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Prof hushes SDMI crack on DMCA terror

Academic freedom takes one on the chin

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Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten, who has claimed to have helped crack the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) watermark challenge, now says he's withholding the details of his accomplishment on advice of legal counsel fearing he could open himself to prosecution under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the New York Times reports.

As we reported over a month ago, Felten and his colleagues say they stripped the watermark without degrading sound quality, but declined to participate fully in the SDMI challenge because the terms of further participation would have prevented his team from publishing their results.

But now he says lawyers are advising that, non-disclosure agreement or not, the controversial DMCA may make a criminal of him if he publishes the technical details.

There's no question that the entertainment industry crafted the DMCA in hopes of suppressing all efforts to circumvent its lousy protection schemes, even at the cost of an intolerable stifling of academic research and publishing freedoms.

That much we always assumed; but we had hoped to see academia show enough spine to resist such intimidation. If the entertainment industry can shut down the free exchange of ideas within the academic world, then surely there's no safe harbour left to any of us. ®

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