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Goodbye Freedom On The Net 10 September 2001 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Yes, I know I've speculated that the end of freedom on the Net is nigh -- but this Wired.com story shows just how far down the path we already are.

The proposed Security Systems Standards and Certification Act which will be introduced to the US Senate in a few weeks, seeks to force all manufacturers to fit their computer equipment with "certified security technologies" as defined or approved by US legislators.

If the proposed law is passed, offenders would risk fines of up to US$500,000 and/or up to five years in prison.

So what does this all mean?

In effect, it would require all computer manufacturers and operating systems vendors to include hardware and firmware to support copy-protection and digital-rights management systems that conform to a federally approved specification -- and it would make it a crime to remove or defeat this protection.

Suddenly the government and recording industry would have more control over your computer than you would.

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What's worse -- it could spell the end of open-source software as we know it today.

How could Linux or FreeBSD survive when the open source license states that the source code to all additions and improvements must be made freely available?

If the code which accesses and/or implements the "certified security technologies" was disclosed then it could be easily circumvented -- and that would be a crime under the proposed law.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • $500k and 5 years eh... - Philip
  • Thoughts... - Dominic
  • freedom on the net... - Anders
  • Have Your Say

    Of course it must be remembered that, at this stage, this is simply a proposed law, and there are no guarantees that it will be passed -- but contemplate on the effects if it was!

    Reflect on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how it is being enforced. Who would have believed it possible just a couple of years ago that the USA would begin arresting foreign nationals for breaching a domestic law while living in their own country of residence -- and who would have thought that a law would be passed that allowed researchers to be threatened with law suits for revealing the results of their work?

    Likewise, don't fall into the trap of thinking "but this would only affect the USA" -- again, look at the way the DMCA is having a global impact far beyond the borders of the USA itself.

    Also, once the benchmark is set, you can guarantee that virtually every other government in the world will be more than happy to jump aboard this movement -- for their own purely selfish reasons.

    Given the scope and power of the DMCA, I would not dismiss this proposed new law as simply being a flight of fantasy.

    Remember the other justifications that will undoubtedly be put forward in favour of this new law...

    The "certified security technologies" will certainly include a unique identifier that becomes a part of every Internet conversation -- think how much easier it will be to crack down on and reduce the incidence of undesirable and illegal online activities such as cracking, fraud, child-porn, etc, etc., when you can identify the offender by their digital fingerprints!

    Remember that when Intel and Microsoft tried to add unique identifiers to their products the market forced them to do an about-face -- but if it's law then there's nothing the market can do except comply or face prosecution.

    If you're not already worried that governments are clamping down on the biggest threat there is to the concentrated power-base of politicians then you'd better start paying attention.

    As I mooted several years ago -- the Internet and other advances in communications technology could soon spell the end of the type of serial autocracy we currently call a democratic political system.

    There are already a number of alternative systems being proposed and based on the ability of these systems to increase political accountability. Check out The NZ Super Democratic Party and my own suggestion: Recoverable Proxy.

    So can you see why governments all over the world are looking for ways to limit the threat by monitoring and controlling the Net?

    Can you see why we, as the citizens of a supposedly democratic system, must stand up and have our say about what a small group of self-interested people wish to do with our freedoms?

    As always, your comments are welcomed.

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