The DMCA and its Chilling Effects on Research
The Center for Democracy and Technology has a good summary of the current state of the DMCA’s chilling effects on security research.
To underline the nature of chilling effects on hacking and security research, CDT has worked to describe how tinkerers, hackers, and security researchers of all types both contribute to a baseline level of security in our digital environment and, in turn, are shaped themselves by this environment, most notably when things they do upset others and result in threats, potential lawsuits, and prosecution. We’ve published two reports (sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation and MacArthur Foundation) about needed reforms to the law and the myriad of ways that security research directly improves people’s lives. To get a more complete picture, we wanted to talk to security researchers themselves and gauge the forces that shape their work; essentially, we wanted to “take the pulse” of the security research community.
Today, we are releasing a third report in service of this effort: “Taking the Pulse of Hacking: A Risk Basis for Security Research.” We report findings after having interviewed a set of 20 security researchers and hackers—half academic and half non-academic—about what considerations they take into account when starting new projects or engaging in new work, as well as to what extent they or their colleagues have faced threats in the past that chilled their work. The results in our report show that a wide variety of constraints shape the work they do, from technical constraints to ethical boundaries to legal concerns, including the DMCA and especially the CFAA.
Note: I am a signatory on the letter supporting unrestricted security research.