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Media Release: Online Policy Group Wins Copyright Case Against Diebold

For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 30, 2004


Will Doherty
Executive Director
Online Policy Group

Wendy Seltzer
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Online Policy Group Wins Copyright Case Against Diebold

Lawsuit Provides Recourse for ISPs Defending Free Speech

San Jose, CA - 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. Diebold is thus the first company to be held liable for violating section 512(f) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which makes it unlawful to use DMCA takedown threats when the copyright holder knows that infringement has not actually occurred.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic at Stanford Law School sued on behalf of nonprofit Internet Service Provider (ISP) Online Policy Group (OPG) and two Swarthmore students to prevent Diebold's abusive copyright claims from silencing public debate about voting.

Diebold sent dozens of cease-and-desist letters to ISPs hosting leaked internal documents revealing flaws in Diebold's e-voting machines. The company claimed copyright violations and used the DMCA to demand that the documents be taken down. One ISP, OPG, refused to remove them in the name of free speech, and thus became the first ISP to test whether it would be held liable for the actions of its users in such a situation.

"This decision is a victory for free speech and for transparency in discussions of electronic voting technology," said Wendy Seltzer, an EFF staff attorney who worked on the case. "Judge Fogel recognized the fair use of copyrighted materials in critical discussion and gave speakers a remedy when their speech is chilled by improper claims of copyright infringement."

OPG Executive Director Will Doherty said, "This ruling means that we have legal recourse to protect ourselves and our clients when we are sent misleading or abusive takedown notices."

In his decision, Judge Jeremy Fogel wrote, "No reasonable copyright holder could have believed that the portions of the email archive discussing possible technical problems with Diebold's voting machines were protected by copyright... the Court concludes as a matter of law that Diebold knowingly materially misrepresented that Plaintiffs infringed Diebold's copyright interest."

For this media release:

Online Policy Group v. Diebold case archive:

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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