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Someone thumbed his nose at copyright protection Wednesday without getting arrested, indicted or sued. Princeton professor Edward Felten and a grad student told security experts at a conference how to crack digital watermarks that are supposed to prevent copying. Not the sexiest story out there, but for Felten, boring news is good news. After all, this is the talk Wired News called “entirely anticlimactic” because nobody got hauled off in handcuffs. Felten went ahead with the presentation after the Recording Industry Association of America promised not to sue him over it; he’d put off revealing the details earlier this year after he received a nastygram from the music industry and other copyright fans. The RIAA said it never planned to sue Felten, according to The Washington Post. The Boston Globe‘s Hiawatha Bray said the music industry backed off because “Felten is a scientist, and the law makes an exception for scholarly researchers.” Anyway, News.com reported that the talk was billed as the “presentation the RIAA does not want you to see.” Not bad marketing for a paper the Post described as “a dry, technical analysis.” Rather than explaining the dry stuff to the few readers who would care, reporters focused on the struggle’s “chilling effect” on other research. (What’s really chilling is how overused that phrase is.) In the latest Digital Millennium Copyright Act incident, a Dutch cryptographer named Niels Ferguson said he found a flaw in Intel’s digital content protection technology but won’t publish it because he doesn’t want to get cuffed next time he’s in the United States. The official Intel story, cobbled together from quotes in different articles, seems to be this: Ferguson is welcome to present his work, Intel would even like to see it, but if the feds want to track him down, it’s out of Intel’s hands. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently offered a different angle on academia’s copyright battles, starring two Carnegie Mellon computer scientists you’re less likely to have heard of than Edward Felten or Dmitry Sklyarov. David Touretzky is Carnegie Mellon’s resident anti-DMCA pioneer, who has printed DVD-cracking code on a T-shirt. In the other corner, his coworker Michael Shamos has testified on behalf of movie studios’ copyright efforts. “Academics don’t have universal freedom to study whatever the hell they please,” said Shamos. Hey, somebody get this guy together with Hilary Rosen for lunch. Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Researchers weigh publication, prosecution Digital-Music Code Crackers Tell All Scientists Publish Digital Music Security Research Copyright � 2001 The Industry Standard

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