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Media Release: ISP Rejects Diebold Copyright Claims Against News Website

For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 16, 2003


Will Doherty
Executive Director
Online Policy Group

ISP Rejects Diebold Copyright Claims Against News Website

EFF Defends Right to Publish Links to Electronic Voting Memos

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 machines' manufacturer.

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 Effects Clearinghouse.

"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."

For this media release:

Cease-and-desist letter Diebold sent to OPG:

IndyMedia Web page subject to Diebold cease-and-desist letter:

Security researchers discover huge flaws in e-voting system:

Link to Chilling Effects on DMCA safe harbor provisions:

About OPG:

The Online Policy Group (OPG) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to online policy research, outreach, and action on issues such as access, privacy, the digital divide, and digital defamation. The organization fulfills its motto of "One Internet With Equal Access for All" through programs such as donation-based email, email list hosting, website hosting, domain registrations, colocation services, technical consulting, educational training, and refurbished computer donations. The California Community Colocation Project (CCCP) and QueerNet are OPG projects. OPG focuses on Internet participants' civil liberties and human rights, like access, privacy, safety, and serving schools, libraries, disabled, elderly, youth, women, and sexual, gender, and ethnic minorities. Find out more at

About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world at

About IndyMedia:

Indymedia is an international network working to build a decentralized, non-commercial media infrastructure to counter an increasingly consolidated corporate media. Indymedia collectives have spread rapidly since the WTO protests in Seattle 1999, with IMC groups now working throughout North & South America, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania, accessible through

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