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2003-10-30

ISP Defies Electronic Voting Machine Maker’s Copyright Claims

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Electronic voting company Diebold sent out dozens of notices to ISPs linking to or publishing copies of controversial internal Diebold memos demanding they remove the information from their websites. One ISP, Online Policy Group, rejected the takedown demand. [includes transcript]

Three weeks ago, electronic voting company Diebold sent a letter to a nonprofit Internet Service Provider named Online Policy Group (OPG) demanding that they remove a page of links that was published on a website hosted by them. The website linked to controversial information about flaws in electronic voting systems.

Diebold sent out dozens of similar notices to ISPs linking to or publishing copies of Diebold internal memos. OPG is the only ISP so far to resist the takedown demand from Diebold. The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently announced they would defend OPG.

  • Wendy Seltzer, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She is a fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. She also founded and developed the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a project to study and combat the legal threats that chill activity on the Internet.

AMY GOODMAN: Three weeks ago, electronic voting company Diebold sent a letter to a nonprofit internet service provider, named On-line Policy Group, demanding they remove a page of links that was published on a website hosted by them. The website linked to controversial information about flaws in electronic voting systems. Diebold sent out dozens of these threatening notices to ISPs, linking to or publishing copies of Diebold’s internal Memos — like Indymedia sites. O.P.G. is the only ISP so far to resist the takedown demand from Diebold.

Electronic Frontier Foundation recently announced they are going to defend O.P.G. — Wendy Seltzer, staff attorney for the Foundation, is a fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and has founded and developed the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a project to study and combat the legal threats to chill the activity on the internet.

Tell us what is going on here with Diebold and what has been posted and what they want taken down.

WENDY SELTZER: Thank you very much, Amy.

What concerns Electronic Frontier Foundation here is that Diebold is using copyright law to chill the debate around the security of its electronic voting machines.

E.F.F. first got involved with the E-voting controversy over —when we were asked by technologists for some help in the debate. Technologists at Weiss and Johns Hopkins who were doing some of the studies of the securities and insecurities of these machines, as your other guests have discussed earlier.

But in this case, Indymedia published some links to the internal documents that Congressman Holt mentioned, the E-Mails from Diebold employees discussing the cavalier ways that they treated voting machines.

This was just another software project and if they had some bugs that survived to the last minute or didn’t get fixed, well, that was something to fix in the next round of programming.

If the memory cards could be overwritten or inserted and suddenly upgraded to administrator level, well, that was a matter of concern. But — we get to that for next election.

All sorts of things in these memos that are really — that we need to understand the security of these machines and they really advance the debate on electronic voting.

So, San Francisco Indymedia, a client of On-line Policy Group, posted links to these memoranda in the context of a story that it was running, discussing the security and insecurity of E-voting — and Diebold sent a legal threat letter to On-line Policy Group, the ISP hosting Indymedia, demanding that O.P.G. terminate the hosting of Indymedia or remove this page of links as a matter of copyright law because it claimed these internal E-Mails were the copyrighted property of Diebold, and claimed that the ISP could face liability for the hosting of a page of links, yet another step removed from the underlying documents.

And there is a provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that gives a safe harbor to ISPs who do take down material when asked. If they take it down for a periods of 10 days, then if counter-notified, they can replace it.

But On-line Policy Group, which is a nonprofit ISP that is dedicated to free speech and important policy questions, said that this was a debate that it didn’t want to stop for a period of 10 days over a claim — A copyright claim that it didn’t feel was justified.

So, On-line Policy Group said it would stand up for the rights of Indymedia, as clients, to continue linking and would not remove these pages or terminate its client and Diebold then sent a letter to On-line Policy Groupís upstream provider — Repeating these claims of copyright infringement and demanding that Hurricane Electric terminate On-line Policy Group for the copyright infringement that Diebold claims is going on here.

AMY GOODMAN: What have they done?

WENDY SELTZER: What is that?

AMY GOODMAN: What have they done?

WENDY SELTZER: So far, they have not acted. They’ve said that while it is just linking, they are comfortable with that on one request.

But they are concerned because this is a serious claim and so Electronic Frontier Foundation and On-line Policy Group are looking into the next steps that we can take to re-assure ISPs that this is not, in fact, copyright infringement and it is not putting their internet connectivity in danger.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re certainly going to follow the story, but also interesting here is what it is they’re all linking to.

Something that shows flaws within the voting system and the company, Diebold, claiming that this is proprietary information and that it should not be viewed by the public.

I want to thank you very much, Wendy Seltzer, for joining us, staff attorney for the Electric Frontier Foundation and Andrew Gumbel, who has done a piece in the ìLondon Independentî called "All the President’s Votes" and also has a piece today in "L.A. City Beat" on the issue of electronic voting. Congressman Rush Holt also with us, a Congressman who has introduced the bill that would require at least a paper confirmation of how a person votes in a voting booth.


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