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SubjectSSSCA: We're in trouble now
Before anyone remarks about this being Off Topic for the various mailing
lists I've sent this to, please think about the effects this could have
to Linux. In addition, even though many of you may not be US citizens,
the recent happenings with international laws against cybercrime, copy
protection and the like could make this US law relevant to you as well,
not to mention the impact to your company should you not be able to do
business in the US because of such a law. Therefore, it really IS on
topic, and the time to think about and act on such things is _BEFORE_
they are written in stone, not after.

In case you haven't heard, the SSSCA is before the Senate Commerce
Committee, with a hearing earlier today
( for the
story and several links, including a draft of the bill). The SSSCA, if
passed, would basically require that all interactive digital devices,
including your PC, have copy protection built in. This protection would
not allow digital media from being viewed, copied, transferred, or
downloaded if the device is not authorized to do so. The bill also makes
it a crime to circumvent the protection, including manufacturing or
trafficking in anything that does not include the protection or that
would circumvent it.

Even if there is no SSSCA, the entertainment industry as well as the IT
industry both agree: we must have copy protection of some kind. While I
do not disagree that many movies, songs, and other media are distributed
illegally without their owners consent, and that copyright owners need
some sort of protection, this is not the way to fight the problem, and
doing so can, and probably will, have drastic and far reaching
consequences for not only the IT industry, but the entertainment
industry and the consumer as well.

Many of us have become increasingly involved with, and dependent upon,
Free Software (as in GNU GPL or similar), especially the Linux operating
system. This type of software is distributed with the source code,
allowing anyone to modify it as they choose and need. Linux has become
popular to the point that many companies, especially those that provide
some kind of service on or for the Internet, rely upon it heavily.
Because of the free nature of Linux, and other Free Software, it is
extremely difficult to place actual numbers on how many systems are out
there employing such software. Some of you, like me, can approximate the
number of such systems in your own company or realm of knowledge. So how
does this relate to the SSSCA?

As any programmer worth his/her salt will attest, given the resources,
anything that can be programmed into a computer can be programmed out,
or worked around. In the case of copy protection such as the SSSCA would
require, the resources needed for circumventing it is simply the source
code for the operating system of the computer, and/or other source code
for applications used on the computer (such as one of the many free
video/audio players available). Now given the wording of the SSSCA,
along with the DMCA and other supporting laws, it stands to reason that
such Free Software would suddenly become a target for legislation. Such
legislation logically may require such software to be judged illegal.
Such a decision may have serious consequences to the IT industry as well
as the entertainment industry and the consumer as well. Little may the
consumer or entertainment industry know, but much of the technology they
rely upon today is provided at low cost by Free Software. Take that
software away, and suddenly doing business costs a lot more, and
eventually the consumer just will not be willing to pay for it.

Now aside from the consequences to Free Software, what about the
consequences to those who do not use such software. Imagine that home
movie you shot last weekend on vacation. Now you wish to send that home
movie to a relative, friend, whoever, over the Internet, or place it on
your web site for all to download. Well, with many of the protection
technologies suggested, this would not be possible, or would be
extremely difficult. Some of these technologies require digital
watermarks to be placed in the media, for one example. CD burners,
digital cameras, etc. can not make these watermarks. The copy protection
works by checking for such a watermark, and if it does not exist, the
system either will not allow the media to be played, or will not allow
it to be transmitted over the Internet as the case may be. So much for
sending your cousin your latest home movie, or allowing your whole
family to see it from your web site. An additional problem is all
current media, including CDs and DVDs, you may currently legally own
would not work on proposed new CD and DVD players with copy protection
hardware. You would not be able to copy CDs, tapes, or anything else
that you legally own in order to exercise your right to fair use, so as
to listen to that CD on the cassette deck in your car.

I could go on, but I think this is long enough and has given some food
for thought. Besides, I have work to do. Election time is near, so think
about what that person you are voting for represents. Think about
actually writing a letter to a congressman or other legislator, to a
magazine (I actually had one published once, so it's not beyond the
realms of possibility), newpaper, etc. Many people have the attitude
that they can do nothing and make no difference. Well, I say to them
they are right, because there are so many people with that attitude,
that none of them do anything and they make no difference in doing so.
The once that make the difference, are the ones taking a stance, and the
ones taking the stance are the ones that are causing these rediculous
laws to be passed. Guess who those people are?...

Welcome to The United Corporations of America.

Paul G. Allen
Owner, Sr. Engineer, Security Specialist
Random Logic/Dream Park
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