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“Shift Key” Madness

Is it the moon, something in the water, the Cubs and Red Sox both getting out of the first round of the playoffs? First the Tommy Chong sentence, now this.

We told you a couple of days ago about the Halderman report on the flaws in SunnComm’s “secure digital” format. Now SunnComm is threatening to sue:

    On Thursday, SunnComm CEO Peter Jacobs said the company plans legal action and is considering both criminal and civil suits. He said it may charge the student with maligning the company’s reputation and, possibly, with violating copyright law that bans the distribution of tools for breaking through digital piracy safeguards.

    “We feel we were the victim of an unannounced agenda and that the company has been wronged,” Jacobs said. “I think the agenda is: ‘Digital property should belong to everyone on the Internet.’ I’m not sure that works in the marketplace.”

    The cases are already being examined by some intellectual-property lawyers for their potential to test the extremes of a controversial copyright laws that block the distribution of information or software that breaks or “circumvents” copy-protection technologies.

    ….In his paper, published on the Princeton Web site on Monday, the student explained that the SunnComm technique relies on installing antipiracy software directly from the protected CD itself. However, this can be prevented by stopping Microsoft Windows’ “auto-run” feature. That can be done simply by pushing the Shift key as the CD loads.

    If the CD does load and installs the software, Halderman identified the driver file that can be disabled using standard Windows tools. Free-speech activists said the nature of Halderman’s instructions–which appeared in an academic paper, used only functions built into every Windows computer, and were not distributed for profit–meant they would not fall under DMCA scrutiny.

    “This is completely outrageous,” said Fred von Lohmann, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that has previously represented computer academics concerned that copyright law would impair their ability to publish. “This is not black hat (hackers’) exploits he’s revealing. This is Windows 101…It is relatively hard to imagine any better example of how the DMCA has been misused since it was passed five years ago.” [CNET]

The petulant pricks are mad that their elaborate “system” can be so easily circumvented. This is an academic review of the system – tough shit, it doesn’t work very well. Should Halderman have pretended it does work well? Should he have lied? Should we all remove the shift key from our computers? I don’t know how much more massively stupid shit I can take today without breaking something.

    Halderman said he’s not overly worried about the legal threat. The EFF represented his advisor, Princeton professor Edward Felten, in a lawsuit dealing with academic freedom to publish computer security information, and Princeton University supported Felten in that case.

    “I expect I will be well represented in the case of a lawsuit,” Halderman said. “If pressing the Shift key is a violation of the DMCA, then the law needs to be changed.”

Finally – the voice of reason.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014.Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted.Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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