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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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June 29, 2005

Bram Cohen: My Activist's Manifesto is a Parody!

Posted by Ernest Miller

Yesterday, I wrote about Bram Cohen's A Technological Activist's Agenda, which included quotes that look suspiciously like active inducement under Grokster (BitTorrent and Grokster: How Much Intent Does it Take?). Today, Bram has added the following text to his agenda:

[This was written in late 1999, and is a parody of a cypherpunk's manifesto, which struck me as very dishonest manifesto claiming to solely be concerned about privacy. This screed is written in the exaggerated voice of a 'prototypical' cypherpunk, making much more direct declarations of his intent.] [emphasis, links in original]
Good answer. Hopefully it'll be enough to convince a judge should a lawsuit be launched.

Prof. Mark Schultz of the Southern Illinois School of Law who is guest-blogging on Eric Goldman's Technology & Marketing Law Blog has a good reply to this issue, however: Shocking Revelations About BitTorrent.

We must avoid this "bootstrap effect" to maintain access to innovative technology. Even if Bram Cohen had "bad intent" in developing BitTorrent (I don't think he did), all subsequent distributors of BitTorrent should not be accountable for his actions or the actions of some end users. Such a distributor should be able to avoid liability, so long as substanstatial non-infringing uses are possible and the distributor does not actively induce infringment.
I agree. However, the Supreme Court seems to have left the door open to a "taint by association" for technology companies. So, if one company is found to be an active inducer, subsequent companies built on the same technology seem to have one strike against them already. And if you get one strike, the strike zone gets much bigger.

UPDATE 0715PT 30 Jun 2005

WIRED has an article on this issue (BitTorrent Whiz Extolled Piracy?).

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