File Sharing Pits Copyright Against Free Speech [pdf] — this is a very lengthy piece
Forbidden files are circulating on the Internet and threats of lawsuits are in the air. Music trading? No, it is the growing controversy over one company’s electronic voting systems, and the issues being raised, some legal scholars say, are as fundamental as the sanctity of elections and the right to free speech.
Diebold Election Systems, which makes voting machines, is waging legal war against grass-roots advocates, including dozens of college students, who are posting on the Internet copies of the company’s internal communications about its electronic voting machines.
The students say that, by trying to spread the word about problems with the company’s software, they are performing a valuable form of electronic civil disobedience, one that has broad implications for American society. They also contend that they are protected by fair use exceptions in copyright law.
Diebold, however, says it is a case of copyright infringement, and has sent cease-and-desist orders to the students and, in many cases, their colleges, demanding that the 15,000 e-mail messages and memorandums be removed from each Web site. “We reserve the right to protect that which we feel is proprietary,” a spokesman for Diebold, David Bear, said.
[…] Last week the advocates’ efforts to keep the documents online took another step as Freenet, an international anticensorship organization that promotes the anonymous distribution of files, obtained copies of the Diebold documents. The technology that the network uses is a peer-to-peer service, and is similar in many ways to the software behind file-trading companies like Kazaa and the original Napster.
Legal scholars say that the online protest and the use of copyright law by Diebold have broad implications and show that the copyright wars are about more than whether Britney Spears gets royalties from downloaded songs. (emphasis added)