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>Date: Sat, 22 Sep 2001 11:22:51 -0400
>Reply-To: INTERNATIONAL DISCUSSION GROUP <PORT-L@LISTSERV.IUPUI.EDU>
>Sender: INTERNATIONAL DISCUSSION GROUP <PORT-L@LISTSERV.IUPUI.EDU>
>From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@BESTWEB.NET>
>Subject: [PORT-L] Security Systems Standards and Certification Act
>Following is some frightening news about proposed legislation
>that is very well funded by people who want to trample on the
>First Amendment in the Bill of Rights.
>The Register, http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/21830.html
>Copy-control senator sleeps while fair-use rights burn
>By Dan Berkes, Newsforge.com
>Posted: 22/09/2001 at 09:25 GMT
>Picture a future where distributing Linux is a crime punishable by a
>hefty fine and a prison sentence. If that sounds ridiculous, then you
>haven't run into the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act.
>It's the very latest - and most bizarre - word in political back-
>scratching from one of South Carolina's U.S. senators. And he'd
>rather not talk about it, thank you very much.
>It is unlawful to manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide
>or otherwise traffic in any interactive digital device that does not
>include and utilize certified security technologies that adhere to the
>security systems standards adopted under section 104. This is the heart
>of the new Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA), a
>draft of legislation proposed by U.S. Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings,
>a Democrat from South Carolina.
>Yes, it is vague, and perhaps intentionally so. The SSSCA raises a
>number of questions, none of which its politically powerful sponsor
>feels compelled to answer.
>Repeated calls to Hollings' office were routed to voicemail or message-
>takers, and on two occasions, an individual who was unable to do
>anything - including providing his name - other than repeat the phrase
>"I'm simply not qualified to comment on this matter," to any question I
>asked until I hung up the phone.
>What is the ominous-sounding section 104, with its security systems
>standards? According to the draft legislation, the companies that
>make digital devices and the companies that own copyright content are
>expected to sit down together and, within 12 months of the SSSCA's
>passage, come to an agreement on copy-protection standards.
>If what these two camps agree on passes muster with the Department of
>Commerce, eventually compliant copy-protected devices will be created
>using those standards. If, after two years (Commerce can extend the
>deadline by another 12 months) the two parties can't agree, then the
>Department of Commerce can create its own legally-binding standards.
>When calling Hollings' office, I merely wanted to know the answers to
>the following questions:
>- What, exactly, is a digital device? Are we talking about just
>computers, or are we talking about computers, plus MP3 players,
>television sets, and VCRs? Are we talking about everything digital, and
>does that mean that the next alarm clock I buy will have to prohibit
>copying, even if was never intended for that use in the first place?
>- How will this affect fair use provisions that currently allow copying
>of recordings I own for my personal use? Will the argument be that I'm
>still allowed to make such copies if I can find a pre-SSSCA device, but
>if I buy such a device from, say, a secondhand store, will that land the
>shopkeeper (not to mention me) in jail?
>- And yeah, what about Linux? How do you make the operating system,
>where every column inch of source code is available for inspection,
>I think this may be a self-answering question: You can't - not unless
>some drastic changes to current licenses and code distribution are made.
>If there's a certain level of paranoia in Hollings' office regarding
>the SSSCA, perhaps it's understandable. From all perspectives, this is
>nothing more than a blatant attempt to offer a return on investment to
>As the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, one of the most
>important committee chairs on Capitol Hill, Hollings has attracted quite
>a stable of high-profile donors over the years. According to Federal
>Election Commission data presented by campaign contribution watchdog
>Open Secrets, there are five major media and entertainment companies in
>the top 20 list of Hollings' most generous campaign donors. They
>include AOL Time Warner ($33,500), the Murdoch-owned News Corporation
>($28,224), Viacom's CBS ($16,632), the National Association of
>Broadcasters ($22,000), and Walt Disney Co. ($18,500).
>The individual donors from those companies include a flock of high-
>ranking executives from various News Corp/Fox subsidiaries, Viacom CEO
>Sumner Redstone, and Ted Turner from AOL Time Warner. Since 1995,
>employees from companies producing television, movies, music, and other
>media content have sent Hollings $287,534, making the entertainment
>industry his second most generous supporters. Those individual
>donations look like small potatoes, especially when you find out that
>they cover the past five to six years of campaign contributions.
>It's illegal for corporations to spend money on federal elections, and
>individual donors aren't allowed to to contribute more than $1,000 to
>a candidate for federal office, or more than $20,000 per year to a
>political party. Not that this stops anyone from doing it, and doing
>it legally through something known as soft money.
>Soft money has been around since 1978, when a Federal Election
>Commission made an administrative ruling that allowed money to be
>donated to political organizations for the purpose of building party
>structure. The activity and the money that fueled it was never intended
>to be used to influence the outcome of a federal election. The only
>problem is that the FEC has no power to investigate where soft money is
>applied once it enters the political machine.
>And it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, hard to figure out
>what AOL Time Warner and Disney want when each donated over $1 million
>last year to the major American political parties. Nor does it take
>a cluster of Linux supercomputers to figure out that such money may
>eventually wind up being spent by the more connected members of that
>party - the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, for example.
>Even with such staunch support from the nation's media giants, they're
>only number two on Hollings' list of top givers broken down by industry.
>The top spot goes to a combination of lawyers, law firms, and
>influential lobbyist groups. Individual supporters include legal eagles
>from Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson, and Hand ($28,508) who
>represent virtually every major sports league and the Academy of Motion
>Picture Arts and Sciences; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flohm
>($2,500), who currently have their hands full with representing Compaq's
>side of its $25 billion merger with Hewlett-Packard.
>And then there's Tony Podesta's high-profile lobbying firm, which
>represents such friends of fair use as RIAA and the MPAA. Taking up
>the rear are individual donations from lawyers, many with experience in
>technology and intellectual property litigation. It's important to
>remember that the SSSCA is a draft of a bill that may or may not be
>introduced in both houses of Congress. Unfortunately, it's a draft
>that's just gained a sponsor in the House of Representatives. The good
>news from many watchdog groups is that the bill, in its current state,
>isn't expected to get past committee. The bad news is that some parts
>of it will likely survive or be resurrected in any number of other bills
>that could be introduced in the next Congressional session.
>Now sure, I can understand that perhaps our Congressional leaders are
>little preoccupied, what with last week's events. And I don't mean to
>vulgarize or trivialize that tragedy, but it's times like these when our
>elected leaders should be under the most intense scrutiny. Unpleasant
>regulatory surprises have a way of sneaking in the back door when the
>voting public is otherwise engaged.
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