Jan 26, 2001

EU Initiative Funds Filters
Free Speech
1/26/2001; 11:18:44 AM

'The European Union and a group of European companies and organizations have launched a new project aimed at creating Internet filtering technology tailored for users in several European countries.

'The World Wide Web Safe Surfing Project is part of a $23.4 million initiative launched by the European Union in 1999 to help users surf the Web without encountering illegal or objectionable content. As part of the initiative, the EU is providing funding for several projects exploring different types of filtering technologies.'

Jan 24, 2001

AMICI CURIE in the 2600 Linking and DeCSS case
1/24/2001; 4:23:09 PM 'It cannot seriously be argued that any form of computer code may be regulated without reference to First Amendment doctrine. The path from idea to human language to source code to object code is a continuum. As one moves from one to the other, the levels of precision and, arguably, abstraction increase, as does the level of training necessary to discern the idea from the expression. Not everyone can understand each of these forms. Only English speakers will understand English formulations. Principally those familiar with the particular programming language will understand the source code expression. And only a relatively small number of skilled programmers and computer scientists will understand the machine readable object code. But each form expresses the same idea, albeit in different ways.'

Jan 23, 2001

FTC Clears DoubleClick
Privacy from Companies
1/23/2001; 4:57:59 PM

'The Federal Trade Commission told an attorney for DoubleClick (DCLK) on Monday that the commission has closed its investigation of the company's data-handling practices....

'The FTC had been investigating whether DoubleClick's data handling constituted an "unfair or deceptive" trade practice. According to Monday's FTC letter to Christine Varney, a Washington attorney and a former Federal Trade Commissioner who represents DoubleClick, the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection staff now believes that the company "never used or disclosed consumers' [personal data] for purposes other than those disclosed in its privacy policy."'

Jan 23, 2001

Justices To Review Virtual Porn Ban
Free Speech
1/23/2001; 4:40:36 PM 'Taking on a child pornography dispute, the Supreme Court said Monday it will decide whether Congress can ban computer-altered pictures that only appear to show minors involved in sexual activity.

'The court said it will hear the government's argument that by banning sexual images that do not actually portray children, a 1996 law ``helps to stamp out the market for child pornography involving real children.'''

Credit goes to Steve Imparl, moderator of the weblaw mailing list at, for this opinion of mine. "Virtual" child pornography is almost certainly already an obscenity under the touchstone of obscenity in America, Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973) (note that link goes to the actual decision, so you can decide for yourself).  From that decision:

The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, Roth, supra, at 489, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. If a state obscenity law is thus limited, First Amendment values are adequately protected by ultimate independent appellate review of constitutional claims when necessary.

Based on that standard, it would seem child pornography, virtual or otherwise, is already fully regulable under the law as obscene material. Note my implicit claim that the virtual-ness is irrelevant... I'm not trying to sneak that by

While I may approve of the intention, I do not approve of unnecessary proliferation of laws. (I wonder how many lawyers know what KISS stands for?)

Jan 22, 2001

What's Wrong With Content Protection
1/22/2001; 1:20:03 PM 'There is nothing wrong with allowing people to optionally choose to buy copy-protection products that they like.

'What is wrong is when people who would like products that simply record bits, or audio, or video, without any copy protection, can't find any, because they have been driven off the market.  By restrictive laws like the Audio Home Recording Act, which killed the DAT market.  By "anti-circumvention" laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which EFF is now litigating.  By Federal agency actions, like the FCC deciding a month ago that it will be illegal to offer citizens the capability to record HDTV programs, even if the citizens have the legal right to.  By private agreements among major companies, such as SDMI and CPRM (that later end up being "submitted" as fait accompli to accredited standards committees, requiring an effort by the affected public to derail them).  By private agreements behind the laws and standards, such as the unwritten agreement that DAT and MiniDisc recorders will treat analog inputs as if they contained copyrighted materials which the user has no rights in.  (My recording of my brother's wedding is uncopyable, because my MiniDisc decks act as if I and my brother don't own the copyright on it.)'

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