San Francisco - Defending the right to link to controversial
information about flaws in electronic voting systems, EFF
announced today it will defend an Internet Service Provider
(ISP) and a news website publisher against claims of
indirect copyright infringement from the electronic voting
On October 10, 2003, electronic voting company Diebold,
Inc., sent a cease-and-desist letter to the nonprofit Online
Policy Group (OPG) ISP demanding that OPG remove a page of
links published on an Independent Media Center (IndyMedia)
website located on a computer server hosted by OPG.
Diebold sent out dozens of similar notices to ISPs hosting
IndyMedia and other websites linking to or publishing copies
of Diebold internal memos. OPG is the only ISP so far to
resist the takedown demand from Diebold.
"What topic could be more important to our democracy than
discussions about the mechanics and legitimacy of electronic
voting systems now being introduced nationwide?" said EFF
Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer. "EFF won't stand by as
corporations like Diebold chill important online debate by
churning out legal notices to ISPs that usually just take
down legitimate content rather than face the legal risk."
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) passed by
Congress in 1998 provides a "safe harbor" as an incentive
for ISPs to take down user-posted content when they receive
cease-and-desist letters such as the ones sent by Diebold.
By removing the content, or forcing the user to do so, for a
minimum of 10 days, an ISP can take itself out of the middle
of any copyright claim. As a result, few ISPs have tested
whether they would face any liability for such user activity
in the first place. EFF has been exposing some of the ways
the safe harbor limits online speech through the Chilling
"We defend strongly the free speech right of our client
IndyMedia to publish links to Diebold memos relevant to the
public debate about electronic voting machine security,"
explained OPG Executive Director Will Doherty. "Diebold's
claim of copyright infringement from linking to information
posted elsewhere on the Web is ridiculous, and even more
silly is the claim that we as an ISP could be liable for our
client's web links."
- Cease-and-desist letter Diebold sent to OPG
- IndyMedia Web page subject to Diebold cease-and-desist
- Security researchers discover huge flaws in e-voting system
- Link to Chilling Effects on DMCA safe harbor provisions
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Online Policy Group