7.15 Edelman v N2H2
The combination of filtering software and the DMCA have allegedly provided particular problems for Harvard University student and researcher Ben Edelman. His concerns about personal liability relate directly to the issues in the CPHack and DeCSS cases we have covered. In July 2002 Edelman sued one of the largest filter software companies, N2H2, asking the court that he be allowed to conduct and publish his research on their software without fear of civil or criminal liability under the DMCA.
In April 2003, a US District Court judge in Boston dismissed Edelman's case, saying ‘… there is no plausibly protected constitutional interest that [plaintiff] Edelman can assert that outweighs N2H2's right to protect its copyrighted property from an invasive and destructive trespass …’ (Edelman and his backers, the American Civil Liberties Union, let the appeal deadline pass without lodging an appeal, so the case is now closed). That one sentence in the judge's decision has raised some controversy. Trespassing on copyright was not a previously recognised offence.
The OpenNet Initiative, launched in February 2004, in which Edelman is involved, is now operating as ‘a “clearinghouse” for circumvention technologies which assesses and evaluates systems intended to let users bypass filtering and surveillance’ and also actively developing ‘circumvention technologies in-house as a means to explore the limitations of filtration and counter-filtration practices.’
Edelman maintains a web page about the Edelman v N2H2 case at Harvard.