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A New World Order? 12 August 2002 Edition
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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.

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    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 infringe them.

    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.

    Have your say.

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