ENSCHEDE, Netherlands--Wearing a shirt emblazoned with a four-letter word,
which he hoped would repel the U.S. media, Eric Corley kicked of the
Hackers At Large (HAL) 2001 conference today here by urging attendees to
fight a European version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Corley, better known under the pen name Emmanuel Goldstein, was the first
person prosecuted under the civil provisions of the DMCA when the Motion
Picture Association of America (MPAA) sued him and his 2600 Magazine for
posting the DeCSS program, which can be used to bypass the scrambling on
Hackers at HAL are infuriated by the more recent use of the DMCA to launch
criminal charges last month against Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian programmer
who was arrested in the U.S. for authoring a program that breaks Adobe's
weak eBook copy protection. Sklyarov was freed Monday on $50,000 bail, but
faces up to five years in prison if convicted under the U.S. law.
"Everyone knows that the way we do things back in America is destructive
and self defeating and sometimes I think that the rest of the world is
tolerating us just to see how badly we [screw] up," said Corley. "But if
you don't resist our domination and the way we deal with problems, you
will be playing by our rules."
U.S. considered 'dangerous' territory
HAL attendee Tom Vogt, who was sued by the DVD Copy Control Association
(DVD-CCA) under trade secret laws for posting a DeCSS mirror site in 1999,
said he is already feeling fallout from the Sklyarov case.
"I have an offer from a large company in the U.S to attend a workshop as a
speaker and I am very seriously considering not going because of this
DMCA...," said Vogt who is a security professional at German ISP Hansenet
in Hamburg. "I consider even visiting the States an unmanageable personal
risk, a lot of people I talk to think very similarly and consider the
States a dangerous place to visit."
Even if he remains in Germany, Vogt said he may not be entirely safe from
the long arm of the entertainment industry. He noted that members of the
Hague Convention are drafting a treaty that would extend
the reach of U.S. law to all member countries. This would allow U.S.
companies and organizations to sue a researcher under the DMCA in their
country of residence.
In the meantime, a version of the DMCA is already heading for Europe under
the Copyright Directive drafted by the European Commission in April.
Spurred by the 1996 WIPO Treaty on intellectual property, the Directive
uses much of the same language found in the DMCA.
European nations have 18 months to embed the directive in their national
laws, says Vogt, time enough to make exemptions for fair use and define
the vague language of what denotes an "effective" circumvention method.
"To avoid being arrested in Europe, we must put pressure on national
governments so the laws they enact are not the equivalent of the DMCA,"
But Jonathan Callas, a senior systems architect for platform engineering
at Wave Systems Corp. in Cupertino, CA, said he is optimistic that the
Sklyarov case will provide the momentum to overturn the anti-circumvention
provisions of the DMCA.
Callas, who testified for the U.S. Congress during while the DMCA was
being drafted, fought for the anti-circumvention exceptions for security
In a HAL workshop entitled, the Effect of Anti-Circumvention provisions on
Security, Callas said anti-circumvention laws should be tied to actual
"I know some people who have researched remarkable weaknesses on video
encryption techniques and one of the fallouts of the Dmitry case is that
they are not sure if it is legal to publish the results," said Callas.
"They are declining to do so, but the pirates will figure it out."
Callas noted that the DMCA is supposed to be reviewed every two or three
years by the Librarian of Congress. He believes that the upcoming court
decision on the right of Princeton professor Ed Felten to publish security
research that the recording industry attempted to suppress under the DMCA
will help prompt revision of the Act.
"I might be naively optimistic, but I know that Congress did not intend
this to happen at the time," said Callas who said the extraterritorial
aspects of the Sklyarov case frighten him most. "I was there when Billy
Tozan, the Congressman from Louisiana who is chair of the
telecommunications subcommittee, wagged a finger at the guy from the MPAA
and said, 'I do not want this to be another Betamax case in three years.'"
In the meantime, Callas and others at HAL are calling for a boycott of
eBooks and wondering whether they would jump bail if they were Sklyarov. By Ann Harrison