CyberTech Rambler

March 1, 2007

Silly move to use IP laws to silence critics

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:43 am

Remember Prof Felten, the guy who broke SDMI and was initially silenced by RIAA using DMCA? It is one case of attempting to use IP laws to silence critics but all it did was to force RIAA to retract the law suite and give RIAA a bad name.

Then there is the case of Dmitry Sklyarov, who was arrested by FBI agents on behalf of Acrobat for cracking e-book protection outside the United States. Acrobat, under severe pressure from the computing community, was forced to withdrew its support for the FBI case. This is the worst case that had been publicized so far.

Do you expect others to learn a lesson? Yes, they did. They learned that you can use the law to your advantage, even if it is not in the spirit of the law. Felten case shows that the law can be used to silence your critics by threatening him/her with a lawsuit based on dubious claim that you know they
cannot afford to defend themselves. Sklyarov case is worst because it shows that if someone uses your legitimate creation for illegitimate reasons, perhaps in another jurisdiction, you can be held liable.

Hence, it is not surprise to find that a Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID tags) manufacturer is using patent to try to silent critics. The claim is that to demonstrate the vulnerability of the RFID tags, you need to clone functionality of the RFID tags and with that cloning, you violate patents held by the manufacturer. This claim is at best dubious and likely to be thrown out of court. Again, it is attempting to use the “expensive lawsuit” strategy to improperly protect its market. Repugnant indeed.

In the end, the manufacturer itself is going to be the main victim. This strategy only help silence legitimate and well meaning critics. It cannot hope to use the same tactics criminals to stop cloning its RFID tags. Without critics, the chances that its business collapse because some criminals successfully undermine its markets increases. This should not a comforting thought but somehow it sounds like it.

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