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List of Politech readership requested by Mattel

By rongen in News
Sun Mar 19, 2000 at 04:35:22 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Politech is a mailing list which has reported on interesting events covering "privacy, free speech, the role of government and corporations, antitrust, and more". Recently Mattel's attorneys have sent the maintainer, Declan McCullagh, of the list a request for a partial list of names of it's readership in connection with the CyberPatrol case.


The Mattel corporation is currently suing two programmers who have found a way to "crack" the secret list of sites which are blocked by the CyberPatrol web-site blocking software. They did so because they felt that sites were being blocked by the software in an almost arbitrary manner (art galleries were getting blocked along with the porn, etc). The list of blocked sites in kept encrypted so users have no idea what may or may not be blocked. You can read more about it in this Wired News article written by McCullagh (or check another story on C|Net).

Anyway, the software package was distributed so that others could decrypt the files and see for themselves. Many would say if you own a software package that is blocking content using lists of URLs you should have the ability to view and edit that list. The "cphack" software allows that. There was a post about this case and the related software on the Politech list (a link was posted to a downloadable copy of the software, etc).

Now Mattel wants a list of the readership of Politech (really they want a list of people who may have seen this link a mailing list post). McCullagh has never mirrored the software, he merely posted a link to it in his mailing list. The attorneys CC: the mail to the site administrators where McCullagh has his list archived, etc. He seems to have "no intention of revealing the identities of politech readers to Mattel or anyone else" and I hope he sticks to his guns...

My name is on that list of readers---it has been for a while. I don't use CyberPatrol, have never downloaded "cphack", and am not associated with anyone who has, as far as I know. So why does Mattel need that list? The same links posted in to Politech also appeared in the Wired article referenced above. Have they asked Wired for it's logs for that site? The DeCSS case is similar in scope and intent to this one. A big company has been embarrased. Now they seek to supress the source of that embarrasement...

What I want to ask the kuro5hin readership (including myself) is where do you think the ability of a legal court order to obtain lists of readership, web-logs, etc should stop? This is a request for a list of name of people who may have just "seen" a LINK to software which they wish to have supressed. How far removed from the source of the software will one have to be to be "safe" from the power of this court-order?

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List of Politech readership requested by Mattel | 9 comments (9 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
This sort of stuff has to stop. I a... (none / 0) (#2)
by pulsar on Sun Mar 19, 2000 at 11:47:46 AM EST

pulsar voted 1 on this story.

This sort of stuff has to stop. I am in the US, was mirroring DeCSS, and got an email from the MPAA's lawyers. I would have ignored the email and continued mirroring it, but the admins said otherwise... So in addition to the RIAA and MPAA, we now have Mattel. This is not a good day! First I burned my tongue on very hot coffee, then XF86_SVGA locked up, now I read about this....... *sigh*

Re: This sort of stuff has to stop. I a... (none / 0) (#6)
by auntfloyd on Sun Mar 19, 2000 at 10:00:46 PM EST

I am in the US, was mirroring DeCSS, and got an email from the MPAA's lawyers

Yeah, I got a registered letter from them informing me that "someone on my network" (it was addressed to me c/o auntfloyd.com Inc., a non-existent "company") was mirroring DeCSS on auntfloyd.com But auntfloyd.com had been down for weeks before I got the letter, which leads me to question exactly how much research they bother to do. I can only assume that they found my site listed on 2600's mirror list and sent off a letter without bothering to check whether my site actually had a DeCSS mirror.

End result? I ignore the letter, and haven't heard from them since.
--- auntfloyd
[ Parent ]
Re: This sort of stuff has to stop. I a... (none / 0) (#8)
by pulsar on Mon Mar 20, 2000 at 12:50:00 AM EST

End result? I ignore the letter, and haven't heard from them since.

I'd love to ignore it! Unfortunately the admins of the site that host my site/domain told me to remove it... *sigh*

[ Parent ]
I read an ad in the Classifieds of ... (none / 0) (#1)
by shepd on Sun Mar 19, 2000 at 04:35:22 PM EST

shepd voted 1 on this story.

I read an ad in the Classifieds of the local newpaper. It was advertising cable descramblers. Should I have my name blacklisted for that too? No Mattel toys for my kids, I tell you. It looks like if they buy them, they will have their names on a toy list forever... :-)

Re: I read an ad in the Classifieds of ... (none / 0) (#3)
by ramses0 on Sun Mar 19, 2000 at 06:41:37 PM EST

That's not funny, because it's almost true. It feels more and more like we're moving towards the environment portrayed by Wells in the book "1984".

Everybody always laughs when they hear this comparison because it's so ridiculous. But think: here, Mattel is ~prosecuting~ people for "ThoughtCrime". No action, no reaction, not even a guarantee that they read the damned message, and Mattel wants people's names.

The main character in 1984 spent all day working for "The Ministry of Truth", wherein he "corrected" old newspaper articles, and burned the originals. How is this different from Mattel (or any other company) saying: "Please remove your software cphack (or decss), because it is illegal and we wish to wipe it's existence off the face of the earth."

Sometimes I hate lawyers.

Somebody else jump in and tell me what you think about this. Not to be paranoid or alarmist, but we could be moving towards a 1984 society.

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

Re: I read an ad in the Classifieds of ... (none / 0) (#4)
by Nyarlathotep on Sun Mar 19, 2000 at 07:47:51 PM EST

It looks like if they buy them, they will have their names on a toy list forever... :-) I can just see an 80 year old man in an insane asylum going "Why do they keep sending me all these toy advertisments!" :) Seriously, these censorware programs do track your kids browsing habits for marketing purposes. This is really dangerous becuase it means advertisors can exploitthe diffrence between kids and adults. I'm just waiting until someone gets all worked up over the possibility that a pedofile could steal their database and have an easy way to find kids and know something about them.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Re: I read an ad in the Classifieds of ... (none / 0) (#5)
by rongen on Sun Mar 19, 2000 at 08:49:34 PM EST

Seriously, these censorware programs do track your kids browsing habits for marketing purposes.

Yeah, that's part of the fun... The information that is being reported back to the developers of various programs is really extensive sometimes. Every so often someone will be analyzing a protocol and notice thier name, and windows registration number or something, being sent off to a server somewhere. It really makes you wonder...

I am not really concerned with my name being sent off the Mattel's legal department so much as with the fact that judges seem to give sweeping censorship powers to these corporations at the drop of a hat via a court order... It is not this one instance of wide ranging powers that worries me, it is the trend.

Looked at one way the courts exist as a means of arbitration between two parties who have somehow come to disagreement. But it is increasingly the case that these disagreements take the form of a clever hack exposing a weakness (or even a fiendishness) in a system arbitrarily created by a large company or organization to control how content purchased from it is utilized. Suddenly corporation C gets the power to block the rights of free expression previously held by hacker H. Sound like legal precedent could be forming, anyone? Scary. Eventually this sort of action will be levied against consumer watch dogs and the corporation will win (normally attempts to quell "normal" consumer analysis of products fail in the courts.... it seems algorithmic analysis is frowned though... a dangerous way for the tide to turn).
read/write http://www.prosebush.com
[ Parent ]

Mattel's actions are wrong on so many levels (none / 0) (#7)
by Perpetual Newbie on Sun Mar 19, 2000 at 11:16:12 PM EST

I really disagree with Mattel's actions, and the fact that they are allowed to take these actions. Yesterday I wrote a little rant on the subject. I won't repost it here; It's mostly complaints you'd see mirrored elsewhere, but I was able to find out about the Swedish law(1960:729 26 g) that says reverse engineering is a right that cannot be taken away by a contract(or license agreement).

This latest one's a stinker; Anyone know if there are any laws that would protect a press from disclosing its readership? Will the list admin be able in any way to argue against Mattel getting a court order to disclose this?

- Perpetual Newbie

The Tin Drum (none / 0) (#9)
by Novalis on Tue Mar 21, 2000 at 07:41:00 AM EST

It is illegal for the cops to request a list of people renting a video. They did this in the south somewhere (Alabama?) when the movie "the Tin Drum" was banned. For the curious, "The Tin Drum" is a movie about a fucked-up dude, and Nazis, and stuff... they banned it because it had scenes which might be seen as kiddie pron. It turns out that the dude who was renting the movie when the cops went to sieze it was an ACLU dude.... now they've got a lawsuit on thier hands :)
-Dave Turner
List of Politech readership requested by Mattel | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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