News from Loony Tunes land: Hacking made legal for Hollywood

I am sorry, but I have a hard time taking serious the bill proposal from Californian congressman Howard Berman that would give the entertainment industry the right to hack computers and networks to stop people from downloading music and movies off the Internet. What has he been smoking?

Before the ridiculous no-linking cases in European courts, I would have said it couldn’t have happened anywhere else than America.

Wired News has an interesting article that highlights the “dark side” of the hacking bill. The way the bill is written it could allow for interpreations that would allow any joe-hacker to use the bill to justify his hacking.

Dave Winer has also written an article about the bill that goes into some other parts of it, and also suggests what american voters should do with representatives such as Howard Berman:

Politicians who are openly corrupt must pay the ultimate penalty, lose their jobs, so no government leader ever again dares go against the interests of his or her constituency, as these representatitves have.

5 thoughts on “News from Loony Tunes land: Hacking made legal for Hollywood”

  1. Hi Jarle, I’m ambivalent about this. I think the big studios and their political pawns are messed-up for various reasons, but I’ve seen hyperbole on the blogs too. Of course such confusion/confrontation may all be normal when trying to use the political process to achieve social goals…. ;-)

    Check this quote from WIRED:

    “The tools Berman specifically suggested that companies might use include ‘interdiction — flooding a P2P file server with fake requests in order to slow or stop the system; ‘spoofing’ — providing slews of corrupt, damaged or incomplete files to P2P servers; and ‘redirection’ — faking the location of files to force traders to perform many futile system-resource-wasting searches.”

    I have no problem with those techniques myself… there’s no quality control on stolen digital content, so it’s buyer-beware anyway. People who steal digital content from others are outside the social contract, so they don’t really have any redress if others treat them ill-manneredly too.

    Suppose someone links to the images on your server — switching images on your site so they get an objectionable image is a similar technique. Asking phone solicitors what they’re wearing, or asking them to “hold for just a moment”, are similar techniques. If you don’t get in someone’s face they won’t get in yours.

    But there *is* a second type of danger described in the WIRED article, that of collateral damage:

    “For instance, if everyone on your block has a cable modem, and someone is thought to be a pirate, a denial-of-service attack against that perceived pirate could take the entire neighborhood cable network down.”

    That’s true. It reminds me of Palestinian warplanners hiding among civilians… those who are used as human shields do have a responsibility to avoid that situation. It’s difficult to know where the line is. But that cable-modem scenario is a hypothetical one, probably solvable by ordinary tort law, and doesn’t suffice to invalidate the entire approach of trying to right that wrong.

    The big complaint I see in the blogs is that Berman’s current bill doesn’t say studios *won’t* pursue more invasive measures. This seems a separate issue to me.

    How I look at it: Relationships between freely-consenting adults are outside the government’s purview. Don’t tell us how we *should* act, what types of chips we can buy, what types of encryption we can use. If someone abrogates a contract then they’re subject to contract-enforcement, and burglars shouldn’t cry if you booby-trapped your house. Political power is usually a shortcut for the economically powerful, and tends to slow growth overall.


  2. My biggest complaint is that it would give these copyright holders the right to use otherwise illegal measures to enforce their “rights”. It would allow them to hack computers, delete files, perform denial of service attacks and otherwise wreck havoc if they thought someone was violating their rights. I look at it as if anyone was allowed to break into anyones house without any real just cause. And not only that, they wouldn’t be responsible for any of the damage they did in the process, like using a demolition crew to enter your house.

    Its also interesting to think about how someone would recive these extra rights. If I had “reasonable reason” to think that you had a copy of a program I had written – or maybe an article, would that allow me to hack your computer, and take down the network you were on? Or would I have to be AOL Time Warner, Disney or one of the bigs to be allowed that extra freedom?

    What is even more interesting to me, living outside of the US – is how the law would affect the rights to attack systems outside the US, should they be allowed the same freedom against networks and computers in foreign countries?

  3. It makes perfect sense to me, when seeing where this is coming from. Seems like a natural extension of the same philosophy and type of thinking that so many California politicians promote.

    After all, these are the same politicians that want to take the rights of gun ownership out of the hands of law abiding citizens, which by natural extension creates an environment where it is the criminal who has the upper hand and the law essentially on his side.

    These nuts are all from the same pot of stew.

  4. Interesting you should say that. I see Adam Curry raising the question if the american constitutional right to bear arms shouldn’t be expanded to include cyber arms. He has some other good thoughts about how the copyright holders using these new proposed rights to attack alleged copyright violators with what would otherwise be known as cyber terrorism could fast become just that when used again citizens of other countries. That is, state approved terrorism against other countries and their citizens.


  5. Interesting analogy, feels fruitful to me… how centralized should defense be? what balance between decentralized deterrence and centralized penal measures? (I don’t have any interest in owning firearms myself, but would personally feel safer if I knew that more ordinary people carried firearms because it would minimize advantages a malefactor would have in threatening with firearms.)

    If a file-sharing service does not provide quality-assurance methods, then they should expect to have various ill files, whether from trojans and spyware or industry decoy files.

    I still see the blogging community worrying about “they might do something bad”, though. If they *do* do something bad that’s different.

    ach, too many laws… just follow the Golden Rule and starve the lawyers, that’s my new motto…. ;-)


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