having to shell out hundreds of dollars from my own pocket in expenses, is another story entirely.

Sigh. It's just not my job. I don't have a university or a think-tank covering my costs. Moreover, I've never gotten any money for my award-winning free-speech work, so it's not like the conference would be a trip to drum-up business (which it arguably would be for a lawyer or policy person). It's another indication that this activism isn't sustainable.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on March 29, 2003 11:56 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 28, 2003

Clear Channel, and "Rally For America"

[Sent this for Dave Farber's list a day or so ago, but it didn't make the cut]

Years ago, in futile attempts at spreading skepticism, I would often dig into whatever "hot story" was making the rounds of the Net. Now I've come to realize that is a mug's game. Whatever puny reach I have, it is less than the smallest whimper in the mighty media echo chamber.

These rallies are not exactly grassroots. But they are being flacked at a level far below top management. The idea does seem to have started with Glenn Beck, then gone up to a few like-minded radio stations, and been pushed relatively tepidly by a subsidiary of Clear Channel, "Premium Radio Networks". But, it's PR opportunities being taken, and jumping on the bandwagon, as opposed to a top-down directive. That's not a surprise, in the middle of a war.

One of the earliest press releases is at:

And a more recent press release (my emphasis):
Press Release
Source: Premiere Radio Networks
"Glenn Beck's Rallies for American Troops to Be Held This Weekend in Fort Wayne and Richmond"

Look, if this were a corporate directive, in no way would they be putting Glenn Beck's name on it, as part of the title.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on March 28, 2003 11:25 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 27, 2003

Gave a talk today at MIT's Media Lab

I gave a talk today at MIT's Media Lab. Around 27 people showed up. Since it's Spring Break, that wasn't too bad.

I called the talk "Net Control", and tried to get across that censorship, copyright, privacy, are all facets of the general problem of control of information. There's basically two possible positions, either information can be, or can't be, controlled. And no matter which one you pick, the implications are profound.

HTML-based slides are at , though it's nothing fancy.

Update: LISnews ran a story announcing it

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on March 27, 2003 11:50 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 26, 2003

Felten, more on conference / press and Al Gore - Internet

Edward Felten has an interesting response to my reply to his article discussing conferences and reporters:

I can see [Seth's] point, [but] I think hatchet-job stories are pretty rare in the respectable media, and I also think that most readers recognize such stories and discount them.

Regrettably, I have to disagree on both points. It's not even so much a problem of hatchet-job intent per se. Rather, suppose a reporter has been sent to a conference which turns out to be boring. Nothing much has happened. All statements are moderate and sedate. Does he or she go back and turn in an item that nothing happened? There's great incentive to make-up some conflict, to find a way to create a controversy or fabricate some disagreement.

I don't think I'm writing anything especially radical there. Just somewhat cynical. And the vast majority of the reporters can be ethical. It doesn't matter. All that's necessary is one reporter to decide it would be more profitable to write fiction instead of fact, and that may be the one piece that gets published. Because it's "interesting".

The companies who don't want representatives to talk if the press is present, are likely thinking, "Why risk it?". That they'll get all the press benefits from their own professional PR flacks, who are trained for that task, while avoiding any chance of getting embroiled in a fabrication because a lazy journalist had some empty space which needed filling. And with a large group of companies, the chances increase that at least a few companies in the group will feel this way.

Note that Microsoft, arguably, is so rich, in terms of market and PR-power, that it can take such risks. It's in a situation where it knows it has a stable of friendly reporters who will write it walks on water, and also unfriendly reporters who will write Bill Gates is more evil than Satan himself. In fact, it almost starts off from an inverted situation, where the journo-spins are already firmly in place, and the fact-content can only go up! So it's not at all clear that the trade-offs Microsoft makes, generalize to any principle of openness.

And, wow, I don't think people discount such fabrications. No, not at all. I believe they think they do. Nobody has ever said to me "I'm gullible. I believe everything I read in the papers.". No, everyone is smart, tough, skeptical, checks it out. And is above average too.

The Gore example fascinates me for several reasons, but the threads of various ideas is one of them. Regarding:

(And though too much was made of Gore's statement, he did say, "I took the initiative in creating the Internet", which just isn't true. Yes, Gore deserves credit for promoting the Internet before almost anyone else on Capitol Hill had even heard of it; and yes, he did take the initiative in funding the Internet at a crucial stage of its build-out. But there is a big difference between creating something and merely paying for a stage of its construction.)

But Gore was in fact refering to his funding efforts. That's clear if his whole reply is read. Phil Agre has put it this way:

I did not say that Wired News had made up any quotations. So far as I am aware, the quotations in both of the Wired News articles got Gore's words right. Nor is the issue really one of quotation out of context, if by "context" we mean the words that Gore uttered immediately before and after the sentence about the Internet. (It is important to get that whole sentence, though, so that it's understood that he's talking about actions he took in the context of his service in Congress, and that he's not claiming, like a Tennessee version of Elena Ceaucescu, to have done the technical work.) I did feel that those articles paraphrased Gore's comments in tendentious ways, that they made several unfair and misleading arguments, and that their overall effect was to grossly distort both the clear meaning of what Gore said and the reality to which Gore referred. In particular, if we have to choose whether it was Gore or Wired News who engaged in "exaggeration", I think that Wired News would clearly be the winner.

Instead of looking at the clause in isolation, take a look what was in fact said by Gore:

BLITZER: I want to get to some of the substance of domestic and international issues in a minute, but let's just wrap up a little bit of the politics right now.

Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination process, support you instead of Bill Bradley, a friend of yours, a former colleague in the Senate? What do you have to bring to this that he doesn't necessarily bring to this process?

GORE: Well, I will be offering -- I'll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.

But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I've traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

Look at the preceding clause - "During my service in the United States Congress ...". Look at the sentence afterwards, "I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system". He's talking about all that he did in Congress. What's the clear meaning here? Who is in fact offering a "whopper of a tall tale", Gore's off-the-cuff phrasing, or the agenda-driven journalist who microparses it for scandal?

Isn't it understandable why some companies would not want to take a chance on having reporters present?

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on March 26, 2003 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 25, 2003

Conference representatives not speaking if a reporter is present

In an article discussing conferences and reporters, Edward Felten writes concerning companies not wanting conference representatives to speak to the press:

I have to admit that I find these companies' policies hard to understand. A company trusts somebody to speak on its behalf in a public forum, where many of the company's competitors and customers are present, and where everybody is welcome to take notes. And yet somehow it is too dangerous to let that employee say the same things if a reporter is also present.

I don't find it hard to understand at all. While one can disagree with the decision, and argue a different cost-benefit tradeoff, it is rational. If a reporter is present, the chances go way up that minor flub or misstatement by a speaker, one which competitors and customers would let pass in context, may be blown-up into a huge scandal by a reporter looking for a hobby-horse story to write. I just collected a bunch of resources for the infamous Al Gore "Invented the Internet" smear. It was something basically fabricated by a reporter who deliberately decided to spin a few words of very reasonable reply from Al Gore about his achievements, into an absurd technical claim. The company is probably thinking, "All we need is for one of our people to reply sarcastically, to make a joke about something, and then there's the headline ``Company admits plans for world domination''".

Heck, I could write it:

Disassociated Press: Speaking at the Blather Conference, engineers from InsertNameHere candidly admitted that BuzzWord was really a secret plot for world domination. The shocking admission came during a question-and-answer period, where an audience member asked "Aren't you trying to take over the world here?". Engineer Patsy was clearly heard to reply "Yeah, you betcha we are". This represents the first outright admission of what has been criticism for months, by industry insiders and political outsiders ...

And of course, the defense of the article would be that Engineer Patsy really said those words - necessarily passing over the fact that in context, they were a sarcastic reply to a not entirely serious question. In fact, I based the above item on the attack on Gore for telling a "Union Label" joke, which I saw again when digging up some references for the above Invented-The-Internet page.

Now, once more, it's possible to argue about the trade-offs, that credulous press coverage will outweigh attacking press coverage. But it's certainly not hard to understand why it can be very attractive to have a policy of never dealing with the press other than through professional flacks.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on March 25, 2003 04:56 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

A short letter I didn't send, about the word "hackers"

I wrote the following, but kept myself from sending it:

Dear [redacted]

I recently read your legal paper, in which you constantly refer to all programmers who do reverse-engineering as "hackers", and not in the complimentary sense of the word. As a landshark at the [redacted] Sharkery School, who teaches sharking, I'm sure you're aware of the implications of rhetoric. Regards ..."

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on March 25, 2003 06:07 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 24, 2003

Free-speech vs. non-free lawyers

Great quote from a posting by Lawrence Lessig:

Publishers are among the most conservative "fair users" - not because they don't believe in free speech, but because they understand the burden of non-free lawyers.

Hmm ... to add a twist to an old statement:

free as in speech, free as in beer ... but non-free as in lawyer ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , quotes | on March 24, 2003 11:58 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 23, 2003

No CFP 2003 for me ...

I was selected to present a tutorial at the 13th Annual Conference on Computers, Freedom & Privacy (aka CFP 2003): "How to Analyze Censorware"

But, while the conference will go on despite the war, all the tutorials have been canceled (not to mention the travel/hotel expense money for the tutorial presenters ...).

Sigh ... The tutorial page is still on the CFP 2003 website, (at least as I write this), and I've copied the description of my censorware tutorial below, just for fun.

T2. How to Analyze Censorware

This tutorial will discuss basic procedures and techniques for analyzing what is blacklisted by a censorware ("filtering") program. The emphasis will be on explaining the internals of the operations of the blacklists, focusing on how both extensive porn-passing, and collateral damage to innocent sites, are inevitable. A programming background is helpful, but not required, for the material. Due to the possible risk of arrest of the presenter, cryptographic circumvention techniques will NOT be mentioned.

Seth Finkelstein, Anti-censorship activist and programmer, has spent hundreds of unpaid and uncredited hours over several years to decrypt and expose to public scrutiny the secret contents of the most popular censorware blacklists. Seth has been active in raising the level of public awareness about the dangers that Internet content blocking software and rating/labeling schemes pose to freedom of communication. His work has armed many with information of great assistance in the fight against government mandated use of these systems.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on March 23, 2003 11:49 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 22, 2003

Cyberterrorism and the Freedom-To-Tinker blog

Sign of the times! ...

I just checked Edward Felten's blog and saw a posting "We're Back (Mostly)", where he writes (my emphasis):

We're back on the air after roughly thirty-six hours of downtime. Apparently the server that brings you Freedom to Tinker (along with many unrelated sites hosted by the same web hosting provider) has had its hard drives impounded by the authorities as part of a cyberterrorism investigation. The last week or so of backup tapes were impounded too, so everything I have written since March 14 is apparently lost.

If you have copies of any of my postings since March 14, please email them to me, along with their original URL (if available), so I can recover. Thanks for your help.

Well, I've had a little experience with vanishing websites, so I tried to see if I could dig up some posts.

Nothing useful in the Google cache that I could find, try Google search for March and

Check local caches,

var HOST = '';

is a good string to search for.

But the postings had expired by now.

Sorry, I tried.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on March 22, 2003 10:03 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 21, 2003


Herewith I mean Wargasm the song, not Wargasm the game

I'm not a warblogger. There are many warbloggers. It's not that I don't have views. But few people care what I think anyway, on issues where I'm even arguably one of the world's experts (censorware), so why even waste electrons elsewhere.

This war will be over in a week. Iraq was defeated handily in Gulf War I, and Gulf War II is barely worth the number.

The implications of Pax Americana, the possible return of empire, the virtues of imperialism, I'll leave that to people who get paid to pontificate about it. Or at least think someone is listening.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on March 21, 2003 11:57 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 20, 2003

Al Gore "invented the Internet" smear debunking

[Sent this for Dave Farber's list today, but it didn't seem to make the cut]

Dave, with the appointment of Al Gore to the Apple Board of Directors, I've seen yet another burst of comments repeating the smear that he made the claim to have "invented the Internet". This time around, there's some debunking, but it's still an idea embedded in the public consciousness. I've started a collection of debunking links and resources, at:

Al Gore "invented the Internet" - resources

This includes links to:

CNN Transcript

Al Gore and The Internet
Red Rock Eater News Service, Phil Agre, Mar. 28 2000

Al Gore's support of the Internet, by V.Cerf and B.Kahn [ I second this djf]

Did Gore invent the Internet?
Salon, Scott Rosenberg, Oct. 5, 2000

Al Gore and the Creation of the Internet
First Monday, Richard Wiggins, October 2000

If there's interest, I'll expand the resources to encompass lesser material about the story which isn't well-known, such as Declan McCullagh's (the story's inventor) historical rearguard defense of it:

"And I'm not about to change what I write or how I write based on the efforts of Democratic partisans such as you (and I note that Phill [Hallam-Baker] earlier today complained to my editors)." (3 Oct 2000)

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on March 20, 2003 11:49 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 19, 2003

CIPA Supreme Court Oral Argument official transcript on-line

The official transcript of the CIPA (Federal law about censorware in libraries) oral argument in the Supreme Court, is now available on-line. It's at:

I've put it into HTML, for ease of reading and cut-and-paste, at

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , legal | on March 19, 2003 03:01 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 18, 2003

DMCA hearings information announced by Copyright Office

The Copyright Office has now announced information regarding public hearings for the process of determining DMCA Exemptions

This is good reading (for those who like this type of reading):

The Copyright Office stresses that factual arguments are at least as important as legal arguments and encourages persons who wish to testify to provide demonstrative evidence to supplement their testimony. While testimony from attorneys who can articulate legal arguments in support of or opposition to a proposed exempted class of works is useful, testimony from witnesses who can explain and demonstrate the facts is also solicited.

I found this part amusing:

In the written comment period, the Office received nearly 400 written comments. Given the time constraints, only a fraction of that number could possibly testify at the hearings. A timely request to testify does not guarantee an opportunity to testify at these hearings. The Copyright Office encourages parties with similar interests to select common representatives to testify on behalf of a particular position.

But note elsewhere:

Depending on the number of requests to testify that we receive, it may not be necessary to conduct hearings on all four of these days. The date or dates for the hearings in California will be announced later.


The Office intends to organize individual sessions of the hearings around particular or related classes of works proposed for exemption.

I think this means that the DVD issues are only going to get so much time during the process.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in dmca | on March 18, 2003 11:54 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 17, 2003

My Google report makes the front page of Slashdot!

Amazing ... for so many reasons ... Thanks, Timothy!

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , google | on March 17, 2003 11:57 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 16, 2003

Richard Stallman's blog mention one of my censorware reports

I just noticed that Richard Stallman has linked to my censorware report on BESS vs Image Search Engines from the "Political notes" section of his blog (one of the March 10, 2003 entries).

Thanks! It's good to be read!

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 16, 2003 11:55 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 15, 2003

The Register publishes my Google report letter

Letter: Molesting Google

Many hits.

Thank you.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , google | on March 15, 2003 11:58 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 14, 2003

Guilty pleasure from a _Register_ paragraph on Declan McCullagh

There's a fascinating passage today in a Register story discussing "Michael Savage":

His career path mirrors the trajectory of former woolly Carnegie Mellon liberal Declan McCullagh, now a lavishly-paid writer at CNET. Both realized the value of relentless self-publicity. And both - McCullagh, like Weiner - decided that principles are for fools.

You don't stay poor for very long if you can defend rich guys' their right to keep their money, each followed the dollar trail to arrive at their own, personal epiphany. Each advocates the gazillionaires' "freedom" to spend their gazillions. The knack to pulling off this stunt is in persuading us, dear readers, that it's our freedoms that are a stake. In all, it's a very simple equation, and one so alluring that it's never short of fresh McCullaghs or Weiners to heed the cry. There's one born every minute.

I'm just going to blog this now as-is, since I have to think about what what I can/should say. I'll merely note that the prospect of a DMCA hatchet job or worse from Declan McCullagh ("Another explanation is overly aggressive advocacy by groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation ...") has been its own chilling effect on my censorware and DMCA efforts.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on March 14, 2003 03:22 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 13, 2003

Mitch Kapor resigns from company over domestic surveillance system

There's a fascinating NYT article making the rounds, Software Pioneer Quits Board of Groove (also available from the IP list) It's chock-full of food for thought. Summary: Mitch Kapor, millionaire and EFF-founder, resigned from Groove networks as "the company's software was being used by the Pentagon as part of its development of a domestic surveillance system." And more:

The company acknowledged the resignation last week when it announced that it had received $38 million in additional financing. ...

"With the dramatic change of funding availability in the high-tech sector, it's become difficult for companies to turn down the funding opportunities presented by the federal government," said Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. ...

"Computer scientists are going to have the same kinds of battles that physicists did amidst the fallout of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," said Michael Schrage, a senior adviser to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Security Studies Program.

Now, this is not quite so new, as everyone should remember that the Internet originated from a military funding project. (and Al Gore did indeed help its evolution greatly, contrary to a certain fabricated journalistic slam). But what's notable, if not exactly new, is that money is flowing. It's sort of like a flood. Whenever either money or floodwater washes over an area, it's never the same afterwards.

Hmm ... I think I hear the Dark Side calling me ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in security | on March 13, 2003 10:56 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

Walt Crawford "Cites & Insights" on CIPA legal briefs

Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights for April 2003: Vol. 3 No. 4 has an excellent, extensive, section reviewing the various CIPA legal briefs. It's many pages long, going into detail on the briefs both pro- and con-, with great analysis of their arguments. Highly recommended.

I may of course be biased, because one of those briefs mentioned is the one for the Online Policy Group and Seth Finkelstein

P.S.: The comments about weblogs are good reading too.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , legal | on March 13, 2003 02:40 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 12, 2003

Eldred rehearing petition, and principle

An Eldred rehearing petition was filed by Lawrence Lessig. (n.b. see notes from Donna Wentworth / Copyfight). This was an attempt to get the Supreme Court to rehear the Eldred case, the challenge to copyright extensions. The Supreme Court let the extensions stand. The rehearing petition was denied, and it seems those petitions aren't granted in practice. I noted the petition starts off:

The currency of this Court is principle. ...

When I read that, I couldn't help thinking of this classic Bloom County comic strip (it's in the first book, "Loose Tails"):

Bedfellow: And as your Senator ... I'm tickled to be here today, chatting with all of you ... um ... future voters ... yessir ...

Bedfellow: Now ... Can any of you little nits tell me which great principle our political system is based upon?
Milo: "Money talks".

Bedfellow: HMPH ... Yes, well, the other great principle ...

Bedfellow: Watch your tongue, boy, or somebody might CUT IT OFF.
Teacher: Milo ...

As I wrote much earlier in a posting Trying to think like a conservative Supreme Court justice on copyright , the Lopez case was about guns, a topic which stirs a certain passion in many conservatives, which copyright cannot match.

And the Morrison case was about "gender-motivated violence".

So as I said before:
"Bluntly, the losers from those decisions were going to be gun-control advocates in the former, and violence-against-women activists in the latter. Here, the biggest loser would be Disney. Maybe that's an overly political view. But it's something to think about."

Yes, it's a cynical view. No doubt some would upbraid me for having less than total respect for the principled operation of the judiciary. But asking the question "What outcome is more beneficial in terms of right-wing politics?" seems, empirically, to be more predictive. That is, in a conflict between the principle of limiting Congressional powers, versus hugely offending big business interests, the business interests win. That may be a "Critical Legal Studies" type analysis, but it also seems to be an accurate one.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on March 12, 2003 07:56 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 11, 2003

Geoffrey Nunberg on censorware in libraries

Geoffrey Nunberg has a great New York Times column, also available from Google Groups, regarding library censorware.

"Computers in Libraries Make Moral Judgments, Selectively"

Excellent points throughout, for example:

Software will never be able to wholly reproduce human linguistic and perceptual capacities, much less distinguish between a Playboy calendar and an Edward Weston nude, or between "Tropic of Cancer" and "Trailer Park Swappers."

Then, too, the architecture of the Internet itself requires filters to block hundreds of thousands of sites that they haven't identified as porn - Google cache sites, for example, and any site that is unlucky enough to be hosted by the same computer that's hosting a porn site.

By the way, as a note of personal credit, that "Google cache sites" aspect was exposed by me:

BESS vs The Google Search Engine (Cache, Groups, Images)
BESS bans cached web pages, passes porn in groups, and considers all image searching to be pornography.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 11, 2003 05:19 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 10, 2003

"Michael Owen" is the UK injunction "mystery footballer"

The "mystery footballer" who cannot be named in the British press (due to an injunction), has apparently been named on a Norwegian newspaper's website.

Says a poster from New Zealand (""), in


And, while I don't read Norwegian, the name "Michael Owen" is clear in the article (hey, I'm in the US. I can say it!)

And in fact, automatic translation gives something where the gist of the article can be derived:

"allegedly document that Michael Owen (22) has been faithless against ... Louise Bonsall, as am pregnant in seventh month"

Isn't the Internet amazing?

Update: More coverage, in English now, from Singapore:
Owen's no Saint Michael,1870,176015,00.html
Also available at

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in infothought | on March 10, 2003 10:23 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 09, 2003 - Copyright Office considers exemptions to DMCA

PR! I'm quoted in the following article on
Copyright Office considers exemptions to DMCA.

Seth Finkelstein, a freelance computer programmer from Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote one of the successful proposals. He shares his experience in two reports on how to win copyright exemptions. Finkelstein fears the Copyright Office will punt on the more controversial issues.

"I think there are extremely sound policy arguments against the DMCA. The question is whether the copyright office is going to want the responsibility of making those decisions," Finkelstein says. "Nobody wants to face the wrath of copyright protection companies."

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in dmca | on March 09, 2003 11:10 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 08, 2003

CIPA Transcript - USA v. ALA

I've made this available in HTML at

From: Skip Auld <auldh[at-sign]>
Subject: CIPA Transcript - USA v. ALA
Date: Sat, 08 Mar 2003 16:27:09 -0500

To ALA Member-Forum, Publib, VLA, VEMA, and other lists (Please forgive

On Wednesday, March 5, I attended the Supreme Court oral arguments on the CIPA case (Children's Internet Protection Act), United States of America, et al. v. American Library Association, et al. This case was the government's appeal of the unanimous decision on May 31, 2002 of a 3-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. That court decided in favor of ALA's position that requiring filters on all public Internet access computers, in order to receive federal funding, was unconstitutional.

For those of you who are interested, I have attached my transcription of the arguments. It is from handwritten notes I made during the oral arguments and therefore is not complete and may contain inaccuracies, despite my best efforts to write exactly what was said and all that was said. (This was, admittedly, an impossible task given the speed, substance, and variety of the one-hour debate). If you have any questions, please call me at 804-748-1767 or send an email message.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , legal | on March 08, 2003 07:21 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

John Young poetry criticizing chilling effect fear

John Young is an architect, a 60's-thinking radical, and the maintainer of the volunteer government-security watchdog site Cryptome. He's also an accomplished amateur poet. He's a good poet, typically writing in complex, James Joyce, style of language and imagery (sometimes called "Younglish"). Not "Roses are red/Violets are blue/John Ashcroft is bad/And the Patriot Act too". I've occasionally remarked to him that his material is so demanding that almost nobody understands it, especially not in his audience. So he'd do much better in terms of having readers, if he un-baroqued a little. But I suspect he doesn't care about this.

Some months ago he wrote me a poem (posted to a public mailing-list) criticizing me over concerns of being sued over the DMCA and my feelings about the legal risks of activism (see, that's his skill, he can write poems about such topics, and they are even decent poems _qua_ poems). I was thinking about that material today, and since I occasionally annotate his poems, I decided to do that one. Even if it is attacking me, I still like it as a literary work, and again, it was in my mind today.

[My annotations in brackets]

Subject: Re: O'Reilly: DMCA demonstration goes out with a whimper
From: John Young <jya@PIPELINE.COM>
Date: Sat, 27 Jul 2002 11:33:23 -0700

Seth, you are right to warn of the risks of exceeding socially approved civil liberties. This will get you pats on the butt from those who benefit from such cautionaries. HP keeps a valuable employee, Bruce can forever talk about what he almost did but wisely pulled back. Not quite having it both ways but what passes for righteous hectoring and puling.

[This was in the general context of an anti-DMCA action which was called off because of jail fears. I pointed out I was not the only one experiencing a chilling effect.
"puling" is NOT a typo for "pulling", but is defined:
"puling - crying or whining weakly and detestably; plaintive"
Also note
"hectoring - intimidation or bullying"

Even so, we must be grateful to those who do not obey social pressure, even more those who disobey and keep it quiet.

[Resistance is good - quiet resistance is even better. The above is an allusion to the "cypherpunky" idea of Internet revolutionaries hidden by remailers and anonymity, so the authories can't reach them. At least for myself, I find that more a fantasy than a workable strategy overall]

For without such quiet courage millions of peasants of the colonies would still be serving a tiny band of ignorant pigs who inherited the appratus to impose fantasies of porcine superiority with masterful force, if force be needed when the cowardly, loud-mouthed comfortable intellectuals were not able to induce slavish obedience by tongue and quill confecting fearful warnings of the majesty of authority.

[Without courage, Americans would still be subjects to the King, because of the force of the King's army. And the army was only needed when the preachers and intellectuals weren't able to make the populace be obedience by talking about the power of the King.
The image: "ignorant pigs ... porcine superiority" is 60's-style language of the police/army/goverment-in-general as "pigs". ]

Vile allegations are that some of those unbrave hearts had the fear of erasure put in their skulls by a tap of the sword. And, with great relief at only a tap discovered turning tail gave birth to wisdom. Then advanced their brilliant career by essaying obedience as enlightened social justice, nay, more ingratiatingly, as essential orderliness for the authorities' benevolent protection of the commonweal.

[There's a rumor that some cowardly intellectuals were made to fear of death by raids designed to intimidate them. And when they weren't killed, they decided to advance their careers by writing that the King's peace was a good and necessary order for the protection of society.]

Yes, keep yourself employable above all else. Love those chains as if metal of honor.

[This mocks my concern about making a living. The image "metal of honor" is a pun on "medal of honor" and the metal in chains - more prosaically, "You wear your chains of slavery as if metal/medal of honor"]

[He didn't convince me differently - indeed, such attacks by respected people tend to have the effect of driving me away from free-speech activism. But it sure is different from the typical flame!]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on March 08, 2003 03:04 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 07, 2003

Censorware and less/least restrictive means

The Free Expression Policy Project has some interesting material in their CIPA argument analysis. I remember the following well:

Seven years ago, many advocates were arguing that Internet filters were a "less restrictive alternative" to criminal laws banning "indecent" speech on the Internet. But some prescient ones opined that filters would actually be even worse. Despite the chilling tenor of the Supreme Court argument in US v. ALA, one hopes that at least five of the justices will come to the same conclusion.

At the time, law professor Peter Junger wrote the best the best legal analysis on the above topic I've ever seen.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , legal | on March 07, 2003 03:25 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 06, 2003

Should Libraries Be Compelled To Secret Censorship?

Yes, I know the title is loaded language (I originally had "Library Censorware - Threat or Menace", but that was too much of a cliche). But the phrasing of so many articles has a similar reverse built-in assumption.

Take, for example the title of an article:
Should libraries filter out Internet porn?

C'mon - isn't that as much an assumption as my own title?

Look at this report from Slate:

"Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia have no interest in hearing that libraries are public forums; in fact Scalia is of the opinion that libraries can and do censor what he calls "garbage" all the time."

I keep saying that language-translation sites and the Google cache and web archives and privacy/anonymity sites, etc, are not "garbage". But today I feel like I've just been shouting into the wind, for all I'm heard.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 06, 2003 11:58 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 05, 2003

"CIPA" Federal censorware law in Supreme Court

[ ]

From: Seth Finkelstein
To: Seth Finkelstein's InfoThought list
Subject: IT: Federal censorware law "CIPA", in Supreme Court
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2003 16:45:15 -0500

Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the Federal censorware law "CIPA", concerning censorware in libraries (this law applies to everyone, adults and minors). For more information, see:

I'm involved in this case as an amicus curiae, part of a friend-of-the-court brief, see:

"Online Policy Group, Seth Finkelstein Submit CIPA Court Brief"

I'd like to remind everyone that although the issue is continually reported and debated as "filtering" "porn" or "smut", that description is in fact technically inaccurate. Instead, architecturally, censorware is about control over what people are permitted to read. This is a profoundly different problem. It means no archive or service can be allowed if it can be an escape from control.

That is, using the N2H2 censorware as an example, image searching cannot be allowed. See for yourself, by clicking on the following link:

This should return:

The Site: is categorized by N2H2 as:

Now, an image search engine is not pornography. It's a tool. But it's banned here, just in case anyone could use it to see forbidden material.

Another example is the Wayback Machine, a huge archive of sites:

This is considered one of N2H2's "Loop Hole Sites", a no-longer-secret (due to my work :-) ) blacklist category of "loophole" sites which are banned by default everywhere, since they represent routes outside the blinder-box.

Language translation is prohibited also, because translating a website written in English from, e.g. Chinese to English, works very well.

The Google cache is considered a "loophole" too:

And of course, privacy and anonymity (to prevent one's reading from being monitored, by either the government or censorware) is right out:

In sum:

Image searching is not pornography.
Large web archives (e.g. The Wayback Machine) are not pornography.
Language translation is not pornography.
The Google cache is not pornography.
Privacy or anonymity is not pornography.

This won't be fixed in the next release. And my work on this issue seems to have been one factor in the lower court decision which earlier struck down this law. See:

Federal censorware law down! (and Seth Finkelstein's reports!)

BESS's Secret LOOPHOLE: (censorware vs. privacy & anonymity) - a secret category of BESS (N2H2), and more about why censorware must blacklist privacy, anonymity, and translators

BESS vs The Google Search Engine (Cache, Groups, Images) - BESS bans cached web pages, passes porn in groups, and considers all image searching to be pornography.

SmartFilter's Greatest Evils - why censorware must blacklist privacy, anonymity, and language translators

The Pre-Slipped Slope - censorware vs the Wayback Machine web archive - The logic of censorware programs suppressing an enormous digital library.

Remember this all, against the argument onslaught of "POORRRNNNN!"...

-- Seth Finkelstein Consulting Programmer sethf[at-sign]
Anticensorware Investigations -
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog -

Infothought mailing list

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , legal | on March 05, 2003 07:46 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 04, 2003

MichaelSims, Domain Hijacking and Moral Equivalency

I should have mentioned this earlier, but with the Federal censorware law CIPA being argued tomorrow, it's important now.

Attorney Jonathan Wallace has a new account of the domain-hijacking of the former Censorware Project domain by the former webmaster, Michael Sims (yes, this is the same Michael Sims who works at Slashdot).

Some choice quotes, from Jonathan Wallace (i.e., he wrote this, I didn't!):

... hundreds or thousands of links which were put up elsewhere to Censorware Project content during our hey-day now, when followed, lead to Michael's denunciation of the group.

In short, this is a colossal and continuing act of malice by our former webmaster, Michael Sims. ...

Astonishingly, there were no consequences to Michael, as far as I know, for taking down the Censorware Project content and redirecting its substantial web traffic, first to a page which said the group no longer existed, and now to his rant against its members. We had some internal discussions about suing him to get the domain back.

If the ACLU's webmaster had trashed the organization's site, I think everyone would pretty well recognize he was a Bad Character and Not To Be Trusted.

See also the initial statement of Censorware Project (search the page for "flipping out").

And if people think this is trivial, note Michael Sims in his "colossal and continuing act of malice" has already derailed a great deal of my censorware work, and may lead in part to losing the DMCA censorware exemption. He's that destructive.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism , censorware | on March 04, 2003 11:58 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 03, 2003

The Censorware Companies Strike Back

I'm undecided whether or not I should write blog entries ripping apart the DMCA reply of censorware companies opposing the censorware DMCA exemption. The argument for, is that it would be good practice and useful writing. The argument against, is that it would show my hand - after all, David Burt (who wrote it) sure didn't send me a pre-release review copy to analyze!

But to give a sense of how honest is that reply comment, note Matthew Skala, one of the programmers who got sued for publishing reverse-engineering of Cyberpatrol, has the following reaction in his blog:

N2H2 has its say

This is one of the DMCA exemption reply comments, from David Burt of N2H2, which makes the Bess censorware package. He appears to be speaking on behalf of several other censorware vendors too. It turns out that xpdf will read the file even though my konqueror Web browser won't. The comment argues that it's not necessary to reverse engineer censorware to test it, and has an entire section about what an evil person I am, calling Eddy Jansson and myself "two teen age hackers". Conveniently neglecting to mention that at the time of the Cyber Patrol break three years ago, we were both in our twenties, and I was already a university graduate; also denying, in the face of many counterexamples, that anyone who was anyone thought our work was valuable to the debate. Well, I (unfortunately) have much worse things to worry about at the moment than that kind of insult.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , dmca | on March 03, 2003 08:56 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 02, 2003

A DMCA chant

With apologies to 60's anti-war protests, I offer this little bit of doggerel for possible use:

Hey, hey, D-M-C-A
How many rights did you take away?

(older folks or students of 60's history will get the reference)

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in dmca , quotes | on March 02, 2003 11:44 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 01, 2003

And the hits keep coming ...

2,117 hits and more, today and yesterday, on my article Chester's Guide to Molesting Google
Virtually all from The Register's piece Google in paedo censorship debacle
I don't know whether to be grateful for the publicity, or frightened by the ease at which the journopower was unleashed.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in statistics | on March 01, 2003 09:12 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups