By Richard Menta 6/26/02
"A copyright owner should not be allowed to damage the property of a P2P file trader or any intermediaries, including ISPs". That is a quote from Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) who is proposing a bill that would allow copyright holders like the movie and record industry to use technology tactics to shut down P2P networks such as KaZaa and Gnutella. There is a big problem here. The tactics he wants to give to copyright holders are the same techniques used presently by hackers to invade networks. Does he really believe anyone can guarantee the ability to hack without damage?
The Berman bill, also known as HR 5211, is a license to hack for the record and movie industries. A legal exclusion given to the entertainment conglomerates, but to no others.
Such actions are criminal now for all, but should this bill ever become law, content organizations will have an exemption giving them the right to drill into your personal PC and zap any digital music or movie files they deem as "stolen". If they should do other damage to your system along the way, tough, you won't be able to claim damages, a hedge put in the bill that contradicts Mr Berman's statement above.
How significant is this bill? If this bill were to pass the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) can, say, orchestrate the release of a virus that once in someone's system can destroy all the MP3s on their computer.
A DDoS attack to shut down a file trade network? No problem. And what about invasion of privacy? Forget it.
The thing is these technical tactics are illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and for good reason. If the bugs in Microsoft's own operating system can cause your PC to crash, do you really think the entertainment industry can use such tactics without doing significant collateral damage along the way?
But that doesn't phase technical experts like the music industry, experts who are pushing for this option because they were not expert enough to develop PC disabled CDs that did not damage the computers playing them (see Celine Dion Killed My iMac!) .
The entertainment industries are very good at manipulating Congress to pass laws that are nothing short of Machiavellian. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a perfect example. What that law did to Webcasters alone this past week testifies to that.
The question is, will such a bill ever become law? Not if we are vocal about it - I hope.
You can get more information on the Berman bill here
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