Ideas: The SSSCA and its potential effects
Sep 11, 2001, 16:00 (25 Talkback[s])
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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:
- 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.
- 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
- It will close access to and sharing of many of your electronic
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
- 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.
- 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
- It will make unsanctioned content akin to pirate or outlaw
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.
- 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
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