Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release

Scientists Support Professor's Copyright Law Challenge

Electronic Frontier Foundation Exposes "Chilling Effect"

For Immediate Release: Monday, August 13, 2001


Lee Tien, EFF Senior Staff Attorney
  +1 510-290-7131 (cell)
Robin Gross, EFF Intellectual Property Attorney
  +1 415-637-5310 (cell)
Monica Ortiz, USENIX Press Liaison
  +1 415-990-5513 (cell)

Trenton, NJ - Seventeen of the world's top scientists today supported Princeton University Professor Edward Felten and his research team's challenge to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on free speech grounds. Prominent academics, cryptographers, software programmers, and scientific conference organizers explained to a federal court the stifling effects of the DMCA on scientific research and freedom of expression.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represents the research team in a lawsuit filed June 6 asking a federal judge to declare that the scientists have a First Amendment right to publish their research both at the USENIX Conference in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. USENIX, fearful of threats that had been made against the organizers of the prior conference, has joined the suit, and plans to webcast the presentation of the paper on August 15.

[The USENIX "Reading Between the Lines: Lessons from the SDMI Challenge" presentation and SDMI/DMCA panel will be webcast this Wednesday from 6:00-7:30 PM Eastern (3:00-4:30 PM Pacific time). The URL is:

In his latest declaration to the court, Professor Felten explained, "I understand that Defendants advocate an interpretation of the DMCA that would outlaw analysis of systems that might be used to control the use of copyrighted materials.... [S]uch an interpretation would effectively prevent analysis of critical systems, and so would have a disastrous effect on education, research, and practice in computer security."

He further commented, "Not only in computer science, but also across all scientific fields, skeptical analysis of technical claims made by others, and the presentation of detailed evidence to support such analysis, is the heart of the scientific method. To outlaw such analysis is to outlaw the scientific method itself."

The case arose after scientists from Princeton University, Rice University, and Xerox tried to publish research that reveals flaws in the recording industry's control systems for digital music at an April 2001 conference. The recording industry claimed that a 1998 law called the DMCA prohibited the presentation of the research paper. In a series of e-mails and conference calls to the researchers, their universities, and conference organizers, recording industry attorneys intimidated the researchers into withdrawing their paper from the April conference. Hours after the paper was withdrawn, representatives of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) issued a press release claiming that they had never intended to prevent scientific speech.

Last month, the RIAA asked the court to dismiss the current lawsuit after sending a letter to the court stating that it would allow the conference to go forward, so no case or controversy exists for the court to decide. The EFF legal filing today rebuts that claim and reveals the chilling effect felt throughout the scientific community since Congress passed the DMCA and the recording industry started threatening researchers.

In legal declarations supporting the researchers, scientists worldwide expressed concern about traveling to the United States, where the FBI has already arrested and jailed a programmer for allegedly writing software or conducting research that could help someone use a copyrighted work in ways disallowed by the publisher.

Niels Ferguson, a prominent Dutch cryptographer who recently discovered major flaws in a commercial high-definition video system, told the court, "Despite the fact that I performed all the work in Amsterdam, I could face arrest if I visit the US after my research had found its way into the jurisdiction. My research is silenced since I cannot talk about my scientific results to my colleagues and peers, as is now the case since the DMCA became law in the US. Scientific freedom is not only threatened under this law, it is demonstrably curtailed."

The DMCA prohibits providing information that other people may use to circumvent the technological protection measures placed on digital files. In this case, the recording industry developed watermark technologies to help control how consumers can use digital music.

Professor Felten's team discovered that it was easy to circumvent the technologies.

"The recording industry has done untold damage by their threats to Felten and the other researchers, their universities, and the conference organizers. The resulting chilling effect on the broader scientific community continues unabated," said Robin Gross, intellectual property attorney for EFF. "We on the Felten legal team will work to ensure that industry can no longer use the DMCA to threaten freedom of speech and scientific progress."

Declaration of Professor Ed Felten (Princeton University):

Declaration of the USENIX Association:

Declaration of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM):

Declaration of the Computing Research Association (CRA):

Declaration of Prof. Andrew W. Appel (Princeton U.):

Declaration of cryptographer Matt Blaze (AT&T Laboratories):

Declaration of British programmer Alan Cox (Red Hat UK Ltd.):

Declaration of Scott Craver (Princeton U.):

Declaration of Howard Ende (General Counsel for Princeton U.):

Declaration of Dutch cryptographer Niels Ferguson (MacFergus BV):
Ferguson on the DMCA: "Censorship in action: Why I don't publish my HDCP results":

Declaration of John McHugh (general chair of the Information Hiding Workshop):

Declaration of computer security researcher Michael Reiter (Bell Labs/Lucent Technologies):

Declaration of cryptographer Bruce Schneier (Counterpane Internet Security):

Declaration of Asst. Prof. Dan Wallach (Rice U.):

Declaration of Min Wu (Princeton U.):

[More declarations coming soon.]

More Key Documents:

RIAA/SDMI April 2001 letter threatening Professor Felten and his team:

Professor Felten's website:

Listen to an audio file of the press conference held when the case was launched [MP3]:

EFF's & Professors' First Amended Complaint:

EFF's & Professors' Original Complaint:

RIAA's Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss [PDF file]:

EFF/Felten Opposition Brief against motion to dismiss:

For more information on the August USENIX Security conference:

About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression, privacy, and openness in the information society. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to Web sites in the world:


The USENIX Association, an organization representing some 10,000 computer research scientists is dedicated to the free exchange of scholarly information through its many conferences and publications. See its website at:

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