THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 170, April 22, 2002
REMEMBER 9/11? REMEMBER 4/19!
Special to TLE
When the comic geniuses Chuck Jones and Mel Blanc created the classic barnyard character Foghorn Leghorn, it's hard to believe that they didn't have a film of Washington political prostitute Earnest "Fritz" Hollings (aka "the Senator from Disney") to model the blustering rooster from.
As beneficiary of almost a half a million Yankee greenbacks stuffed into his bib overalls by Hollywood studio interests, Senator Leghorn, er, I mean Hollings has proved himself a good politician: in that a good politician is the kind that stays bought.
Senator Leghorn has delivered to his Hollywood Johns bigtime with the introduction of the newly renamed "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act," which goes under the awkward acronym of CBDTPA.
Formerly known as the SSSCA (Security Systems & Standards Certification Act), the renaming hasn't improved this proposed rape of our digital freedom. It stinks to high heaven, and if passed will have the effect of turning your computer into no more than a fancy digital television, pretty much under the control of so-called "content providers", media megaliths such as Disney/ABC and AOL-Time/Warner.
Hand-in-hand with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the CBDTPA is anti-consumer, treating us all as potential thieves and punishing us in advance for so-called "infringements" we haven't committed. In actuality, these laws are used to strengthen copy- protection ("digital rights management") technologies that give enormous power to media moguls while stripping us of our traditional fair-use rights.
Chillingly, the CBDTPA worms its way into the very guts of the software that controls your computer. Companies such as Microsoft, Apple and the various Linux distributors will be forced to embed technology that prevents you from copying a music file from a legally purchased CD to your portable MP3 player or sending a document to a friend via email.
Or even stop you from browsing to your favorite website. Sound far- fetched? Most assuredly, it's not. Is the "content" you wish to access "approved" and do you have the "digital right" to see it? Insertion of filters into browsing software is trivial from a software engineering standpoint, and the CBDTPA could require that filtering be implemented.
Bypass these controls and you'll be looking at serious jail time.
That's already happened: The FBI arrested Russian software engineer Dmitri Sklyarov after his speech about encryption at Defcon, an annual hacker convention in Las Vegas. Not just encryption in general, but specific details regarding Adobe’s encrypted PDF files and how to defeat the encryption. This was judged a federal crime under the provisions of the controversial 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In effect, Sklyarov was jailed for a thought crime.
The long arm of US intellectual property law has even reached overseas, bringing about the arrest of Norwegian software programmer, Jon Johansen, for writing a piece of software called DeCSS that allowed him to watch his legally purchased DVDs on his Linux computer. The arrest was made at the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America by KOKRIM, the Norwegian law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over economic crimes. Mr. Johansen was 15 years old when he created his DeCSS program, the authorities waited until his 18th birthday to arrest him.
Intellectual property law has long since crossed any reasonable boundary, when it's used to attack hapless consumers and software engineers. In a grotesque perversion of copyright laws originally intended to protect artists of all stripes and encourage artistic development, the tables have been turned to protect the revenue streams of huge corporations in perpetuity.
Don't think they won't arrest you. They will, and with great pleasure. The Mouse must be protected at all costs.
Is it too late to stop this outrage? My personal feeling is that it will be signed into law in some form or another. After all, we have a president who recently again demonstrated his total contempt for the US Constitution by blithely signing a patently illegal campaign finance "reform" law. He surely wouldn't scruple at signing the CBDTPA.
The one possible roadblock is that the bill might fail in the nominally Republican House of Representatives. However, quoting Mario Puzo's Vito Corleone, "The bill would surely pass Congress. A privilege all those rascals extended to each other."
Bearing in mind that using the quoted text above might be a violation of the DMCA, it applies here, nonetheless.
The Mouse must be protected at all costs.