The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing two researchers suing to overturn the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s long-controversial ban on circumventing digital anti-piracy protections, calling it an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.
Johns Hopkins University professor and security researcher Matthew Green, who has previously found flaws in car security systems and Apple’s iMessage network, has avoided doing certain research because of the risk of getting sued under the 1998 law. And inventor Andrew “bunnie” Huang, author of Hacking the Xbox and cofounder of early IoT company Chumby, says the law is effectively preventing him from developing a device to add text, like commentary, to HDMI video. Decrypting the copy-protected streams is necessary to modify them but prohibited under the law.
The law lets the Librarian of Congress grant exemptions for research and other purposes, but the EFF argues that’s not enough to pass First Amendment muster.
“The combined ban and exemption process grants excessive power to a government official to make discretionary case-by-case decisions absent sufficient controlling standards,” the civil liberties group said in a complaint.