Diebold Drops Suits Against Voting Activists

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In a move hailed as a victory for free speech advocates, Diebold Election Systems has said that it won't follow up on its threats to sue those who published information that indicated flaws in the company's electronic voting machines.

"We have chosen not to pursue lawsuits," Diebold spokesperson David Bear said. He declined to give specific reasons for dropping the legal threats.

Right to Know?

The dispute between Diebold and various voter rights activists arose after a hacker broke into a Diebold Web server in March and was able to access information concerning issues with Diebold election equipment. The documents that indicated flaws in the touch-screen voting machines and irregularities with certifying the machines for actual elections were leaked to the press in August.

Students at Swarthmore College published the Diebold information on a Web site they maintain and began encouraging students at other colleges and universities to do the same. Diebold subsequently sent cease-and-desist letters to a handful of U.S. colleges and universities, including Swarthmore and Harvard University.

Diebold used the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 to pressure universities and Internet service providers to take down the copies of its internal information.

Settling Down

Civil liberties organization the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic at Stanford Law School, sued Diebold on behalf of the Online Policy Group, a nonprofit ISP, and two Swarthmore students arguing the company abused the DMCA copyright law.

Diebold has now agreed not to pursue the legal threats or send any further threats to anyone who publishes the internal information about the voting systems. Furthermore, Diebold will retract earlier threats, the EFF said in a statement Monday.

The case has been ordered to mediation and remaining issues in the case are to be worked out in motions due on January 12 and January 30, 2004. A hearing has been scheduled for February 9, the EFF said. Diebold hopes to settle the lawsuit, company spokesperson Bear said.

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