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New Copyright Bill Heading to DC
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2001 00:17:37 -0500 (CDT)
By Declan McCullagh
4:19 p.m. Sep. 7, 2001 PDT
WASHINGTON -- Music and record industry lobbyists are quietly readying
an all-out assault on Congress this fall in hopes of dramatically
rewriting copyright laws.
With the help of Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), the powerful chairman of the
Senate Commerce committee, they hope to embed copy-protection controls
in nearly all consumer electronic devices and PCs. All types of
digital content, including music, video and e-books, are covered.
The Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA),
scheduled to be introduced by Hollings, backs up this requirement with
teeth: It would be a civil offense to create or sell any kind of
computer equipment that "does not include and utilize certified
security technologies" approved by the federal government.
It also creates new federal felonies, punishable by five years in
prison and fines of up to $500,000. Anyone who distributes copyrighted
material with "security measures" disabled or has a network-attached
computer that disables copy protection is covered.
Hollings' draft bill, which Wired News obtained on Friday, represents
the next round of the ongoing legal tussle between content holders and
their opponents, including librarians, programmers and open-source
Hollywood executives fret that without strong copy protection in
widespread use, piracy will allow digital versions of movies to be
pirated as readily as MP3 audio files once were with Napster. With the
SSSCA enacted, the thinking goes, U.S. technology firms will have no
choice but to insert copy-protection technology in future products.
The last legislative salvo in the content wars was the controversial
1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which the SSSCA extends and
expands. Under existing law, Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov has
been charged with allegedly selling "circumvention" devices, and 2600
magazine has been sued for distributing a DVD-decryption utility.
"The government is mandating what your technology has to do," says
Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
of the SSSCA. "The government's now in some ways effectively writing
code that anyone who makes anything with a microprocessor has to
implement in anything they make. I'm unaware of any other requirement
Hollings' aides could not be reached for comment on Friday. One
lobbyist opposing the legislation said Disney, which markets movies
and TV shows, is the measure's most ardent supporter among industry
The SSSCA and existing law work hand in hand to steer the market
toward using only computer systems where copy protection is enabled.
First, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act created the legal
framework that punished people who bypassed copy protection -- and
now, the SSSCA is intended to compel Americans to buy only systems
with copy protection on by default.
The SSSCA says that it is illegal to create, sell or distribute "any
interactive digital device that does not include and utilize certified
security technologies" that are approved by the U.S. Commerce
Department. An interactive digital device is defined as any hardware
or software capable of "storing, retrieving, processing, performing,
transmitting, receiving or copying information in digital form."
Jessica Litman, a law professor at Wayne State University who
specializes in intellectual property, likened it to the 1992 Audio
Home Recording Act that slapped restrictions on digital audio
"This appears to be an attempt to expand the concept to anything that
has a microprocessor in it and to have everyone agree or to have the
government set technological standards that will enforce copyright
owners' preferences," Litman says.
"Forgetting all the reasons why this is bad copyright policy and bad
information policy, it's terrible science policy," she says.
Sonia Arrison, a technology policy analyst at the free-market Pacific
Research Institute, said, "Some parts of this go too far.... Would
this mean that if I distributed a file that I received from someone
who had broken security technology that I would be breaking the law?
Sounds like it."
Under the SSSCA, industry groups have a year to agree on a security
standard, or the Commerce Department will step in and decide on one.
Sunshine laws would not apply to meetings held in conjunction with the
law, and industry organizations would be immune from antitrust
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- New Copyright Bill Heading to DC InfoSec News (Sep 10)