More Insanity of our IP Regime

Cryptographic expert Matt Green has filed suit in federal court to prevent his arrest if he publishes a text book on encryption:

Assistant Professor Matthew Green has asked US courts for protection so that he can write a textbook explaining cryptography without getting sued under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Green, who teaches at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, is penning a tome called Practical Cryptographic Engineering that examines the cryptographic mechanisms behind the devices we use every day, such as ATM machines, smart cars, and medical devices. But this could lead to a jail sentence if the manufacturers file a court case using Section 1201 of the DMCA.

Section 1201 prohibits the circumvention of copyright protection systems installed by manufacturers, and comes with penalties including heavy fines and possible jail time. As such, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has taken up Green’s case, and that of another researcher, to try to get the provision ruled illegal by the courts.

“If we want our communications and devices to be secure, we need to protect independent security researchers like Dr Green,” said EFF staff attorney Kit Walsh.

The history of prosecutions under section 1201 have been an exercise in the copyright holders studiously avoiding taking cases that they might lose in order to maximize the chilling effect against researchers and consumer advocates, “The US Department of Justice has asked the courts to dismiss the case on the grounds that it is highly unlikely that Green would be prosecuted.”

This chilling effect is why civil rights cases are allowed to proceed even though no one has has been prosecuted, so I find the Justice Department’s argument specious.

We have a clear demonstration of a chilling effect, both for Green and Andrew Huang, who is trying to author an open source operating system.

Of course, the DoJ, and the White House, and most of the US Congress are in the pocket of IP rights holders, it is no surprise that they are opposing the application of common sense to these restrictions.

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