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Ideas: The SSSCA and its potential effects

Sep 11, 2001, 16:00 (25 Talkback[s])

Manuel Amador (Rudd-O) writes:

14:46 10/09/2001

This document is licensed under the GNU FDL

Over here at Plastic I just read about the latest offering from the U.S. Congress. It's called the SSSCA, and it's brought to you by Sen. Fritz Hollings (for those of you informed about the DMCA, you know who he is). I'm not going to get into the details of what it is supposed to do and what it really does. I'm just going to dissect the possible effects of the law:

  1. It will make free software in (at least) the domain of operating systems illegal.
    Yes, no more Linux. Why? Because a DRM scheme like the proposal for the SSSCA requires operating system-level support. And obviously, no self-respecting Linux advocate is going to write support for it. 16% of the global computer users will be left in the dark or forced to shell out the money for a license for an encumbered and government-approved operating system.
    Global? Isn't the law only valid in the States? Think again: first, the U.S. tends to export policy, technology and law to other countries, especially third-world ones. Second, most PC manufacturers (no matter their resistance to it) probably won't be able to afford to differentiate markets and will ship computers with the same restrictions to other parts of the globe.
  2. It will make many DIY modifications to hardware illegal.
    You might stumble on a modification you really need, and upon performing it you might accidentally or intentionally disable the DRM scheme.
  3. It will close access to and sharing of many of your electronic documents.
    As the tendency of the software industry goes, many a file format will be SSSCA-DRM enabled, and I bet you will have problems distributing your information or restoring it from backups. Even if you don't have problems, DRM will make the task of restoring backups cumbersome.
  4. It will make anonymous speech nearly impossible.
    Since most of the file formats will be DRM-enabled, your information will be timestamped and associated with your personal creation ID. That is, if the scheme enforces personal IDs, which are required for a workable and enforceable DRM solution. So everywhere someone enjoys (or regrets) something you worked on, you can be sure he/she'll know you were involved.
  5. It will outlaw many fair uses we know and enjoy.
    Look at Dmitry Skylarov. A tool for fair use enforcement is now deemed illegal. Continuing this trend, we should begin jailing Smith & Wesson employees (for the record and in interest of full disclosure, I am a strong advocate of people arming and defending themselves).
  6. It will make unsanctioned content akin to pirate or outlaw content.
    Perhaps the most chilling effect that the SSSCA will have on free speech is that unsanctioned (read: not DRM-licensed but freely authored or in free-to-use formats) speech will be seen by future generations as something to run away from, surrounded by an aura of forbidden and bad, behavior that surely will be instituted by megacorporations, such as Disney, that are sponsoring the SSSCA. This can be expected, since the RIAA tried it with its "Home taping is killing music" propaganda campaign in the 1970's. It's in every media mogul's agenda.
  7. It will stifle innovation, create entry barriers for small inventors and ensure megacorporation technology control, and widen the digital divide.
    The integration of the mandatory DRM technology will drive up the costs of hardware development, manufacture and distribution. This will ensure that low-capital startups will endure hard times, while guaranteeing market dominance for huge corporations who can afford to revamp their product lines. The same problem will be experienced in smaller countries who will have a larger barrier of entry into the U.S. market.

I held some hope until today. Now I'm convinced that our grandchildren will enjoy the Right to read (TM) future.

You can find the original and revised document at:

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