Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release

Security Researchers Drop Scientific Censorship Case

Government, Industry Claim DMCA Not a Threat to Science

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, February 6, 2002

San Francisco - Citing assurances from the government, the recording industry, and a federal court that the threats against his research team were ill-conceived and will not be repeated, Professor Edward Felten and his research team decided not to appeal the November dismissal of their case by a New Jersey Federal Court.

The government stated in documents filed with the court in November 2001 that "scientists attempting to study access control technologies" are not subject to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The Recording Industry Association of America echoed this, stating "we felt Felten should publish his findings, because everyone benefits from research into the vulnerabilities of security mechanisms."

"Based on these and other statements from the government and the recording industry, the judge dismissed our case," noted Princeton Professor Ed Felten. "Although we would have preferred an enforceable court ruling, our research team decided to take the government and industry at their word that they will never again threaten publishers of scientific research that exposes vulnerabilities in security systems for copyrighted works."

The research team led by Professor Felten included professors Bede Liu and Daniel Wallach and researchers Scott Craver, Min Wu, Ben Swartzlander, Adam Stubblefield, and Richard Drews Dean.

Together with USENIX, an association of over 10,000 technologists that publishes such scientific research, Princeton Professor Edward Felten and his research team had asked the court to declare that they have a First Amendment right to discuss and publish their work, even if it may discuss weaknesses in the technological systems used to control digital music. The DMCA, passed in 1998, outlaws providing technology and information that can be used to gain access to a copyrighted work.

The recording industry threatened the researchers under the DMCA for their planned release of a research paper describing the defects in the proposed Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) lock-down schemes for audio CDs. The original threats led the researchers to withdraw the paper from a planned conference. In response to the lawsuit, the recording industry promised not to sue the research team or USENIX for presenting the research at a USENIX security conference in August 2001.

"The statements by the government and the recording industry indicate that they now recognize they can't use the DMCA to squelch science," added EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "If they are as good as their word, science can continue unabated. Should they backslide, EFF will be there."


Documents related to the case:   http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/Felten_v_RIAA/

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:


Cindy Cohn, EFF Legal Director
  +1 415-436-9333 x108

Ed Felten, Professor
  +1 650-723-0366 (temporarily)

- end -

Please send any questions or comments to webmaster@eff.org.