[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

/.: Reverse Engineering, DMCA, UCITA und Censorware



So far, this is more or less the same story that took place in 1997 with another blocking
program, CYBERsitter, right down to Jonathan Wallace posting a page about
CYBERsitter and getting his site blocked. First, several people posted articles criticizing
CYBERsitter's policies, and slowly CYBERsitter's public image deteriorated as word
got out that they were blocking sites which criticized their company (even Time
magazine got blocked, and then posted an article about how they found themselves on
CYBERsitter's list). Then in April 1997, Peacefire released a program that broke the
encryption on CYBERsitter's list of blocked URL's. CYBERsitter sent Peacefire a
threatening letter demanding that we take down the program and remove all of our links
to CYBERsitter's Web page. Jim Tyre, a volunteer lawyer and future founding member
of the Censorware Project, sent CYBERsitter a reply telling them they had no case, and
we never heard from them again. But UCITA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,
and the two court injunctions against the right to post DeCSS, didn't exist in 1997. If we
had released the CYBERsitter codebreaker today, would CYBERsitter actually file a

The outcome of the DeCSS court cases could, in fact, determine the rights of a private
citizen to embarrass a big software company by reverse engineering their products and
catching them in a lie. It's easy to forget the importance of legal protection for reverse
engineering, because sometimes public opinion is enough: RealNetworks never sued
Richard Smith when he revealed that copies of RealPlayer included a "globally unique
identifier" to track user's listening habits, and Microsoft never sued Andrew Schulman
when he discovered that Windows 3.1 threw up fake error messages about DR-DOS.
These were large companies that would have been crucified if they had tried to sue
someone for discovering something that the public thought they had a right to know
anyway. But legal protections are still important, because sometimes public opinion isn't
enough - when the software company doesn't have much of an online reputation to
worry about, or when then they have a reputation but they don't care about it. 


Kristian Köhntopp, NetUSE Kommunikationstechnologie GmbH
Siemenswall, D-24107 Kiel, Germany, +49 431 386 436 00
Using PHP3? See our web development library at
http://phplib.netuse.de/ (We have moved! Update your bookmarks!)