"Diebold, the much-criticized electronic voting machine company, got another black eye last week. A federal court in California ruled that it had violated federal law when it falsely charged two students with violating its copyrights by posting critical information about its voting machines on the Internet. The case raises more questions about Diebold's honesty and its commitment to transparency.
The story began early last year when someone - it is unclear who - posted internal Diebold e-mail messages on the Internet that discussed flaws in the company's electronic voting machines. Two students from Swarthmore College then posted those messages on various Web sites. Diebold sent out a flurry of cease-and-desist letters claiming that the postings violated its copyrights. The students sued, charging that Diebold knowingly misrepresented its rights under copyright law.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of California agreed. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is illegal to send a cease-and-desist letter while knowing that the claim of copyright infringement is false. The court held that Diebold knew that its e-mail messages "discussing possible technical problems" with its voting machines were not copyrighted, but went ahead anyway.
This is the second recent setback to Diebold's already troubled reputation. Last month, California's attorney general, Bill Lockyer, joined a false-claims suit against Diebold charging it with lying to the state about the security of its voting systems. Now, a federal court has ruled that Diebold made knowing misrepresentations to get damaging information about its machines' security off the Internet.
Diebold has a great deal to do to make its work transparent and its company trustworthy if it wants to remain in the elections business.
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