Monday, November 03, 2003

New York Times: Is Diebold and others trying to squash freedom of speech? 

Commondreams.org published this article from the New York Times, on the efforts of corporations who own the voting machines to recover stolen emails and documents that have been circulated online:

Nelson Pavlosky, a sophomore at Swarthmore from Morristown, N.J., who put documents online through the campus organization Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons said the cease-and-desist letters were “a perfect example of how copyright law can be and is abused by corporations like Diebold” to stifle freedom of speech. He said that he and other advocates wished the college had decided to fight instead of take down the files.

“We feel like they wimped out,” Mr. Pavlosky said.

But with each takedown, the publicity grows through online discussion and media coverage, and more and more people join the fray, giving Diebold’s efforts a Sorcerer’s Apprentice feel. The advocates, meanwhile, are finding that civil disobedience carries risks. One student who posted the documents and has received a letter, Zac Elliott of Indiana University, said, “I’m starting to worry about the ramifications for my entire family if I end up in some sort of legal action.”

Copyright law, and specifically the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, are being abused by Diebold, said Wendy Seltzer, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group. Copyright is supposed to protect creative expression, Ms. Seltzer said, but in this case the law is being evoked “because they don’t want the facts out there.”

The foundation is advising many students informally and helping them to find legal aid, and it is representing the Online Policy Group, a nonprofit Internet service provider that got a cease-and-desist letter from Diebold after links to the documents were published on a news Web site that the group posts.