Hollywood wants the right to hack your computer
Friday, July 26, 2002 by Dave Winer.
"A proposal by a California congressman would give the entertainment industry broad new powers to try to stop people from downloading pirated music and movies off the Internet.
"Rep. Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., formally proposed legislation that would give the industry unprecedented new authority to secretly hack into consumers' computers or knock them off-line entirely if they are caught downloading copyrighted material.
"Other sponsors of the measure include Reps. Howard Coble, R-N.C., Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Robert Wexler, D-Fla. Coble has also received significant contributions from the entertainment industry."
The full story is here:
This is so over the top. As a technical expert, I know there's no way to implement this without trampling on users' rights. It violates the US Constitution. But there's much more to say about it.
A couple of years ago, at the peak of the Napster boom, I got an email from a music industry exec, not a friend, asking if it would be possible to design a virus that would seek out and destroy music downloaded from Napster on users' computers.
As a computer professional, I expressed my disgust. We have strong ethics in this business. We look out for less technical users, like this executive. At a technical level it's impossible for software to tell the difference between a legal scan and one of questionable legality. Further, the question reveals an incredible and unrealistic selfishness, why should we allow him to hack our computers to protect his copyright? It would have been unethcial for me to say anything other than don't under any circumstances do that, and that is what I said.
Two years ago I never imagined that the US Congress would consider making it legal for Hollywood to spread viruses that hack our computers; that give us a disease to protect a right that's not clear that they have. But that's exactly what is happening in Washington, now, in 2002.
At the minimum, we must vote Representatives Berman, Coble, Smith and Wexler out of office. Let's give cash to their opponents, if and only if they are willing to stand against this bill. Hit the politicians where they'll feel it, by killing their careers, for advocating such unsafe and unfair computing practices.
Further, it's finally time to stop patronizing the entertainment industry. It's our money they use to buy the politicans who are destroying our creative environment. If we stop giving them the money, the shareholders will remove the executives, and we'll have a chance to get this corrupt industry serving our needs, instead of controlling us and destroying our future.
Here's what I have to say to the Congress, the music industry, and to you:
1. I am not a pirate. I've bought the music I use, first on vinyl, then on cassette, then on CD. I'll pay again, but I will use the music as I want to. I will encourage other computer users to pay for the music they use, not because I love the music industry (I hate them) but because it is the right thing to do.
2. I will take measures to prevent you from hacking my computers and encourage other computer users to do the same. Hollywood will have trouble finding ethical technologists to implement their plans. It's one thing to find engineers to implement copy protection, but quite another to find people who will hack on your behalf.
3. I vote. 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.