Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact
I'm typing this up just moments before I head to the airport this morning
so my apologies if it is a little less coherent than usual or there are
more than the average number of typos and errors.
A number of readers have written to me to express their concern at the way
new and proposed Net-related legislation is moving in the USA.
American industry and its powerful lobbying mechanisms appear to be trying
to make significant changes to the rights of Net users in ways that will
actually extend far beyond their own territorial borders.
A wave of stupid laws and their inappropriate application seems to have
been kicked off by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which was the US's
first attempt to get to grips with piracy in the digital era.
Although it might be assumed that this piece of law was designed solely
to protect music, video and other intellectual property stored in
digital format, it has actually extended far beyond that simple goal.
In recent times we've even seen large companies threatening to prosecute
regular folks under the DMCA for uncovering security holes.
But copyright laws aren't the only new or proposed laws that have the
potential to affect Net users.
In a post September 11 world where just about any infringement of
personal rights can be justified on the basis of "national security", the
USA has stepped up its monitoring of Net users. The latest part of this
initiative is the
"Total Information Awareness"
system about to be implemented.
But wait -- those crazy American legislators may have even worse plans afoot.
The RIAA is currently behind a huge lobbying effort to have laws introduced
that would give them the right to launch denial of service attacks against
computers they found to be trafficking in the unauthorised distribution
of music recordings.
That's right -- they want to throw pimple-faced 16-year-old hackers into
jail for their efforts while simultaneously endorsing the actions of
RIAA hackers in suits who would be engaging in exactly the same activities.
You're probably reading this and thinking to yourself -- why should I care?
These are American laws that only affect American residents right?
Well not true.
They may be US laws but as at least one Russian programmer has found to
his displeasure, they can and do affect everyone on the planet who might
Yes, if you break one of these US laws you might find yourself arrested and
thrown in jail next time you travel to or enjoy a stopover at a US destination.
The problem is that cyberspace is everywhere and the USA seems to be laying
claim to it as *their* jurisdiction.
This raises some very interesting scenarios though doesn't it?
As an article in The Age pointed out recently, if the RIAA
launches a denial of service attack against a computer based on Australian
soil, employees or officers of the company responsible could find themselves
thrown in the pokey if they venture to the land of Oz.
Stop and think about the implications of this for a moment...
Are you familiar with the Net-related laws of all the countries you might
want to visit at some time in the future?
If the answer is "no" then you could find yourself in big trouble next time
you get off an aeroplane outside this country -- despite not having broken a single
New Zealand law.
With US lawmakers seemingly stuck well and truly in the wallets of big business
then it appears there is a new US-lead world order.
Note: Sorry but I haven't had time to update the headline roundup today -- you'll
just have to hunt around for yourselves ;-)
I'll be in Australia for the next three days and Aardvark Daily will next be
published on Thursday morning. My apologies for the interruption in service.
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