By: Dennis Maynes, Chief Scientist, Caveon Test Security
This week, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, announced that his organization is running out of money and may be forced to cease operations by the end of 2011. On October 24, 2011 Reuters reported: “WikiLeaks says ‘blockade’ threatens its existence.” (Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/email/idUSTRE79N46K20111024) The blockade occurred when the major financial processing firms suspended their agreements with WikiLeaks, after WikiLeaks released thousands of secret US diplomatic cables in December, 2010, and threatened the Bank of America with the release of internal documents which resulted in a 3% decrease of Bank of America’s share price.
Assange claims the blockade is illegal and has filed anti-trust lawsuits against Visa and Master Card. On the day before the blockade, WikiLeaks received $135,000. Currently, WikiLeaks receives less than $10,000 per month. The net effect of the blockade to WikiLeaks has been the loss of 95% of its operating cash.
Whether you agree with WikiLeaks’ goals or not, it is clear that WikiLeaks has routinely infringed upon the rights of copyright holders by distributing information and documents without authorization. If it is not obvious why this story has important test security ramifications, let me make it clear: (1) many websites, operated by pirates and thieves, infringe upon the copyrights of secured exam content, (2) it has been very difficult to effectively shutdown this activity, which is costing testing organizations millions of dollars per year in lost test development expenditures, and (3) if payment processors would agree to cease providing services to these thieves and pirates, many of them would fold. The WikiLeaks story demonstrates that copyright infringers will have a difficult time remaining in business without the support of payment processors.
At Caveon, we have been very successful in removing copyrighted exam materials from the Internet. Often our success is based upon respectful and courteous requests to unintentional copyright infringers. However, respect and courtesy do not work against pirates and thieves. At that point, potentially expensive legal action must be commenced.
An alternative to expensive legal proceedings is to work with payment processors to protect their brands. For example, Visa does not want any transaction to bring disrepute upon its brand (source: http://corporate.visa.com/_media/visa-international-operating-regulations.pdf). If we, as an industry, can convince the payment processors that the sale and distribution of pilfered exam content is disreputable, we may be able to slow the flow of money to the test thieves and protect valuable exam content.
What do you think? How can we help payment processors understand that their services facilitate the distribution of stolen exam content? Should ATP (Association of Test Publishers) contact the payment processors, on behalf of its members?
Several months ago, Ben Mannes, Test Security Director at ABIM, expressed this thought: “ATP should be trying to get a meeting with Victoria Espinel [White House intellectual property czar], bring 1-2 industry security experts, and state the case as to why exam content is a vital component to our nation’s infrastructure requiring heightened public sector IP enforcement.”
Please Comment Below, Thank you for Reading