DieBold or Die Free?

In Ruckus [Vol. 7, Iss. 3, December 2003]

If voting could really change things, it would be illegal.”

Elections are not rocket science. Why is it so hard to get things right! I have never been at any other company that has been so miss [sic] managed.”

[sources: http://chroot.net/s/lists/announce.w3archive/200110/msg00002.html and http://chroot.net/s/lists/support.w3archive/200009/msg00109.html]

A quote from a US supreme court judge? If only… These are just two excerpts out of 15 000 leaked internal memorandums and e-mails originating from Diebold, the company that supplies most of America’s electronic voting machines and will be taking care of your ballots during the upcoming presidential elections. The memos reveal a worrying number of glitches and loopholes for potential tampering, not to mention illegal last-minute hardware changes while voting is already taking place.

Two rebellious students at Swarthmore College got hold of the memos and put them online. The wired world noticed, and started turning its head. Diebold moved to sue along the lines of “The web site you are hosting infringes Diebold’s copyrights because the Diebold Property was reproduced, placed on public display,
and is being distributed from this web site without Diebold’s consent.”

The memos were removed – but not before mirrors were set up at several other universities. Since then, students at MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Purdue, Amherst, Indiana and Missouri have likewise been forced to remove the offensive memos.

But students worldwide are fighting back – and winning. Forty academic institutions currently actively host the files, including your very own University of Washington (http://students.washington.edu/~jelte/DieBold/Diebold_Memos.tgz).

There are several things at stake here. Apart from the obvious breach of democratic principles, the matter of electronic disobedience is also brought to the forefront. What is theft? What is property? Should universities stand by their students or do the whole corporate thing? With multiple lawsuits now running both ways, expect to hear more soon.

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