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...