Emmanuel Goldstein is many things to many people: publisher, journalist, pseudo-journalist, radio host, filmmaker, hacker, criminal, freedom fighter, scapegoat, pseudonym. Goldstein was born Eric Corley in 1961 and later adopted his nom de guerre from George Orwell's book 1984.

Goldstein's main claim to fame is that he is publisher and editor-in-chief of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly. He also hosts the "Off the Hook" radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York. Goldstein graduated in 1982 with a B.A. in English from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has been involved in journalism since high school and has been published in several newspapers. While in college his interests expanded to include college radio, telephony, electronics, and computers, leading him to the realm of phreaking and hacking.

Little information about Goldstein is available unless related to 2600 due to his quiet personal life. What is known is that he currently lives in an old, large Victorian mansion in Setauket, New York. He has long, unkempt hair, and dresses in similar fashion to those with whom he associates, namely young adult hackers. Despite the fact that he despises the "there oughta be a law" mentality, he leans far to the left politically and is involved with the ultra-leftist Indymedia project.

"The Hacker's Bible"

In January 1984 Goldstein published the first issue of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, a quarterly journal dedicated to telephone and computer hacking, education, technical information and discussion. Goldstein claims that it is coincidental that 2600's first issue was published in the same year as the title of the book from which he takes his name. The name 2600 comes from the 2600Hz steady signal tone that early phone phreakers in the 1970s learned to exploit to make free phone calls and explore phone systems.

Today Goldstein's 2600 magazine has over 4000 subscribers and a newsstand circulation of 60,000. Its readers include students, professors, intelligence and law enforcement agents, system administrators, hackers, script kiddies, crackers, phreakers, and corporate executives.

Two Turntables and a Microphone or The Weird Old Guy at the College Radio Station

While in college, Goldstein, using his real name, hosted a radio show called "Transmitter Test" at WUSB 90.1 FM, SUNY Stony Brook's college radio station, and also served as both music director and program director there. After graduating he continued to host a radio show called "Brain Damage" at WUSB until his last show there in January 1995. In 1984, in conjunction with WUSB, he invited all 209 listed candidates for president to speak at a convention. In the end over two dozen alternative presidential candidates accepted his invitation and Goldstein received worldwide attention.

Since 1988, Goldstein has reported for and produced shows for WBAI 99.5 FM in New York City, where he currently hosts a weekly radio program called "Off the Hook". The radio show more or less mirrors 2600 magazine's content but with a focus on freedom issues and news.

Group Hacking

To date, Goldstein has organized four hacker conventions, Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) in 1994, Beyond HOPE in 1997, H2K in 2000, and H2K2 in 2002, where computer security professionals and hackers gather to discuss technology, encryption, privacy, and broadcasting.

We're in a Van - With a Camera

Goldstein has also directed a feature-length documentary film about Kevin Mitnick entitled Freedom Downtime. It was premiered at the H2K conference and won the Audience Award for Documentaries at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in 2002.

"It was fun for the phone phreaks as we watched the network crumble"

Goldstein and 2600 first gained national attention around 1990 with his comments regarding the Martin Luther King Day Crash of AT&T's switching computers and the subsequent crackdown on computer hacking. Goldstein has been something of a hacker celebrity since then and has even testified before the United States Congress. He has been interviewed, written about, or published by some of the world's largest media outlets, such as CNN, The New York Times, and USA Today, which went so far as to say that 2600 is "considered the Hacker's Bible." He has stayed in the limelight since with his support of the campaign to free Kevin Mitnick and by repeatedly getting sued, threatened, harassed, and criminally charged in his attempts to keep information free. Goldstein has even been mentioned in the movie Hackers; the real name of the character Cereal Killer, played by Matthew Lillard, is Emmanuel Goldstein. *

Universal City Studios, Inc. et al. v. Reimerdes, Corley and Kazan or We're Screwed

Recently, Goldstein's celebrity has increased exponentially as he was the only remaining defendant in the so-called DeCSS case, Universal v. Reimerdes. The case was originally filed against tens of defendants by the Motion Picture Association of America on behalf of its members (the major motion picture studios). At issue was the linking to the source code of a program called DeCSS, which allowed for full access to a DVD without the permission of the DVD licensing agency, the DVD Copy Control Association. Goldstein, receiveing legal help and funding from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, refused to remove the links to DeCSS and allowed the case to press forward. Eventually all the other defendants complied with the MPAA's demands to remove DeCSS or links to it from their websites, leaving Goldstein and 2600 as the only defendant in what came to be known as MPAA v. 2600. With potential free speech and fair use ramifications, the case garnered media attention from both the mainstream and alternative press. Hackers, geeks, computer professionals, and research professors alike watched the case unfold.

The case was heard in U.S. District Court in July 2000 and the ruling handed down in August: Goldstein had lost the case. In January 2001 he appealed the case to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The oral arguments for the appeal were heard in May 2001, and the decision affirming the District Court ruling against Goldstein was handed down in November 2001. Goldstein decided not to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, fearing that a dangerous precendent could be set.

Goldstein has spent years championing his current cause celebre and being a lightning rod for litigation-happy corporations, law enforcement, and government agents, but this was the first legal hurdle Goldstein could not clear. All this has resulted in a significant financial drain on Goldstein; ironically, his financial woes have been offset in small part by those in law enforcement and government agencies who keep tabs on 2600 by purchasing the magazine.

Sources and Further Reading

  • http://www.eff.org/IP/Video/MPAA_DVD_cases/
  • http://www.newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/news/media/internet/3949/
  • The Hacker Crackdown

* Thanks to The Custodian for reminding me of the Hackers mention.

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