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(ichimunki) Re: The SSSCA considered harmful

by ichimunki (Priest)
on Mar 01, 2002 at 23:05 UTC ( #148711=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to The SSSCA considered harmful

Thank you for writing this sample email. I would like permission to create a derived version for my own use. Perhaps you would consider licensing this under the GNU GPL or an open content license? *grin*

The SSSCA is about one thing: helping media studios sell us more stuff. In fact, as Godwin points out, the process of complying with this law would require all of us to buy new stuff, often stuff we already own! In fact, I see nowhere discussed any reason why the Philips audio CD standard will be exempted (am I wrong? please?!), as audio CDs are digital and there players will need to be equipped to protect (as in racket) the contents thereof.

And because this isn't terribly on-topic yet, I will mention the potential drastic impact this has on Perl. This law will not be the immediate death of free software, GNU/Linux and Perl, but it is a surefire start down that path. If common general-use computer hardware is required to protect "creative" content, it can only really do this well in conjunction with software. Not too slowly this leads to a situation where first operating systems and of course applications and then even programming languages must be designed to restrict usage (especially in consumer machines). This would effectively end free software, where source code availability makes any protective routines written into either the OS, the applications, or the programming languages as easy to route around as using the Delete Key.

<spam>At ichimunki.com I have mirrored Fritz Hollings' opening statements from yesterday's hearing (which are open to annotation by all comers-- the site is a wiki) and started collecting links and thoughts about free speech, fair use, and technology.</spam>


Comment on (ichimunki) Re: The SSSCA considered harmful
Re (tilly) 2: The SSSCA considered harmful
by tilly (Archbishop) on Mar 02, 2002 at 03:22 UTC
    First about the impact on Perl, please re-read the various drafts of it floating around. Read section 109, paragraph 3:
    (3) Interactive digital device -- The term "interactive digital device" means "any machine, device, product, software, or technology, whether or not included with or as part of some other machine, device, product, software, or technology, that is designed, marketed or used for the primary purpose of, and that is capable of, storing, retrieving, processing, performing, transmitting, receiving, or copying information in digital form." (all emphasis mine)
    This definition manages to cover just about every useful Perl program that I have seen or written. Given that most of them have not incorporated any kind of copy protection (let alone one authorized by a government standard), they would all be illegal.

    Seems pretty much like "immediate death" to me.

    What it seems that our legislators do not understand is that Content is Not King. (See Communication Networks and Other Topics for more excellent articles from the same author on that general topic.) In peer to peer networks locally generated content dwarfs commercial content in useful measures of value. This has been true in network after network over the last 200 years. Basic connectivity is one of the biggest engines we know of behind economic growth and creative innovation. Removing connectivity is one of the fastest ways to cripple that growth.

    I didn't explain this in my email, but I hoped that it would be obvious to the reader on a personal level. As I pointed out, basic email systems incorporate a host of features which directly enable infringement on copyrights. Yet as everyone knows from experience, those exact features, in enhancing the ease of communication, are what makes email useful for communication, document workflow, etc. Conversely removing those features from email would cripple the medium, and a significant fraction of businesses along with it.

    What is the value of email? It is hard to measure that. However as Odlyzko's article points out, in polls people are split on whether they would be more willing to give up email or their phone. (I would give up my phone first.) So let us say for the sake of argument that email is comparable in value to the phone system. Well in 1997 (see Odlyzko for a citation), we spent $256.1 billion on phones. We spent (after some quick math), $188.6 billion on Hollywood, TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines combined. Hmmm...it seems likely to me that email is worth more! And that is not even getting into the rest of the IT infrastructure, most of which is impacted by this legislation. We spent (per Intel's submission linked on your site) $600 billion on IT products in 2000, communication services not included. That is definitely worth more than all of the stories from tinsel-town.

    This is not even getting into the fact that, as has been widely pointed out (and was pointed out by Intel as well), every historical technology that content industries have railed against because it was going to destroy the value of their content has resulted in significant increases of revenue for them. Again and again they have sought relief from technology after technology that made them feel out of control. And again and again it was to their benefit. (You would think they would learn? Apparently not...)

    Therefore, even if the content industries were going to be levelled to the ground, protecting them at the cost of our IT industry would be a bad idea. But that isn't our real choice. Rather all evidence points to the conclusion that the very technologies that Hollywood is begging for protection from would prove to be yet another significant windfall for them. So we are choosing between crippling our economy to protect Hollywood, or helping both grow. Doesn't seem like a hard decision to me!

    But, while true, this is not a point that I know how to effectively make to non-technical people without their eyes glazing over. However they understand email. So I can skip the lessons on network economics and capitalism at work, and just explain what it means for how they use computers. They may not know the fancy theory, but they hopefully can extrapolate for their own lives...

    UPDATE
    Oh shoot. Forgot to answer the licensing question. For your convenience, feel free to sublicense your copy of the original email under virtually any decent license you want. This includes without restriction any of the Open Content license you linked to, LGPL, GPL, BSD, and the Artistic License. Contact me for any license you wish to use that is not on that list (or derivable from one on that list. Please do not consider it public domain. Since a large part of the point of the email is that you are working with copyrighted text, I have no wish to relinquish my copyright.

    UPDATE 2
    For a more amusing, though basically accurate, summary of what is wrong with the SSSCA, see the following letter by Rick Bradley.

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