September 8, 2001 10:35 PM   Subscribe

Have you heard about the SSSCA? It is the sequel to the universally-reviled Digital Millenium Copyright Act and is 1000 times more heinous. It would require that any device even remotely capable of transmitting digital data contain security hardware approved by the US Department of Commerce. I can't say I have ever heard of anything more ridiculous. Here is a draft of the bill.
posted by donkeymon (20 comments total)
Eh, don't get yer panties in a bunch...
posted by Ben Grimm at 10:59 PM on September 8, 2001

Sweet bleeding Jesus, I think I'm going to start donating to the EFF.
Certified government security hardware. No doubt with wide-open backdoors.
And just look at the penalties... five years in prison for distributing material or circumventing the security hardware. What, does the RI/MPAA think that a little prison rape will sort out those copyright offenders once and for all?
posted by darukaru at 11:03 PM on September 8, 2001

One problem, among others, is that software is explicitly listed as a "digital interactive device," thus effectively outlawing Open Source Software. If the source is available, the software can easily be recompiled with out the Digital Rights Management software supported. Not only would doing this being illegal, but providing, developing, or even imagining software like this would be illegal.
posted by donkeymon at 11:38 PM on September 8, 2001

The Open Source Issue- I had the same thought, it sounds like this law, having read the text, seems to suggest you can't distribute non-copyrighted materials (HW/SW) even if you want to! And how about this line:
Under the SSSCA, industry groups have a year to agree on a security standard, or the Commerce Department will step in and decide on one. Sunshine laws would not apply to meetings held in conjunction with the law, and industry organizations would be immune from antitrust prosecution.

Still, I'm looking to change the direction this thread will likely head in:

Okay, so I think we can all agree, with little exception among the MeFi community, that this is bad law both in its overly ambitious (and therefore likely to have horrible unintended consequences) scope and its basic philosophical underpinnings (that all eletronic devices must have (c) protection measures in place). But more importantly: does this thing have a chance in hell of passing? Phenomenally ignorant and stupid bills get proposed every year, but many of the stupidest don't go anywhere. Or is this one of those vanity bills Senators and Congresspersons write so they can say to their constituents (big-timey donors or average voters, depending on the bill) "I tried to fight for/protect/represent your blah blah blah blah..."?
posted by hincandenza at 11:55 PM on September 8, 2001

Granted, it is a poorly thought out law, but I doubt it is technically feasible to sort the copyrighted works from regular files except by software. It would still be a lot of work, some sort of tagging system would have to be put in place. Quite frankly, even if it was passed into law, I'll stick to the old adage, "A law is only as good as its enforcement."
posted by ryryslider at 12:06 AM on September 9, 2001

It is true that it would be difficult to enforce 100%, but any person who goes to jail or pays a fine or is even harrassed under this would be one person too many. Besides the fact that the chilling effect would be enormous (See DMCA again), it is just plain wrong. And if you think it can't be passed, you are wrong. It would certainly be altered a few times, and it might take a few tries to get it through (See DMCA) but I fear this is something that big government Democrats and big business Republicans can agree on.
posted by donkeymon at 12:17 AM on September 9, 2001

Since we're dealing with computers, this is actually 1024 times more heinous than the DMCA.

(I'm so, so sorry. I just couldn't resist.)
posted by moss at 12:30 AM on September 9, 2001

Perhaps Richard Stallman isn't as completely off-base as many people think.
posted by harmful at 7:32 AM on September 9, 2001

Which is more evil- the SSSCA or the SCA?
posted by dogwelder at 8:58 AM on September 9, 2001

well, w/ the SCA in command, the SSSCA woldn't pass and open-source would not have a chance of getting banned as the SSSCA appearantly does. The most appalling thing about this is it actually forces us to put certain government-mandated thing in our computes. Granted there are already requirements, but this brings it to a new level. This would be like requiiring car companies to put in speedomete devices on our car that if we go over the speed limit, a signal is sent out to the police and we recive a ticket the next morning (a la the new red-light camera stuff). Just as bad as the idea that it could do away w/ Open-Source...i use StarOffice b/c i refuse to pay that much money for a word processor- and isn't that what the gov't wants? not to pirate? and now we mihgt not be able to....hmmmm...any coicidence that the DOJ drops the Microsoft case and now this is a big subject?
posted by jmd82 at 11:07 AM on September 9, 2001

I don't know. Everything the SCA is interested in is pre-copyright, but if a system like the SSSCA is implemented, someone will surely be awarded copyrights for all the works of Shakespeare et cetera so as to not allow the concept of "copyright-free" does not even enter into people's minds.
posted by donkeymon at 11:39 AM on September 9, 2001

Welcome to the future, folks. Anyone who thinks the SSSCA is too extreme to be passed and signed into law is either naive, or more wildly optimistic than I could ever be.
It is all turning out pretty much as Jaron Lanier predicted earlier this year... "If we make Napster-like free file sharing illegal, we'll have to rid ourselves of either computers or democracy. You can't have both."
posted by Rebis at 11:41 AM on September 9, 2001

I find the last line of the Jaron Lanier essay very ironic:

   © Copyright 2001 The Walt Disney Company

posted by donkeymon at 12:05 PM on September 9, 2001

It does have a chance in hell of passing. The DMCA seemed just as absurd when it was first proposed, but it sailed right through, and now we're all screwed.

Congress does not give a damn about us, and that is not going to change anytime soon. If they don't pass the SSSCA this year, they'll pass something just as bad next year.

In this arena, paranoia is justified by history.

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:13 PM on September 9, 2001

And this is not going to generate any huge public uproar either. The regular joe guy-on-the-street type person doesn't understand or care about this issue. They will think of this as some sort of anti-piracy deal. They are certainly not going to vote differently in congressional elections because of it. Of course people will pissed in two years when they can't even use their old speakers with their new stereos. But by then it will be too late. If it isn't already.
posted by donkeymon at 12:39 PM on September 9, 2001

I'm going over to /. . In need of some hacker bravado.
posted by crasspastor at 1:38 PM on September 9, 2001

Don't just emailbomb Hollings. Actually write a letter, print it on paper, and send it to your two Senators. Be polite, express your concerns as succinctly as you can, and don't forget a stamp.

And for goodness sake, vote, even if you do think it's a big crock.
posted by ilsa at 4:16 PM on September 9, 2001

Why, ilsa? It hasn't helped us in the past, so I don't see why we should expect it to help us now. The big congressional steamroller keeps on flattening my way of life whether I vote against them or simply ignore them, so why should I waste my time at the pollbooth?

posted by Mars Saxman at 8:09 PM on September 9, 2001

Well, why not Mars? It won't cost you more than a little time to take the course of action that ilsa suggests. And it may help a little. But it is almost certainly not enough.
posted by donkeymon at 8:31 PM on September 9, 2001

Which is more evil- the SSSCA or the SCA?

I suspect that the SCA would at least offer you a chance at trial by combat, which appears to be more legal recourse than the SSSCA would permit.
posted by harmful at 8:41 AM on September 10, 2001

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