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Washington's Worst Coders

5
jleaderPerson was signed in when posted
11-04-2002
04:59 PM ET (US)
cypherpunks, I just wanted to say that I agree completely with your point about not accepting lies from those we agree with. But you also shouldn't take political rhetoric quite so literally.

As far as Felten being threatened, and dismissing that with "anyone can be threatened with a lawsuit...", some threats should be taken more seriously than others. The threat was taken seriously enough by Felten, his colleagues, the University, the forum where the paper was to be presented, and their attorneys, that the paper wasn't presented. I'm inclined to take that as evidence suggesting that the DMCA inhibits the free flow of research results. I guess you could claim that no law ever inhibits research, because researchers are always free to ignore any threats they receive, and they won't be penalized until after they've published their results. Seems like a silly argument to me.

Also, I never said that Skylarov was jailed for doing science; I just said that one could argue that he is a scientist, and he was jailed for actions related to that science. On those grounds, whether "DMCA jailed a scientist" is correct depends on how strictly you want to define scientist. And yes, he was jailed because he broke the law (in Russia, but we won't go into that), the whole argument is about whether the law is a good one or not. I don't think what he did should be illegal, so I don't think he should have been jailed. Saying he should have been, because that's what the law states, does nothing to convince me that the law is a good one!

Anyway, the whole "jailing scientists" thing was a slightly over-the-top bit of rhetoric; "threatening several scientists, jailing one, and potentially jailing others" is more accurate, but not as punchy.
4
cypherpunksPerson was signed in when posted
11-04-2002
02:57 PM ET (US)
With regard to the original article at aotc.info, I have a couple more complaints. First, the links for summary info on the bills are all to the EFF web site. Now, the EFF is fine as an advocacy organization; I'm a member. But that's not where you go to get unbiased information about a topic! I would rather see the bill's names be linked directly to the bill's text, and a link to the EFF with some heading about "What's wrong with this bill".

And secondly, the list at the bottom, of congressmen and dollar figures, is both confusing and inaccurate. What are the dollar figures for? I didn't see them described. And the comments submitted by readers point out a number of places where the info is out of date.

Plus, if you look up the data for yourself, you'll see how these kinds of sites mislead you. Take Ernest Hollings, D-SC, who the online community likes to call the "Senator from Disney". Then look for yourself at his campaign contributions, from http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/ind...00002423&cycle=2000. Yes, the entertainment industry gave him a substantial sum, $287,534. But more than FOUR TIMES that amount was donated by law firms! You don't find this kind of information being presented by advocacy sites, because it undercuts their argument. They talk about how much money their pet enemies get from entertainment industries, but they don't put it into perspective as a percentage of total donations - because that wouldn't serve their political purposes.

I for one am sick and tired of being fed misinformation by well meaning advocacy sites who are willing to bend the truth in order to achieve their political goals. I encourage everyone reading this to demand accountability and accuracy from their political allies as well as their political foes. Stop being a hypocrite. Don't excuse being lied to because it was for a good cause. The world is a complicated and difficult place, and the truth is seldom found at the extremes. But the only way you're going to figure this out is if you stop letting yourself be spoon-fed pre-digested information and go out and learn the facts for yourself.
3
cypherpunksPerson was signed in when posted
11-04-2002
02:36 PM ET (US)
Yes, Felten was threatened; but anyone can be threatened with a lawsuit, at any time, and under any grounds. I might sue you under the DMCA if you don't turn over all your files to me. There; you've just been threatened under the DMCA. You are in Felten's company; you can add your name to the list of those who have been threatened with the DMCA. A threat of a lawsuit means nothing, it's just empty words.

As for point B, that Sklyarov's software was written specifically to break copy protection, the issue is that this is exactly what the DMCA criminalizes. If we will criticize the DMCA for "jailing scientists", we might as well criticize the shoplifting laws on the same grounds.

Sklyarov was not jailed for doing scientific research or publishing (or speaking about) his results, as many people in the online community initially claimed. He was arrested for selling software that broke copy protection. Therefore it is misleading to describe the law as "jailing scientists", because it was not his actions as a scientist which broke the law; it was his actions as a developer of commercial software.
2
jleaderPerson was signed in when posted
11-04-2002
02:11 PM ET (US)
cypherpunks, the I believe DMCA was used the threaten Ed Felten, a CS prof at Princeton, and his co-authors, to try to keep them from presenting a research paper. The attempt was a success for a short while, though the RIAA later backed down, and then claimed that they never threatened anyone.

Also, what is the relevance of your point B (Skylarov's software was "written specifically to break copy protection")? If I buy an ebook, and want to back it up in case my computer self-destructs, why shouldn't someone be able to provide me with software for that purpose?

And as for your point A, wasn't the software originally part of Skylarov's dissertation? We're not going to get into a "computer science isn't really a scientist" discussion, are we?

So "jailing scientists" should be changed to "threatening academic researchers and jailing a graduate student"? Is that better?
1
cypherpunksPerson was signed in when posted
11-04-2002
01:57 PM ET (US)
Since when has the DMCA been "jailing scientists?"

This is presumably a reference to Sklyarov, but (A) it is a real stretch to call him a scientist, (B) he was involved in writing/distributing software written specifically to break copy protection, and (C) he's not plural.

And another thing. Try reading the text off the CBDTPA, from http://cryptome.org/broadbandits.htm, and see what the bill actually does. I'll bet you'll find that it's completely different from what you've been told. Please, someone point to the section where technologists have to show up on bended knee. It seems to be missing from my copy.

As far as CIPA, I agree that it's a bad law. But the Feds have wielded power for years by putting strings on tax disbursement, in everything from speed limits to medical records. The real problem with CIPA is that it decreases local control and imposes uniformity, which is exactly the same problem with all federal overrides of local issues. Rather than opposing just the specific bills that happen to disagree with your political bias, it is better to embrace the idea of diversity at the local level and to push to allow localities to make their own decisions and policies.

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