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 Chilling Effects Clearinghouse > Linking > Notices > Diebold Chases Host-to-Host-to-Links to e-Voting Memos (NoticeID 911, http://chillingeffects.org/N/911) Printer-friendly version

Diebold Chases Host-to-Host-to-Links to e-Voting Memos

October 10, 2003

 

Sender Information:
Diebold, Incorporated
Sent by: [Private]
Walker & Jocke
Medina, Ohio, 44256, US

Recipient Information:
William Doherty
Online Policy Group
San Francisco, CA, 94110, USA


Sent via: email
Re: Copyright Infringement

Dear Mr. Doherty:

We represent Diebold, Incorporated and its wholly owned subsidiary Diebold Election Systems, Inc. (collectively "Diebold").

Diebold is the owner of copyrights in certain correspondence relating to its electronic voting machines that was stolen from a Diebold computer ("Diebold Property").

It has recently come to our clients' attention that you appear to be hosting a web site that contains information location tools that refer or link users to one or more online location containing Diebold Property. The material and activities at the online location infringe Diebold

 
FAQ: Questions and Answers

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Question: What kinds of things are copyrightable?

Answer: In order for material to be copyrightable, it must be original and must be in a fixed medium.

Only material that originated with the author can support a copyright. Items from the public domain which appear in a work, as well as work borrowed from others, cannot be the subject of an infringement claim. Also, certain stock material might not be copyrightable, such as footage that indicates a location like the standard shots of San Francisco in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Also exempted are stock characters like the noisy punk rocker who gets the Vulcan death grip in Star Trek IV.

The requirement that works be in a fixed medium leaves out certain forms of expression, most notably choreography and oral performances such as speeches. For instance, if I perform a Klingon death wail in a local park, my performance is not copyrightable. However, if I film the performance, then the film is copyrightable.

Single words and short phrases are generally not protected by copyright, even when the name has been "coined" or newly-created by the mark owner. Logos that include original design elements can be protected under copyright or under trademark. Otherwise, words, phrases and titles may be protected only by trademark, however.


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Question: What rights are protected by copyright law?

Answer: The purpose of copyright law is to encourage creative work by granting a temporary monopoly in an author's original creations. This monopoly takes the form of six rights in areas where the author retains exclusive control. These rights are:

(1) the right of reproduction (i.e., copying),
(2) the right to create derivative works,
(3) the right to distribution,
(4) the right to performance,
(5) the right to display, and
(6) the digital transmission performance right.

The law of copyright protects the first two rights in both private and public contexts, whereas an author can only restrict the last four rights in the public sphere. Claims of infringement must show that the defendant exercised one of these rights. For example, if I create unauthorized videotape copies of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and distribute them to strangers on the street, then I have infringed both the copyright holder's rights of reproduction and distribution. If I merely re-enact The Wrath of Khan for my family in my home, then I have not infringed on the copyright. Names, ideas and facts are not protected by copyright.

Trademark law, in contrast, is designed to protect consumers from confusion as to the source of goods (as well as to protect the trademark owner's market). To this end, the law gives the owner of a registered trademark the right to use the mark in commerce without confusion. If someone introduces a trademark into the market that is likely to cause confusion, then the newer mark infringes on the older one. The laws of trademark infringement and dilution protect against this likelihood of confusion. Trademark protects names, images and short phrases.

Infringement protects against confusion about the origin of goods. The plaintiff in an infringement suit must show that defendant's use of the mark is likely to cause such a confusion. For instance, if I were an unscrupulous manufacturer, I might attempt to capitalize on the fame of Star Trek by creating a line of 'Spock Activewear.' If consumers could reasonably believe that my activewear was produced or endorsed by the owners of the Spock trademark, then I would be liable for infringement.

The law of trademark dilution protects against confusion concerning the character of a registered trademark. Suppose I created a semi-automatic assault rifle and marketed it as 'The Lt. Uhura 5000.' Even if consumers could not reasonably believe that the Star Trek trademark holders produced this firearm, the trademark holders could claim that my use of their mark harmed the family-oriented character of their mark. I would be liable for dilution.


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Question: What is a hyperlink?

Answer: Unless you typed the URL directly into your web browser, you probably followed a hyperlink to get to this page. A hyperlink is a location reference that the web browser interprets, often by underlining the text in blue, to "link" to another information resource when clicked. In HTML (HyperText Markup Language, the code used to write web pages), a hyperlink looks like this: link


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Question: If a hyperlink is just a location pointer, how can it be illegal?

Answer: It probably isn't, however, a few courts have now held that a hyperlink violates the law if it points to illegal material with the purpose of disseminating that illegal material:

  • In the DeCSS case, Universal v. Reimerdes, the court barred 2600 Magazine from posting hyperlinks to DeCSS code because it found the magazine had linked for the purpose of disseminating a circumvention device. (See Anticircumvention (DMCA).) The court ruled that it could regulate the link because of its "function," even if the link was also speech.
  • In another case, Intellectual Reserve v. Utah Lighthouse Ministry, a Utah court found that linking to unauthorized copies of a text might be a contributory infringement of the work's copyright. (The defendant in that case had previously posted unauthorized copies on its own site, then replaced the copies with hyperlinks to other sites.)
By contrast, the court in Ticketmaster v. Tickets.com found that links were not infringements of copyright.

Like anything else on a website, a hyperlink could also be problematic if it misrepresents something about the website. For example, if the link and surrounding text falsely stated that a website is affiliated with another site or sponsored by the linked company, it might be false advertising or defamation.

Finally, post-Grokster, a hyperlink might be argued to induce copyright infringement, if the link were made knowing that the linked-to material was infringing and with the intent of inducing people to follow the link and infringe copyright.

In most cases, however, simple linking is unlikely to violate the law.


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Question: Is linking protected by the First Amendment?

Answer: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble..." The government (and states, under the Fourteenth Amendment) must meet a high level of scrutiny before restricting speech.

A hyperlinks refers to and describes the location of another Internet resource. The text of the hyperlink and the material linked to may be highly expressive. In addition, the act of linking to other websites may be likened to protected "assembly," or association with those sites.


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Question: What defenses are there to copyright infringement?

Answer: The primary defense to copyright infringement is "fair use." 17 U.S.C.


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Question: What is the purpose of the fair use defense?

Answer: There is no easy answer to this question. However, one way to approach the question is to examine the purposes of the copyright laws.

The clause of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to enact copyright laws indicates that the purpose of the given power is to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts" by allowing authors to secure the exclusive rights in their works for "limited times." Thus, many see the Constitutional scheme behind copyright as a kind of balance between (1) forming incentives for authors to create new works by giving them rights that will allow them to make money from their works, and (2) limiting the rights so that the works themselves are useful to the public and in turn advance the "progress of science and the useful arts."

Fair use fits into this scheme by giving the public the right to use copyrighted works in certain situations even though the author has exclusive rights. That is, in some circumstances, such as certain uses involving scholarship or research, the "progress" referred to in the Constitution is best promoted and the public is best served by allowing an unauthorized use of the copyrighted work. These uses are deemed fair because they are consistent with the power given to Congress to enact copyright laws.


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Question: What are the DMCA Safe Harbor Provisions?

Answer: In 1998, Congress passed the On-Line Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA) in an effort to protect service providers on the Internet from liability for the activities of its users. Codified as section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), this new law exempts on-line service providers that meet the criteria set forth in the safe harbor provisions from claims of copyright infringement made against them that result from the conduct of their customers. These safe harbor provisions are designed to shelter service providers from the infringing activities of their customers. If a service provider qualifies for the safe harbor exemption, only the individual infringing customer are liable for monetary damages; the service provider's network through which they engaged in the alleged activities is not liable.


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Question: Does a copyright owner have to specify the exact materials it alleges are infringing?

Answer: Proper notice under the safe harbor provisions requires the copyright owners to specifically identify the alleged infringing materials, or if the service provider is an "information location tool" such as a search engine, to specifically identify the links to the alleged infringing materials. [512(c)(3)(iii)], [512(d)(3)]. The provisions also require the copyright owners to identify the copyrighted work, or a representative list of the copyrighted works, that is claimed to be infringed. [512(c)(3)(A)(ii)]. Rather than simply sending a letter to the service provider that claims that infringing material exists on their system, these qualifications ensure that service providers are given a reasonable amount of information to locate the infringing materials and to effectively police their networks. [512(c)(3)(A)(iii)], [512(d)(3)].

However, in the recent case of ALS Scan, Inc. v. Remarq Communities, Inc., the court found that the copyright owner did not have to point out all of the infringing material, but only substantially all of the material. The relaxation of this specificity requirement shifts the burden of identifying the material to the service provider, raising the question of the extent to which a service provider must search through its system. OSP customers should note that this situation might encourage OSP's to err on the side of removing allegedly infringing material.


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Question: What does a service provider have to do in order to qualify for safe harbor protection?

Answer: In addition to informing its customers of its policies (discussed above), a service provider must follow the proper notice and takedown procedures (discussed above) and also meet several other requirements in order to qualify for exemption under the safe harbor provisions.

In order to facilitate the notification process in cases of infringement, ISPs which allow users to store information on their networks, such as a web hosting service, must designate an agent that will receive the notices from copyright owners that its network contains material which infringes their intellectual property rights. The service provider must then notify the Copyright Office of the agent's name and address and make that information publicly available on its web site. [512(c)(2)]

Finally, the service provider must not have knowledge that the material or activity is infringing or of the fact that the infringing material exists on its network. [512(c)(1)(A)], [512(d)(1)(A)]. If it does discover such material before being contacted by the copyright owners, it is instructed to remove, or disable access to, the material itself. [512(c)(1)(A)(iii)], [512(d)(1)(C)]. The service provider must not gain any financial benefit that is attributable to the infringing material. [512(c)(1)(B)], [512(d)(2)].


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Question: What are the notice and takedown procedures for web sites?

Answer: In order to have an allegedly infringing web site removed from a service provider's network, or to have access to an allegedly infringing website disabled, the copyright owner must provide notice to the service provider with the following information:

  • The name, address, and electronic signature of the complaining party [512(c)(3)(A)(i)]
  • The infringing materials and their Internet location [512(c)(3)(A)(ii-iii)], or if the service provider is an "information location tool" such as a search engine, the reference or link to the infringing materials [512(d)(3)].
  • Sufficient information to identify the copyrighted works [512(c)(3)(A)(iv)].
  • A statement by the owner that it has a good faith belief that there is no legal basis for the use of the materials complained of [512(c)(3)(A)(v)].
  • A statement of the accuracy of the notice and, under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on the behalf of the owner [512(c)(3)(A)(vi)].

Once notice is given to the service provider, or in circumstances where the service provider discovers the infringing material itself, it is required to expeditiously remove, or disable access to, the material. The safe harbor provisions do not require the service provider to notify the individual responsible for the allegedly infringing material before it has been removed, but they do require notification after the material is removed.


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Question: What happens if an individual is found to repeatedly infringe?

Answer: The safe harbor provisions require the service provider to include in its copyright infringement policies a termination policy that results in individuals who repeatedly infringe copyrighted material being removed from the service provider networks. [512(i)(1)(A)] This termination policy must be made public in the terms of use that the service provider includes in its contracts or on its web site.


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Question: Does a service provider have to follow the safe harbor procedures?

Answer: No. An ISP may choose not to follow the DMCA takedown process, and do without the safe harbor. If it would not be liable under pre-DMCA copyright law (for example, because it is not contributorily or vicariously liable, or because there is no underlying copyright infringement), it can still raise those same defenses if it is sued.


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Question: What does the "reservation of rights" language mean? What are they "waiving" at me?

Answer: Many C&Ds will say something like, "This letter shall not be deemed to be a waiver of any rights or remedies, which are expressly reserved." This is just legalese for saying, "Even if you do what we ask in this letter, we can still sue you later." The language is standard; do not be alarmed. Litigation is extremely unpleasant, and unless your opponent is irrational (always a distinct possibility, of course), it will not bring litigation after it has obtained what it wants.


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