Judge Tosses Tech Copyright Law Challenge

BOSTON – A federal judge on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit that challenged the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act by seeking permission for a Harvard student to probe Internet filtering software used in schools and public libraries.

The lawsuit was brought last summer by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Ben Edelman, a Harvard Law School student who has argued that such software often blocks far more than pornography and other objectionable sites.

Edelman had asked a Seattle company called N2H2 for a list of sites its software blocks, but was rebuffed. He then went to court to seek permission to reverse-engineer N2H2’s product, saying he needed court permission because the controversial 1998 law forbids the dissemination of information that could be used to bypass copyright-protection schemes.

Edelman said that without such protection from potential lawsuits he could not proceed with research he called essential.

“It’s highly desirable that these products are accurate, that when they say they’re blocking pornography, they’re really blocking pornography, not people running for Congress who talk about the evils of pornography,” he said Wednesday. “Yet the research to date indicates they make a lot of mistakes.”

N2H2 claimed that providing such information to Edelman would compromise trade secrets, and that Edelman had no legal standing to be granted such permission because there was no imminent threat he would be sued.

U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns agreed, writing in a ruling issued Wednesday that “there is no plausibly protected constitutional interest that Edelman can assert that outweighs N2H2’s right to protect its copyrighted material from an invasive and destructive trespass.”

Chris Hansen, the ACLU attorney who argued the case, said the ACLU was discussing options for other ways to challenge the law.

N2H2 spokesman David Burt said the company was pleased with the ruling.

“We think that researchers and other people who want to learn about filters already have means for doing that,” Burt said. “I think it’s pretty clear that people who want to analyze and criticize filters can use tools that do not involve decryption.”

Read the judges full decision and other related documents here:

Author: Justin Pope

News Service: Yahoo! News

URL: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030409/ap_on_hi_te/digital_copyright_aclu

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