Aug 22, 2001 blamed for `viral' copyright infringement
Music & MP3
'A new lawsuit filed against seeks to hold the San Diego music-locker service liable not only for songs it improperly copied and distributed, but also for every bootleg track exchanged through Napster and other underground file-swapping services.'

We just crossed the line into absurdity. Regardless of how I and others felt about the Napster case, there was some merit in it. There is none here.


Aug 21, 2001

Cyber Citizen lands Felony Charges?
Witch Hunts
'A good deed may lead to prosecution for Brian K. West, a 24 year old sales and support employee for an internet service provider in SE Oklahoma. Mr. West has become a statistic for the Computer Analysis Response Team because he alerted a local business to a serious security flaw in their website.'

'On February 1, 2000, one of West's co-workers created a banner advertisement to be placed on the Poteau Daily News website as part of a legitimate advertising campaign for his employer. To test how how the finished ad would look on the site, West clicked the 'Edit' button on Microsoft's Internet Explorer. This action brought up Microsoft FrontPage and should have created a local copy of the web page, allowing West to do a mock-up of the site on his own computer.'

I haven't created a new category in months, but I'm inaugurating a new one for this story: Witch Hunts. I'm going to define Witch Hunts in this context as times when the legal system reacts all out of proportion to the stimulus, and enters a mode where all it wants is a conviction and as much jail time as possible. In this context, witch hunts are frequently associated with completely ignoring contrary evidence, a complete lack of understanding (usually by choice nowadays, which is really scary) of the mechanics of computer security, and grossly inflated estimations of damage. (It's trivial to assign damages in this case: $0.00. In fact, the "damages" should be considered negative; the information should have led to real damage-preventing changes.)

This isn't the first witch hunt. The witch hunts conducted in our schools (if you are a student, I suggest leaving your computer competence at home) is another example of this. These things come in bursts, but in the past they tended to actually go after real hackers, albiet with ferocity probably unnecessary. This round seems to be just beginning, and the standards seem low.

Witch hunts are one of the most present dangers against our liberties, not just because you have no idea who will be next, but because of the mob mentality that develops. Mobs don't tend to support liberty. Mob logic distinctly tends toward "kill them all and let God sort them out." This kind of story is bad news for us all.

Aug 21, 2001

New essay: Information Is Too Scarce!
Partially prompted by this Slashdot article, where you can find a prototypical version of the essay if you look, this new essay strikes out at one of the foundations of the usual argument for abolishing IP in all of its forms, and supports the continued existence of some kind of copyright, albiet not necessarily what we have now.

Aug 21, 2001

Slashdot | The DMCA Is Just The Beginning
From Slashdot:

dr. greenthumb writes: ''With the Sklyarov-case still fresh in memory, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wants to rally up against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in order to preserve privacy and freedom of speech. The FTAA is currently negotiating agreements with several countries in the Western hemisphere concerning, among other issues, intellectual property rights. According to the EEF, the FTAA organization is considering treaty language that mandates nations pass anti-circumvention provisions similar to the DMCA, except the FTAA treaty grants even greater control to publishers than the DMCA.''

Aug 21, 2001

Censorship in action: why I don't publish my HDCP results
'I have written a paper detailing security weaknesses in the HDCP content protection system. I have decided to censor myself and not publish this paper for fear of prosecution and/or liability under the US DMCA law.'

'My name is Niels Ferguson. I'm a professional cryptographer. My job is to design, analyse, and attack cryptographic security systems, a bit like a digital locksmith. I work to make computer systems and the Internet more secure. You would think that people would be in favour of that, right?'

Excellent paper. If Mr. Ferguson ever decides he doesn't want to be a cryptographer anymore, I'm sure he could find work as a writer. Clear, concise, comprehensible... the three C's.

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