- Diebold Election Systems, which makes voting machines, is waging legal war against grass-roots advocates, including dozens of college students, who are posting on the Internet copies of the company’s internal communications about its electronic voting machines.
The students say that, by trying to spread the word about problems with the company’s software, they are performing a valuable form of electronic civil disobedience, one that has broad implications for American society. They also contend that they are protected by fair use exceptions in copyright law.
Diebold, however, says it is a case of copyright infringement, and has sent cease-and-desist orders to the students and, in many cases, their colleges, demanding that the 15,000 e-mail messages and memorandums be removed from each Web site. “We reserve the right to protect that which we feel is proprietary,” a spokesman for Diebold, David Bear, said.
The files circulating online include thousands of e-mail messages and memorandums dating to March 2003 from January 1999 that include discussions of bugs in Diebold’s software and warnings that its computer network are poorly protected against hackers. Diebold has sold more than 33,000 machines, many of which have been used in elections.
Advocates and journalists have mined the trove of corporate messages to find statements that appear to suggest many continuing security problems with the software that runs the system, and last-minute software changes that, by law, are generally not allowed after election authorities have certified the software for an election.
….Legal scholars say that the online protest and the use of copyright law by Diebold have broad implications and show that the copyright wars are about more than whether Britney Spears gets royalties from downloaded songs.
“We’re so focused on the microview – whether EMI is going to make a buck next year – but there is so much more at stake in our battle to control the flows of information,” including issues at the core of free speech and democracy itself, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor in the department of culture and communication at New York University.
….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.” [NY Times]
Insert Smug Prick here:
- Diebold has become a favorite target of advocates who accuse it of partisanship: company executives have made large contributions to the Republican Party and the chief executive, Walden W. O’Dell, said in an invitation to a fund-raiser that he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.”
He has since said that he will keep a lower political profile. Diebold has been trying to stop the dissemination of the files for months with cease and desist letters, but the number of sources for the documents continues to proliferate. Then in July, the first evaluation of the purloined software from recognized authorities in the field – a team involving experts and Johns Hopkins University and Rice University – found several serious holes in the software’s computer security which, if exploited, could allow someone to vote repeatedly, or to change the votes of others. A later review of the software for the State of Maryland agreed that the software flaws did exist, but that in the practice of real elections, other safety nets of security would keep the vulnerabilities in the code from being exploited. Diebold has said it has been working to fix problems.
….Some observers of the fight say it is having an effect beyond ones and zeroes and virtual forms of hanging chad. Bev Harris, who is writing a book on the electronic voting industry, was among the first people to place the Diebold files online.
She said that when she began her research, young people tended to tell her that voting was irrelevant to their lives. That is changing, she said; “What more important thing can we do so that we can get them involved, and see how important voting is?”
Copyright? Proprietary? These hapless plugs just don’t want the word out that the security for their voting machines can be used to drain spaghetti. The DMCA is a vile stench that must be purged.