At the beginning of yesterday morning SunnComm Technologies was going to sue first year gruaduate student John Halderman over his critique of the company’s new CD copy protection method. But, by the end of the day SunnComm’s president and CEO had changed his mind. It would not be helpful to the research community by making computer scientists think twice about researching copy protection technology, Peter Jacobs said.     “I don’t want to be the guy that creates any kind of chilling effect on research,” he said.

Jacobs said in an interview late last night that a successful lawsuit would do little to reverse the damage done by the paper Halderman published Monday about his research.

Halderman’s paper hit SunnComm hard. Since Monday its stock value has dropped $10 million — one-third of the company’s total worth.

“I just thought about it and decided it was more important not to be one of those people. The harm’s been done . . . if I can’t accomplish anything [with a lawsuit] I don’t want to leave a wake,” he said.

In the increasingly bitter wars between those advocating stronger anti-piracy protections and those who favor less stringent copyright enforcement, the decision against legal action represents one of a precious few instances of companies looking past their bottom line.

“I think it’s a sensible decision given the situation, given that what [Halderman] was doing was perfectly legitimate,” said computer science professor Edward Felten. “[Jacobs is] to be commended for not wanting to interfere with research.”

Felten and some of his colleagues had been in a similar situation in 2001 when the Recording Industry Association of America — the same group that sued Dan Peng ’05 last semester for running a campus file-sharing website — strongly urged the research group not to publish their work on another copy-protection technology.


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