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Online Policy Group v. Diebold, Inc.

LATEST UPDATE: On October 15, 2004, Diebold agreed to pay damages and legal fees of $125,000 in a precedent-setting win for free-speech activists.

UPDATE: The judge in the case ruled on September 30, 2004, that Diebold inappropriately threatened copyright violations for those who published or linked to their corporate email archive and their Internet Service Providers like the Online Policy Group.

Diebold, Inc., manufacturer of electronic voting machines, has been sending out many cease-and-desist letters to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), after internal documents indicating flaws in their systems were published on the Internet. The company cited copyright violations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and demanded that the documents be taken down.

Now EFF and the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic at Stanford Law School are fighting back, seeking a court order on behalf of nonprofit ISP Online Policy Group (OPG) and two Swarthmore College students to prevent Diebold’s abusive copyright claims from silencing public debate about voting, the very foundation of our democratic process.

“Diebold’s blanket cease-and-desist notices are a blatant abuse of copyright law,” said EFF Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer. “Publication of the Diebold documents is clear fair use because of their direct relevance to the debate over the accuracy of electronic voting machines.”

The documents include email messages written by Diebold employees describing security flaws in the systems, as well as email discussions about how to resolve, or in some cases, obfuscate those problems.

The DMCA contains a "safe harbor" provision 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, an ISP can take itself out of the middle of any copyright claim. As a result, few ISPs have tested whether they would face liability for such user activity in a court of law.

Lawsuit Documents Media Releases

Media Coverage

*   Diebold Loses Court Case
A U.S. judge ruled in favor of two Swarthmore students who sued Diebold Inc. for falsely accusing them of violating copyright laws when they posted information on the Internet about possible flaws in its touch-screen voting machines, Akron Beacon Journal (October 5, 2004)

*   Diebold Loses Key Copyright Case
Students who sued Diebold Election Systems won their case against the voting machine maker on Thursday after a judge ruled that the company had misused the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and ordered the company to pay damages and fees, Wired News (September 30, 2004)

*   Reverse DMCA: Copyright Holder Held Liable in Landmark Legal Ruling
In a landmark case, a California district court has determined that Diebold, Inc., a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, knowingly misrepresented that online commentators, including IndyMedia and two Swarthmore college students, had infringed the company's copyrights, LinuxElectrons (September 30, 2004)

*   Overzealous Lawyers Beware: Today's Sites Are Fighting Back
Online publishers hit with cease and desist letters are no longer rolling over in the face of unreasonable demands, Online Journalism Review (USC Annenberg) (September 15, 2004)

*   Voting Machine Showdown
A leading maker of computer election equipment defends itself in court against charges that it overreached itself in trying to stifle critics, Salon (February 10, 2004)

Recent Coverage

Organizations and Related Publications

*   Diebold Coughs Up Cash in Copyright Case
The Online Policy Group (OPG) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) capped an historic victory in a copyright abuse case against electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold yesterday., Online Policy Group (October 16, 2004)

*   Online Policy Group Wins Copyright Case Against Diebold
In a landmark case in which the Online Policy Group sued voting machine manufacturer Diebold, Inc., a California district court has determined that Diebold incorrectly claimed that online commentators had infringed the company's copyrights., Online Policy Group (September 30, 2004)

*   Kucinich Requests House Judiciary Committee Hearing On Diebold's Abuses Of Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), today, sent a letter to the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee requesting that the Committee hold a hearing to investigate abuses of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by Diebold Inc., one of the nationís largest electronic voting machine manufacturers, Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (November 21, 2003)

*   Latest DMCA Takedown Victim: The Election Process
Just as a capsule summary in case you've missed it, over the last several months there has been a rising tide of concern regarding the verifiability of electronic voting machines in general and the security, reliability, and integrity of Diebold's technology in particular, Ed Foster's GripeLog (October 30, 2003)

*   This Modern World: Something Truly Terrifying
Cartoon about electronic voting machines, Tom Tomorrow via Working for Change (October 28, 2003)

Recent Publications

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