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Chronicle article: Microsoft's plan to improve computer securitycouldset off fight over use of online materials

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Of possible interest; extracts follow.  Much text has been deleted.

>From the issue dated February 21, 2003

Control Issues

Microsoft's plan to improve computer security could set off fight over use
of online materials


Computing experts in academe often blame Microsoft for producing software
that is vulnerable to viruses and hackers. But, of late, the experts have
been criticizing the company's sweeping plan to correct those very

Under the plan, announced seven months ago under the name Palladium, new
computers would be equipped with security hardware and a new version of
the Windows operating system.

The goal, Microsoft officials say, is to make servers and desktop PC's
that people can trust. But critics say the technology, which Microsoft
recently renamed "the next-generation secure computing base," could stifle
the free flow of information that has come to characterize the Internet,
and could give Microsoft too much control over colleges' own computerized
information. With the new technology, information-systems officials could
use cryptographic hardware "keys" rather than software controls, like user
names and passwords, to lock up student records and prevent illegal
copying of materials. Registrars would have tamper-proof controls over who
could see, copy, or alter the records. The advances could be used to
prevent identity thieves from invading campus computer networks to steal
Social Security numbers, grades, and other personal data.

Money and Access

Palladium would require colleges to make expenditures on new computers and
software. Existing computers could not be retrofitted.

Colleges would decide whether to buy Palladium-capable software and
hardware, and then whether to activate Palladium's security functions. But
practically speaking, they would face enormous pressures to do so,
especially if publishers of books, journals, software, and other
electronic "content" were to adopt Microsoft's standard to deliver their
materials online. The publishers could dictate that colleges had to use
Palladium or else be denied access to the material. That worries many in
academe, who believe that publishers would use Palladium to bar some uses
of digital materials to which scholars argue that they are entitled under
copyright law. That loss may outweigh the advantages of tighter security
over student records, the critics say.

"If Palladium is adopted, and if other technology vendors exploit it fully
to restrict access to copyrighted works, education and research will
suffer," says Edward W. Felten, an associate professor of computer science
at Princeton University, who was the U.S. Justice Department's chief
computer-science expert in its antitrust case against Microsoft. Microsoft
officials respond that their new technology will simply give all users
--�whether colleges or publishers --�more control over the information
they own. Colleges have been demanding more computer security, says Brian
LaMacchia, a software architect in Microsoft's
trusted-platform-technologies group, which is responsible for Palladium.
"It's a two-edged sword," he says, acknowledging that commercial
publishers have demanded greater protection for their copyrighted works.

Palladium's software components will be part of the next major version of
Windows, which Microsoft has said it may release toward the end of 2004.
Some hardware components that Palladium needs, including a security chip,
are available already in a notebook computer, the IBM ThinkPad T30. Chip
manufacturers and the major computer companies --�Dell, Gateway,
Hew-lett-Packard, and IBM, among others --�have begun work to redesign
PC's so that they will work with Palladium software.


Fair Use


Most of the early controversy surrounding Palladium in academe has
concerned its impact on "fair use," a gray area in copyright law that
gives professors and researchers limited but free use of copyrighted
materials. In the past, faculty members could decide on their own that
"fair use" permitted them to distribute a journal article to, say, 10
students. But publishers could use Palladium's controls to unilaterally
limit use of their materials, such as by restricting professors to a
read-only view of the article, from which they could not "cut and paste"
the text.


SOURCE: Chronicle reporting

copyright 2003 Chronicle of Higher Education