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DMCA is dead, part II

Another chink in the DCMA armor… 6/7 ReleVents hed: DCMA is dead, part II dek: Another chink in the DCMA armor. By James Mathewson

It’s only a matter of time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act will fall, because it allows organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to squelch the publishing of security research. One challenge after another to the act is coming through the courts and, at some point, a smart judge will see the arguments brought by one of its challengers as valid and will rule accordingly.

The challenge du jour comes from a familiar source, as described in a news story on our site today. Princeton University professor Edward Felten researched the rudimentary watermarking technology developed by the RIAA to prove how weak it is. He wanted to publish this research, but was threatened by the RIAA with a lawsuit, so he did not publish it.

Well, Felten needs to prove to the university and his colleagues that his work has value. But he’ll be prevented from doing so until the DCMA is challenged. He has decided, therefore, to take up that challenge, and is in turn suing the RIAA to be able to publish his research. Even if his challenge fails, others will take up the cause, and eventually will find a judge to overthrow the DCMA.

The ridiculous thing about all this is that Felten’s work only helps the RIAA. If it wants a viable watermarking technology, it should embrace Felten’s work and try to develop technologies that aren’t so easy to overcome. It’s like the corporation that puts up a lame firewall and blames the hacker that easily subverts it and notifies the company of security flaws. Most companies would praise the hacker for helping them shore up their defenses. Oh well. In the age of zero tolerance, reason has escaped them.

James Mathewson is editorial director of and ComputerUser magazine.

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