DMCA strikes again in N2H2 filtering list case

First amendment does not apply

A Federal Judge has dismissed an application to permit a Harvard researcher to obtain a list of sites blocked by a censorware tool through reverse-engineering.

Ben Edelman, a Harvard Law student and well-known online activist, had sought permission to reverse-engineer the list of Web sites blocked by N2H2, a process in possible violation of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A lawsuit brought on Edelman's behalf last July by the American Civil Liberties Union's challenged this aspect of the DMCA.

Edelman wants to obtain access to a list of sites blocked using N2H2's Internet filtering software, which is widely used in libraries and schools, to investigate the accuracy of its list.

N2H2 refused Edelman's request for a list of their blocked sites claiming that it would "compromise trade secrets".

Edelman, through the ACLU lawsuit, then sought legal protection to look "under the hood" of N2H2's filtering software. He sought protection against future DMCA-inspired lawsuits in decrypting N2H2's blocked site list and the right to publicise his research. The suit, opposed by N2H2, argued Edelman had First Amendment and "fair use" rights in seeking to obtain N2H2's concealed blocked sites list.

In a ruling issued yesterday, US District Judge Richard Stearns dismissed this application.

"There is no plausibly protected constitutional interest that Edelman can assert that outweighs N2H2's right to protect its copyrighted material from an invasive and destructive trespass," he ruled, AP reports.

The ACLU is studying its options whilst N2H2 is "pleased" with the ruling.

N2H2 spokesman David Burt, apparently too delighted to remember what the case was about, told AP: "I think it's pretty clear that people who want to analyse and criticise filters can use tools that do not involve decryption". ®

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External Links

Edelman v. N2H2, Inc. - Case Summary & Documents
In Legal First, ACLU Sues Over New Copyright Law Vs. N2H2

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