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EFF Sues U.S. Government So People Can Tinker With Their Electronic Devices

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) launched a lawsuit against the U.S. government, on behalf of inventor and computer scientist Andrew “bunnie” Huang and cryptography professor Matthew Green, to overturn the Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The group believes that the section violates the First Amendment.

The anti-circumvention Section 1201 of the DMCA makes it unlawful for anyone to tinker with a purchased and owned electronic device and its software if it contains DRM code meant to restrict various uses of the device. This has created some problems for various groups, from farmers who could be banned from repairing their tractors, to security researchers who can’t (legally) analyze whether DRM software has security vulnerabilities and whether it puts computer systems or networks at risk.

The EFF argues that copyright laws are supposed to exist in harmony with the First Amendment, but that this provision of the DMCA has restricted the freedom of expression of inventors, academics, and researchers.

“The creative process requires building on what has come before, and the First Amendment preserves our right to transform creative works to express a new message, and to research and talk about the computer code that controls so much of our world,” said EFF Staff Attorney Kit Walsh. “Section 1201 threatens ordinary people with financial ruin or even a prison sentence for exercising those freedoms, and that cannot stand,” he also noted.

The company of Andrew “bunnie” Huang (Alphamax LLC), who is one of the plaintiffs represented by the EFF, is developing devices for editing video streams that people could use to create new innovations, such as captioning a presidential debate with a running Twitter comment field or enabling remixes of high-definition video. However, such uses could be considered unlawful under the Section 1201 of the DMCA.

The other plaintiff in the lawsuit is cryptography professor and security researcher Matthew Green, who thinks it should be legal for a person to try to understand how their computer or electronic device works. However, last year, he as well as many other security experts had to call on the Library of Congress to grant an exception to the DMCA for security research. Even if these exceptions are granted, they last only three years, after which the exception would have to be granted once again. However, it’s not guaranteed that whoever runs the Library of Congress at that time would be sympathetic to such views.

“The government cannot broadly ban protected speech and then grant a government official excessive discretion to pick what speech will be permitted, particularly when the rulemaking process is so onerous,” said Walsh.“If future generations are going to be able to understand and control their own machines, and to participate fully in making rather than simply consuming culture, Section 1201 has to go,” he added.

  • knowom
    This is just as bad as patenting food crops. It's clear corporate overreach towards controlling the masses into self slavery via compliance.
    Reply
  • Kimonajane
    The US government is fascist in many ways. First thing a person needs to know is never trust your government. They are not here to help us, anymore.
    Reply
  • DLE
    I object to Kimonajane's various takes on the government. Only certain factions in the government are guilty of the abuses. For example, the big music companies wanted a cheap way to control distribution of their "music" products without having to resort to the annoying (and expensive) court legal system. They created the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that, in effect, gave them dictatorial control. And Republicans passed it with out a second thought.

    The music companies immediately went after teenagers (whom they could not have taken to court) and poor Aunt Martha.

    In general I trust the government. I do not trust people in government who were elected by clueless voters but only listen to Big Business.
    Reply
  • nezzymighty
    18321211 said:
    I object to Kimonajane's various takes on the government. Only certain factions in the government are guilty of the abuses. For example, the big music companies wanted a cheap way to control distribution of their "music" products without having to resort to the annoying (and expensive) court legal system. They created the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that, in effect, gave them dictatorial control. And Republicans passed it with out a second thought.

    The music companies immediately went after teenagers (whom they could not have taken to court) and poor Aunt Martha.

    In general I trust the government. I do not trust people in government who were elected by clueless voters but only listen to Big Business.


    According to Wikipedia on this DMCA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act):

    "Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of online services for copyright infringement by their users."

    It wasn't just the republicans that passed the bill... apparently it was a unanimous vote (55 rep, 45 dem) and under the Presidency of Bill Clinton... hmmm.... let's blame republicans shall we.... and of course no one else shall be blamed because it suits me and my political agenda???????
    Reply
  • Tykkopoles
    It wasn't just the republicans that passed the bill... apparently it was a unanimous vote (55 rep, 45 dem) and under the Presidency of Bill Clinton... hmmm.... let's blame republicans shall we.... and of course no one else shall be blamed because it suits me and my political agenda???????

    This is the world we live in... People are two busy falling for the government spoon-feeding the public the false dichotomy of partisan politics to realize that political views need to be carefully balanced, because extremist views of any political ideology are all equally bad.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    18321211 said:
    I object to Kimonajane's various takes on the government. Only certain factions in the government are guilty of the abuses.

    ...

    In general I trust the government. I do not trust people in government who were elected by clueless voters but only listen to Big Business.
    I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but it's a sorry state of affairs when we trust unelected bureaucrats more than the "accountable" politicians we elected.

    IMO, the real problem is wedge-issue politics. Politicians use a few issues to carve up the electorate and get elected, rather than how well they really served the electorate. Then, they do the bidding of their corporate paymasters, to raise more campaign funds and try to line up cushy jobs at lobbying firms and on corporate boards. Not always, but too often that's how it seems to go.

    The sad part is there's no real way around it, except to use referendums. But, those have an even worse track record. So, in an era of ever worsening standards in politics, I guess we're stuck.

    Oh, and kudos to the EFF. I stopped my membership after they came out in support of Manning/Assange/Wikileaks (undermining diplomacy is only a good thing, if you like wars), but I guess my reinstatement is overdue.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    18324039 said:
    It wasn't just the republicans that passed the bill... apparently it was a unanimous vote (55 rep, 45 dem) and under the Presidency of Bill Clinton... hmmm.... let's blame republicans shall we....
    Both parties have been moving to the Right, since Reagan. The most you can say is that Democrats have a slightly lower tendency to be corporate pawns than Republicans, but that's an uncomfortable argument to make. And in fact, it goes a lot more by industry. Since California and New York are such fundraising powerhouses for Democrats, they tend to support the technology, entertainment, and financial industries. Republicans support fossil fuels. Everyone supports defense, because defense contractors try to employ people in the maximum number of congressional districts.

    Bernie represents the first real shift Leftward, in mainstream politics, in most of that time. Even though he lost, he made an impact on Hillary's platform.

    But the problem isn't so much the Presidency as Congress. And I don't see any real change in that dynamic.
    Reply
  • Tykkopoles
    18360095 said:
    18324039 said:
    It wasn't just the republicans that passed the bill... apparently it was a unanimous vote (55 rep, 45 dem) and under the Presidency of Bill Clinton... hmmm.... let's blame republicans shall we....
    Both parties have been moving to the Right, since Reagan. The most you can say is that Democrats have a slightly lower tendency to be corporate pawns than Republicans, but that's an uncomfortable argument to make. And in fact, it goes a lot more by industry. Since California and New York are such fundraising powerhouses for Democrats, they tend to support the technology, entertainment, and financial industries. Republicans support fossil fuels. Everyone supports defense, because defense contractors try to employ people in the maximum number of congressional districts.

    Bernie represents the first real shift Leftward, in mainstream politics, in most of that time. Even though he lost, he made an impact on Hillary's platform.

    But the problem isn't so much the Presidency as Congress. And I don't see any real change in that dynamic.

    I agree that much of the problem lies with Congress. I have been saying as much for years now as everyone blames successes and failures on the nearest president of the opposing party. Part of the reason why I believe the president should be, like Chief Justices, remain neutral of political party affiliations.

    Aside, I find that the concept of the corporation tends to be extremely anti-Capitalist (hence the need for corporate anti-trust laws), meaning that the increasing level of political acquiescence to corporations as a left-wing trend.

    This coming from a political cynic that largely sees the two-party nonsense as being a false dichotomy. I'm not saying it to in some way discredit any political party, but rather to point out that corporations as a concept are largely misinterpreted.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    18427800 said:
    Aside, I find that the concept of the corporation tends to be extremely anti-Capitalist (hence the need for corporate anti-trust laws), meaning that the increasing level of political acquiescence to corporations as a left-wing trend.

    This coming from a political cynic that largely sees the two-party nonsense as being a false dichotomy. I'm not saying it to in some way discredit any political party, but rather to point out that corporations as a concept are largely misinterpreted.
    Usually, people associate more government control and more government benefits with the political left. Corporations often lead the charge for de-regulation and lower taxes (which necessitates less benefits), making this a very odd claim, indeed.

    Corporations aren't inherently anti-capitalist. They are very strong proponents of free markets, when it comes to their suppliers or new markets they're trying to break into. They only oppose free markets when it puts them at a disadvantage. It's understandable, but we need to be clear about the fact that they're only looking out for their shareholders - not what's best for society, at large.

    The core idea of corporations is that, by gathering a large group of people under the same legal and economic entity, there are efficiencies to be gained over the case where the same group of people work for different companies, each with different incentives and liabilities.

    I have no problem with this, but it's the idea that corporations have the same legal rights as a citizen, to which I object. Coporations are pathologically driven to maximize profit. Even that is fine. But, it means they need to be treated differently, under the law, than you or me.
    Reply