Due to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaints filed by Microsoft, whistleblower website Cryptome [link to a backup version of the site] has been disabled by its ISP, Network Solutions.
The complaints were due to the fact that Cryptome published a 22-page Microsoft Global Criminal Spy Guide. Microsoft claimed copyright infringement, Cryptome’s editor refused to budge, and the site was taken down this afternoon. Cryptome has previously published similar guides from Facebook, AOL, Yahoo and Skype; the site has been threatened but never before actually disabled.
The Microsoft document was originally published on Feb. 20. Microsoft demanded that Cryptome remove the PDF, and when the editor refused, Cryptome’s ISP sent a warning: If the document was not removed by Thursday, the site would be disabled. However, the site was taken down Wednesday afternoon.
The reason Cryptome refused to remove the PDF of Microsoft’s so-called “spy guide” was that editor John Young believed its programs, which make it easier for law enforcement to obtain user data, showed “improper use of copyright to conceal […] violations of trust toward its customers,” according to an interview with Geekosystem.
“Copyright law is not intended for confidentiality purposes,” he continued.
“We think all lawful spying arrangements should be made public […] Microsoft should join the others who openly describe [their] procedures.” Young named Cisco as one such company.
Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a call today, “We find it troubling that copyright law is being invoked here. Microsoft doesn’t sell this manual. There’s no market for this work. It’s not a copyright issue. John’s copying of it is fair use. We don’t do this anywhere else in speech law.”
For example, in cases involving libel or trade secrets, said Cohn, “You go to court, you make a case and you get an injunction. You don’t just file a form. DMCA makes censorship easy.”
Cohn also noted she feels the reason Microsoft actually wants the document removed from the Web is because, for a large corporation with millions of users and an aggressive PR agenda, the document raises concerns and sparks conversations the company would rather not confront.
“It’s part of a very intense political debate about the role of intermediary companies like Microsoft aiding surveillance for law enforcement. It’s embarrassing for Microsoft for their users to see how much the people who carry their email have arrangements with law enforcement.
“All of the people who carry our communications are an easy conduit for our government to spy on us, and a lot of people are unhappy about that. It’s a legitimate public debate, and Microsoft doesn’t want to be part of that debate.”
We hope that Microsoft does, in fact, release their stranglehold on Young and his site and take part in a conversation with their users about how their data can be accessed by others, including law enforcement. We’ve reached out to them for comment and will update this post if and when we hear back.
In the meantime, let us know your thoughts in the comments.
UPDATE: Still no word from Microsoft, but here’s that document they really don’t want you (or anyone else) to see. We hope to hear from a Microsoft representative soon to discuss the intentions and implications of this guide.
UPDATE: Microsoft has responded. Read about it here.
Thanks to Glenn Davis of Geekosystem for the tip.