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Cryptome 'Criminal Spy Guide' unshackled

Microsoft backs calls to reinstate controversial site

Microsoft has withdrawn its demand that Cryptome.org remove the 'Microsoft Global Criminal Spy Guide' document from the site, and said it never intended for the whistleblower's domain to be taken down.

"In this case, we did not ask that this site be taken down, only that Microsoft copyrighted content be removed," said a Microsoft spokeswoman. "We are requesting to have the site restored and are no longer seeking the document's removal."

The document, a 17-page guide to law enforcement on how to obtain information about users of Microsoft 's online services, including its Windows Live Hotmail, the Xbox Live gaming network and its Windows Live SkyDrive storage service, was published by John Young, who runs Cryptome.org, on 20 February.

Earlier this week, Microsoft demanded Young remove the document from his site, citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

When Young refused, his internet provider shut down the site. Network Solutions, the registrar of Young's domain, put a 'legal lock' on the domain name. This lock prevented him transferring the URL to another ISP.

Originally, Young was told he had until today to remove the document from his site before action was taken.

Instead, his ISP pulled the plug and Network Solutions locked the domain name a day early, forcing him to scramble to find a temporary home for his site.

Although Network Solutions has unlocked the domain - meaning Young can now transfer it to another ISP - Cryptome.org was still offline as of 5pm yesterday.

"We removed the legal lock as soon as we received the notification from Microsoft that they withdrew their [DMCA]-based complaint," said Susan Wade, a spokeswoman for Network Solutions.

'We want this to go to court'

Prior to the Microsoft u-turn, Young was combative, effectively daring the company to fight. "We really want this to go to court," he said. "The DMCA needs to be modified, because it's catching a lot of innocent people in its net."

The DMCA, Young argued, makes it much too easy for large companies like Microsoft to demand and get co-operation from internet providers and domain registrars such as Network Solutions when the issue is not copyright, but confidentiality.

"This is an abuse of the copyright law," Young maintained, adding that it wasn't lawmakers' intent to let firms use the DMCA to quash leaked information.

"We want to go to court so [Congress] comes out with a better version [of the DMCA]."

Cryptome.org has rebuffed efforts by other major internet companies, most recently Yahoo, when they have demanded the site take down documents spelling out how police can request user information.

"They're all bluffing," he said earlier today, putting Microsoft in that crowd.

After Young's site published the 'Microsoft Global Criminal Spy Guide', other sites posted the document. It can currently be downloaded from Wikileaks, for example.

Microsoft defended the two-year-old document that caused the ruckus.

"Like all service providers, Microsoft must respond to lawful requests from law enforcement agencies to provide information related to criminal investigations," the company spokeswoman said.

"We take our responsibility to protect our customers privacy very seriously, so have specific guidelines that we use when responding to law enforcement requests."

See also: Microsoft's Waledac plan 'won't cut spam'

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