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US Supports RIAA, Violates WIPO
By Eric de Fontenay (Founder & Publisher)
(more articles from this author)
2003-04-24
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It was quite a surprise that John Ashcroft's Justice Department would side with the RIAA in its legal fight to have Verizon hand personal account information of suspected file sharers. Mr. Ashcroft has usually found himself at odds with privacy advocates, while remembering the rebukes from Congress for not doing enough to enforce existing laws like the NET Act.

So it was with some surprised that I read in CNET that the US government would promote software to circumvent security measures implemented by the Chinese Government to block 'undesired' content. The article reports that the software "digs a tunnel under a firewall set up by a government, corporation, school or other organization" while creating "anonymity by covering the Web surfer's tracks." While it's not obvious how they are to get the software in the hands of Chinese surfers ('the chicken-and-egg conundrum'), the move raises some fowl issues. Let alone that the US government is promoting technology that could be used to share illegal music & movie files over corporate and academic network or outwit content filters used to protect libraries from smut, the policy is in clear violation of America's obligations under World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties.

Specifically, Article 11 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) provides:

"Contracting Parties shall provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against the circumvention of effective technological measures that are used by authors in connection with the exercise of their rights under this Treaty or the Berne Convention and that restrict acts, in respect of their works, which are not authorized by the authors concerned or permitted by law."

As such, DMCA includes civil and criminal liability for the circumvention of copyright protection technologies. Certainly one could argue that Chinese blocking is not meant to protect the author, to the contrary depriving them of potential revenue. But from a legal point of view, this is irrelevant - the Chinese government is simply using perfectly legal tools to enforce its own national laws. How can the US government promote circumvention of legal blocking technology, and in the process Chinese law, when it is mandating the use of content filtering and site blocking in US public libraries. Nor should it be forgotten that the US companies providing the Chinese government with the blocking technology,like Microsoft and Sun, have also vigorously fought, with the support of the DoJ and courts, any attempts to circumvent their own technology, even in the cases of academic research.

How ironic it would be if Chinese nationals used circumvention technology promoted/provided by the US government to illicitly download/swap music and films presently being purposely or innocently blocked.

- Software Rams Great Firewall of China

Related News from Mi2N:
» Justice Department Supports RIAA In Verizon Case


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