Fwd: EPA opposed DMCA exemptions that could have revealed Volkswagen fraud

Zenaan Harkness zen at freedbms.net
Mon Sep 28 19:26:36 PDT 2015

Not new but on topic at the moment - DMCA is about control of end
consumers/ users, not about copyright (or rather, it's abuse of

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Free Software Foundation <info at fsf.org>
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 2015 19:40:48 -0400
Subject: EPA opposed DMCA exemptions that could have revealed Volkswagen fraud

Dear Mr Harkness,

We have written previously about the [organizations and
individuals][1] who opposed exemptions to the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act's (DMCA) anti-circumvention provisions. These drones
oppose the rights of users to backup, modify, and study the software
and devices that we own. The DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions
create legal penalties for simply accessing your software under your
own terms, and raises those penalties even higher should dare to share
the tools needed to do so. It creates real penalties for anyone who
wants to avoid Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) controls. The
granting of exemptions to these totalitarian rules is a broken and
half-hearted attempt to limit the damage these rules bring, granting
for 3 years a
reprieve for certain specified devices and software.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) side-stepped this process
and [sent a letter][2] separately directly to the Copyright Office. In
the letter they argued that users should not be able to access and
modify the software on their own vehicles. In their estimation, this
would enable users to violate emissions controls. So it would be
better for them if the hammer of the DMCA remained hanging over the
head of every user or researcher who wanted to access the software on
their vehicle.

Of course, just a few months after telling the Copyright Office that
users couldn't be trusted with access to their devices, the EPA
revealed a major scandal involving Volkswagen. It turns out that
Volkswagen had for many years cheated the emissions test performed by
the EPA. Volkswagen had surreptitiously included some code in their
diesel vehicles that would detect the EPA's tests and have the car
change its performance in order to meet EPA mandates. Once the test
was over, the code would revert the vehicle to its normal,
high-polluting functioning. This scam apparently went on for years
before it was detected by researchers.

Of course the irony is that if users and researchers had the right to
access the software on their cars, they might have discovered this
fraud years ago. As Eben Moglen, founder of the [Software Freedom Law
Center][3] [noted][4] "If Volkswagen knew that every customer who buys
a vehicle would have a right to read the source code of all the
software in the vehicle, they would never even consider the cheat,
because the certainty of getting caught would terrify them.”
Volkswagen is already a contributor on the kernel Linux, and as
Bradley M. Kuhn, President and Distinguished Technologist of the
[Software Freedom Conservancy][5] pointed out it is likely that
Volkswagen vehicles already contain some free software. But some is
not all, and
clearly they kept much of their software secret in order to hide their
scam. If all the software on the vehicles was free software they never
could have perpetrated this scheme.

Researchers also could have discovered the fraud had they not been
hindered by the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions, as Kit Walsh of
the Electronic Frontier Foundation [argued][6]. The EPA of course
failed to understand all this when drafting their letter promoting the
use of DRM.

But there is a more galling fact at play here. What the EPA argued in
their letter was that the exemption should not be granted under the
DMCA as a means for enforcing efficiency standards. That clearly isn't
the stated purpose of the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions, and
highlights one of the fundamental problems with DRM. That a government
agency would try to commandeer the DRM of private actors, not to
enforce copyright but as a means to enforce something wholly
unrelated, demonstrates a central truth: DRM is not about copyright;
it's about control. It's about dominating users. It's about spying on
them. It's about installing [rootkits][7] onto their computers. It has
nothing to do with rights, and everything to do with restriction.

We can't let governments and corporation use DRM to take over our
lives. This is what you can do today to fight back:

If you microblog, please share the following message (or your own)
with the hashtag #DRMshame. We strongly suggest that if you use
[Twitter][8] to publicly call the EPA  and Volkswagen out, you do it
in a way that avoids using proprietary software:

* @EPA You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to use Digital
Restrictions Management #DRMshame <https://u.fsf.org/fraud>
* @VW  All software on your vehicles needs to be free software without
DRM to restore our trust #DRMshame <https://u.fsf.org/fraud>

Here's what else you can do.:

* Join the [Defective By Design][9] mailing list to keep up to date on
the on-going fight against DRM.
* To help fund our work, consider [donating to the FSF][10].

Happy hacking,
Donald Robertson
Copyright and Licensing Associate

[1]: http://www.defectivebydesign.org/meet-the-drm-drones
[2]: http://copyright.gov/1201/2015/USCO-letters/EPA_Letter_to_USCO_re_1201.pdf
[3]: https://www.softwarefreedom.org/
[4]: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/23/nyregion/volkswagens-diesel-fraud-makes-critic-of-secret-code-a-prophet.html
[5]: https://sfconservancy.org/
[6]: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/09/researchers-could-have-uncovered-volkswagens-emissions-cheat-if-not-hindered-dmca
[7]: http://www.defectivebydesign.org/sony
[8]: https://www.fsf.org/twitter
[9]: https://defectivebydesign.org/join
[10]: https://donate.fsf.org
* Follow us at <https://status.fsf.org/fsf>.
* Subscribe to our RSS feeds at <https://fsf.org/blogs/RSS>.
* Join us as an associate member at <https://www.fsf.org/jf>.

Sent from the Free Software Foundation,

51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02110-1335
United States

More information about the cypherpunks mailing list