SDMI Challenge Participants May Face DMCA Action

The SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) held a public challenge last year to break there proposed encryption schemes. It turns out a group of researchers from Princeton University broke all of the protection mechanisms and were due to publish a paper at the 4th International Information Hiding Workshop (25-29 of April) but have been threatened with the reverse engineering clause of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) if they publish there findings.

The SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) held a public challenge last year to break there proposed encryption schemes. It turns out a group of researchers from Princeton University broke all of the protection mechanisms and were due to publish a paper at the 4th International Information Hiding Workshop (25-29 of April) but have been threatened with the reverse engineering clause of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) if they publish there findings.

Below is the letter received from the SDMI.


April 9, 2001

Professor Edward Felton
Department of Computer Science
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544

Dear Professor Felten,

We understand that in conjunction with the 4th International Information Hiding Workshop to be held April 25-29, 2001, you and your colleagues who participated in last year’s Secure Digital Music Initiative (“SDMI”) Public Challenge are planning to publicly release information concerning the technologies that were included in that challenge and certain methods you and your colleagues developed as part of your participation in the challenge. On behalf of the SDMI Foundation, I urge you to reconsider your intentions and to refrain from any public disclosure of confidential information derived from the Challenge and instead engage SDMI in a constructive dialogue on how the academic aspects of your research can be shared without jeopardizing the commercial interests of the owners of the various technologies.

As you are aware, at least one of the technologies that was the subject of the Public Challenge, the Verance Watermark, is already in commercial use and the disclosure of any information that might assist others to remove this watermark would seriously jeopardize the technology and the content it protects.1 Other technologies that were part of the Challenge are either likewise in commercial use or could be could be utilized in this capacity in the near future. Therefore, any disclosure of information that would allow the defeat of those technologies would violate both the spirit and the terms of the Click-Through Agreement (the “Agreement”). In addition, any disclosure of information gained from participating in the Public Challenge would be outside the scope of activities permitted by the Agreement and could subject you and your research team to actions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DCMA”).


1 The Verance Watermark is currently used for DVD-Audio and SDMI Phase I products and certain portions of that technology are trade secrets.

We appreciate your position, as articulated in the Frequently Asked Questions document, that the purpose of releasing your research is not designed to “help anyone impose or steal anything.” Further more, you participation in the Challenge and your contemplated disclosure appears to be motivated by a desire to engage in scientific research that will ensure that SDMI does not deploy a flawed system. Unfortunately, the disclosure that you are contemplating could result in significantly broader consequences and could directly lead to the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. Such disclosure is not authorized in the Agreement, would constitute a violation of the Agreement and would subject your research team to enforcement actions under the DMCA and possibly other federal laws.

As you are aware, the Agreement covering the Public challenge narrowly authorizes participants to attack the limited number of music samples and files that were provided by SDMI. The specific purpose of providing these encoded files and for setting up the Challenge was to assist SDMI in determining which of the proposed technologies are best suited to protect content in Phase II products. The limited waiver of rights (including possible DMCA claims) that was contained in the Agreement specifically prohibits participants from attacking content protected by SDMI technologies outside the Public Challenge. If your research is released to the public this is exactly what could occur. In short, you would be facilitating and encouraging the attack of copyrighted content outside the limited boundaries of the Public Challenge and thus places you and your researchers in direct violation of the Agreement.

In addition, because public disclosure of your research would be outside the limited authorization of the Agreement, you could be subject to enforcement actions under federal law, including the DMCA. The Agreement specifically reserves any rights that proponents of the technology being attacked may have “under any applicable law, including, without limitation, the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, for any acts not expressly authorized by their Agreement.” The Agreement simply does not “expressly authorize” participants to disclose information and research developed through participating in the Public challenge and such disclosure could be the subject of a DMCA action.

We recognize and appreciate your position, made clear throughout this process, that it is not your intention to engage in any illegal behavior or to otherwise jeopardize the legitimate commercial interests of others. We are concerned that your actions are outside the peer review process established by the Public Challenge and setup by engineers and other experts to ensure the academic integrity of this project. With these facts in mind, we invite you to work with the SDMI Foundation to find a way for you to share the academic components of your research while remaining true to your intention to not violate the law or the Agreement. In the meantime, we urge you to withdraw the paper submitted for the upcoming Information Hiding Workshop, assure that it is removed from the Workshop distribution materials and destroyed, and avoid a public discussion of confidential information.

Sincerely,

[Signature]

Matthew Oppenheim, Secretary
The SDMI Foundation

cc: Mr. Ira S. Moskowitz, Program Chair, Information Hiding Workshop, Naval Research Laboratory
Cpt. Douglas S. Rau, USN, Commanding Officer, Naval Research Laboratory
Mr. Howard Ende, General Counsel of Princeton
Mr. Edward Dobkin, Computer Science Department Head of Princeton


Also a copy of the paper “Reading Between the Lines: Lessons from the SDMI Challenge” that was going to be presented has gotten onto Cryptome.org. I think this might turn into another DVD/DeCSS case.

Author: Slashdot.org

News Service: Slashdot.org

URL: http://slashdot.org/articles/01/04/21/1319251.shtml