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Re: ATTN: for-profit Tor operators

Thus spake Matt Ghali (matt@xxxxxxxxx):

> On Wed, 23 Nov 2005, Roger Dingledine wrote:
>   We've been thinking a lot lately about how to fund Tor development,
>   since EFF ran out of money for us last month.
> That is sad news, I was considering becoming an EFF "supporter" via 
> monthly donations last week, but got distracted with work. I am glad 
> that I didn't have a chance to go through with the process, as tor 
> was one of the specific projects I was interested in contributing 
> to.  

Actually, before the EFF is badmouthed for this action, it may be wise
to consider that there are things going on behind the scenes that we
simply cannot know. As I see it, there are a series of possibilities,
in order of increasing likelyhood:

1. Some large EFF donator decided Tor was a Bad Idea.

This would be very unfortunate and scary. There were days when EFF was
much more beholden to the corporate interests of its donors than it is
currently. I believe those days are over, and furthermore would be
surprised if anyone who would fund EFF would think Tor was a Bad

2. The EFF is busy litigating new cases that require far more
financial resources than they anticipated for this fiscal year.

This is entirely possible. Litigation is extremely expensive, and EFF
has taken on a handful of high profile cases in the past year.

3. Sponsoring Tor is not possible when doing test cases

This is the most likely scenario, IMHO. IANAL, but I would guess that
sponsoring Tor opens up the EFF to greater legal liability when
attempting to defend operators in test cases. After all, the decision
to take up a DMCA test case was made about a month ago, right around
the time funding supposedly ran out. For this reason I believe it is
most likely that funding was terminated so that the EFF would be
better able to help Tor operators. But I'm a chronic optimist.

It is also possible that a test case would be extremely expensive, and
given finite funding, it had to be either test case or development
support, and the choice was consciously made for a test case.

So before we go badmouthing the EFF, I would suggest giving them the
benefit of the doubt. They do good work, and hopefully this decision
was made on sound, uncoerced reasoning that the action was good for
both EFF and Tor.

I imagine that for any number of reasons, the EFF will not be able to
disclose their exact reasoning for stopping funding, especially if it
is part of some legal strategy involving Tor.

The most pressing question is has the EFF's position on doing DMCA
test cases changed? I see the website material on the matter has not
been taken down, so hopefully that's a good sign.

P.S. I should note that ALL of this is entirely speculation on my
part. I have received no information from the EFF or anyone else.

Mike Perry
Mad Computer Scientist
fscked.org evil labs