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LinuxPlanet: comment: The Digital Millennium Rape Act

Jul 23, 2001, 13:00 (68 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dennis E. Powell)

The arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov, a member of a relatively small community (hackers), is just the first step in a slippery slope designed to erode freedom while fronting a dangerous agenda. Dennis E. Powell argues that controlling the means by which a crime can be committed is never the right answer to ensuring lawful behavior in a citizenry, and says the parallel example of gun control bears him out:

"Federal law enforcement officials today began rounding up men for alleged violation of the new Digital Millennium Rape Act.

The law, which went into effect June 30, bans "possession of any item or device that makes it possible to commit the crime of rape." It was approved last month by a narrow margin in both the House of Representatives and the Senate following intense negotiations during which a provision was added which excempts government employees, including senators and representatives, from the new law. The legislation was necessary to bring the U.S. into compliance with a treaty negotiated in Japan two years ago by the Clinton administration, but thusfar unsigned by any country. International pressure on the U.S. to sign the accord was intense, however, coming especially from the European Union and many non-European third-world nations. The treaty specifies actions that the United States must take, making no mention of other nations.

"This landmark legislation serves notice on all would-be rapists: If you've got the equipment, we'll lock you up," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), immediately after its passage.

Critics of the bill argued at the time that mere ability to commit a crime should not itself be a crime, but were overwhelmed by an intense public relations campaign mounted by proponents. Among the existing laws cited in defense of the bill were federal gun regulations and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which make possession of firearms and software, respectively, illegal.

"If you can do the crime, you will do the time," said Boxer. " This is a crime prevention measure -- by the time someone has actually committed an offense, it's too late."

The above is not real -- if you thought it was, get help at once. But it's a demonstration of the direction in which things are headed, and unless this trend is seen as a whole, there's not a chance of stopping it, if indeed a chance of stopping it still exists at all."

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