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The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?

by tilly (Archbishop)
on Sep 11, 2001 at 05:10 UTC ( #111642=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I believe that people who think that the RIAA and MPAA are the main backers of the SSSCA have completely missed the boat.

Having read it carefully, I think that this is nothing less than Microsoft's plan to get the DoJ off of its back and achieve complete domination through Uncle Sam. You can read my full analysis here

My apologies to those who think that this is offtopic. I do not think it is, and here is why. As that analysis points out, the bill explicitly bans having software that produces content without security protection, and bans software that can retransmit protected software with the protection removed or altered. Well plain text does not have any security protection. Does that make software that produces plain text illegal? If we make plain text illegal as a medium to store information, then what does that do to languages like Perl which are intended to be used largely to manipulate plain text?

I think that a legal threat with such potential repercussions for Perl is on topic for PerlMonks.

And a final note. Those who do not understand the PS should read about Ed Curry. If after a fight with Microsoft they would proceed through tactics like bribing his employers to fire him make it impossible for him to keep a job, then I have no illusions about my ability to do any better if they really cared. Hopefully I said enough for them to care...

PS Please do not comment on this node without having read my analysis, carefully and in full, at least twice. When you see a summary it may look like insanity. However if you read the bill carefully, I think that most will agree that it is a sane reading of an absurdly audacious attempt to abuse the power of government to pass laws.

At least one person didn't think this applied to software. Look again at the definitions section:

(3) INTERACTIVE DIGITAL DEVICE. -- The term "interactive digital device" means any machine, device, product, software, or technology, whether or not included with or as a part of some other machine, device, product, software, or technology, that is designed, marketed or used for the primary purpose of, and that is capable of, storing, retrieving, processing, performing, transmitting, receiving, or copying information in digital form.
Emphasis mine. In other words no matter what the overall purpose of your software might be, the part of it that manipulates data is covered. The use of the word "device" is a red herring which is intended to distract you from what it really says.
  • Comment on The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?

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Re: The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?
by lemming (Priest) on Sep 11, 2001 at 06:19 UTC

    (4) This Nation faces a shortage of trained, qualified information technology workers, including computer security professionals. As the demand for information technology workers grows, the Federal government will have an increasingly difficult time attracting such workers into the Federal workforce.

    Shortage of workers who want to work for minimum wage perhaps?

    (6) The Nation's information infrastructures are owned, for the most part, by the private sector, and partnerships and cooperation will be needed for the security of these infrastructures.

    I found that interesting since it was once owned by the public sector. And what comes with partnership & cooperation?

    "(f) DEVELOPMENT OF INTERNET PRIVACY PROGRAM. -- The Institute shall encourage and support the development of one or more computer programs, protocols, or other software, such as the World Wide Web Consortium's P3P program, capable of being installed on computers, or computer networks, with Internet access that would reflect the user's preferences for protecting personally-identifiable or other sensitive, privacy-related information, and automatically executes the program, once activated, without requiring user intervention.".

    Gee, kind of like passport?

    Written by tilly
    I believe that if this bill passes, I will never again work in IT. My having written this letter will by itself be sufficient to guarantee that. You see, I remember Ed Curry, and see no reason to believe that my case would be any different...

    Along with all the Sun, Oracle, IBM, etc... employees. If MS is the only game in town, the demand for engineers will probably go down. The demand for support specialists on the other hand...

    Some other thoughts:

  • Though I read that the rat was a supporter of this bill.
  • Looks like current CD players would be illegal. However all your analog media would be fine. Hmmm, is the possiblity of non-digital media a way around this silly act?
  • Can't seem to find the /. article that pointed to the nanotech bits. Instead of 0 or 1, there would be multistate switches. Would that still be digital?
  • Anyway, I'm afraid I'd have to move to another country or find work in another field if the thing passes. I can't see it passing in the form it is now. That's not to say that a scary version still won't get through.

      Yes, multistate switches are still digital. Digital means having discrete well-defined states, as opposed to a fuzzy continuum of states. A multi-POSITION switch is digital. A variable resistor knob is analog.

      DNA is digital. The ribosomes read it as a set of instructions. Does this law outlaw life itself?


Re: The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?
by dthacker (Deacon) on Sep 11, 2001 at 07:31 UTC
    I've been watching Microsoft watching for some time now. I suppose it's a lot like China-watching used to be back in the '60's. For some time I've believed I was seeing the signs of an empire in decline.

    Because Microsoft can no longer attain their goals through the free market, it makes perfect sense that they would attempt to legislate them into being.

    I do remember Ed Curry. It's a very disturbing memory. But I'm heartened by the opposition to UCITA, another unreasonable law that was supposed to be really good for us.

    Senator Hollings seems to think he's an "Innovator in Technology." I'll be contacting my Senator to point out that Senator Hollings is exactly the opposite. I've had enough. The DMCA and UCITA were bad enough, but this is way over the top.

Re: The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?
by premchai21 (Curate) on Sep 11, 2001 at 05:46 UTC
    ... what does that do to languages like Perl which are intended to be used largely to manipulate plain text?

    More to the point perhaps, what does that do to languages (like Perl, or Python for that matter) which are plain text? The implications make me shudder vomit and possibly want to move (geographically) to avoid this. If that's even possible.

Re: The SSSCA, All your bits are belong to us?
by jepri (Parson) on Sep 11, 2001 at 12:54 UTC
    You have no chance, make your time. Muhahaha.

    I think your analysis is correct. Whether or not competing companies will band together remains to be seen.

    I think that even if it does go through, it won't be so bad. Combine the general apathy and stupidity of the general populace with MS's inability to get it right and you have a system that just won't work. People will decide it's too much hassle, and not buy. Companies will look at the offerings and say "you have got to be kidding".

    I know that it will be law to use microsoft products, but if you think that your average computer user cares about law then you should log onto gnutellanet and do a search for mp3.

    Of course a lot of people are going to get hurt in the meantime, but that is a constant.

    Incidentally I think the resistance to MS will be quite high, ironically from within the government. As soon as the Department of Defence figures out that MS will have the keys to their computers, they will go out of their mind.

    Well, good luck fighting this one down, and remember the price of freedom.

    I didn't believe in evil until I dated it.

      It won't just be against the law to use these products, it will be illegal to distribute them in any form whatsoever.

      Hitting the users won't have much effect as it is too hard and expensive to do large numbers of small prosecutions.

      Hitting the distributors is MUCH easier. Who will you work for if only Microsoft is allowed to distribute software? And note that market would be defined I believe as "publicise in any form regardless of whether the product is free or not". And that's not even opening the whole can of worms designed thing.

      (3) INTERACTIVE DIGITAL DEVICE. -- The term "interactive digital device" means any machine, device, product, software, or technology, whether or not included with or as part of some other machine, device, product, software, or technology, that is designed, marketed or used for the primary purpose of, and that is capable of, storing, retrieving, processing, performing, transmitting, receiving, or copying information in digital form.

      "The future will be better tomorrow." ... from the collected wisdom of George W Bush.

        This is true, and yet... look in your local paper. Is there anyone offering to mod chip your playstation or DVD drive to read all country codes? Remember the old times when you went to your local user group to get copies of programs that could copy protected games? Going back to sneaker net will hurt, but it can be done. And even better, if we all have proper encryption then how will anyone know what those 650Mbs are? Unless the government sticks clipper back in.

        It would also hurt to lose some of the fantastic developers the the OS community has, but Linux was developed outside America, and can continue to do so. In the meantime, you can download a copy or /msg me and I'll send you a copy.

        Down here in Gods own country, the government has passed bizarre copyright laws that make it safer to be using GPL stuff than commercial stuff. More power us.

        I didn't believe in evil until I dated it.

Re: The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?
by ginseng (Pilgrim) on Sep 11, 2001 at 07:01 UTC

    Okay, Tilly. I've read and reread. Now I'd like to distribute your thoughts. Can I mirror?

    /me goes off to reformat my one windows machine, and wonders if premchai21 knows of a good international real estate agent...

      I am doing my level best to make that do the rounds. Any more help that way is just fine and dandy with me.
Re: The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?
by frag (Hermit) on Sep 11, 2001 at 09:07 UTC
    Between this and Sklyarov, it looks like it's about time I pony up and join the EFF. And the ACLU.

    -- Frag.

Re: The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?
by cLive ;-) (Prior) on Sep 11, 2001 at 09:20 UTC
    From the comment by wharris2...

    "Seriously, the camel's nose is inside the tent and the camel is coughing up snot on the inhabitants of the tent. Be afraid."

    Ah, so that's what they mean by a Perl hacker.

    (sorry :)

    cLive ;-)

Re: The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?
by Malkavian (Friar) on Sep 12, 2001 at 17:18 UTC
    I think a phrase that leaps to mind is cutting off ones nose to spite one's face.
    Generally meaning that you notice something that's maybe just not quite how you'd like it to be, and then performing draconian, senseless, and often quite self destructive acts to remedy this original purely subjective and relatively unimportant issue.

    A rough sequence of events as I see this occurring is:

    This law gets passed, and in the US, MS only software is the order of the day, it being illegal to use anything else.

    In Europe, and many other countries, the security schemes in place will be largely incompatible with this new scheme held in law in the US. Germany for one, as I hear, already has a lot of issues with MS, using Unix for many government projects.

    The powers that be in Brussels mandate that information needs to be distributable across format in the EU, effectively forcing MS to either open the security protocols to other clients, or simply allow local reverse engineering laws to take precedence and generate clients where necessary for interoperability.

    The US starts to drop out of the research scene worldwide, as nobody else uses US legal security stuff for transmission, so sending encrypted material will likely not work to many destinations, or receiving external info will be illegal.

    Disillusioned skilled IT professionals will leave the US in droves to other countries after the best and brightest, and who also won't sue them into the ground for sneezing.

    End result, US not talking to the world at large, and the world not talking to the US. US has few remaining skilled IT staff, and those are likely employed by MS.
    With no incentive to increase, or maintain quality levels, the tech will stagnate in the US to the point it severely lags the rest of the world.

    The US cash cow of high tech is slaughtered, and the law is repealed to prevent it entering serious decline.

    The fatal flaw with this bill is assuming that legislating something in the US as contraversial as this, automatically makes it world policy. I don't see that happening.. And the policy makers there could get a very very rude awakening as the reverse of the 'Brain Drain' that the world at large saw, as skilled people all went to the US to persue fame and fortune is reversed, leaving the US impoverished and behind the times in a serious way..

    I for one seriously hope they wake up and realise the full ramifications of what they do before they mess things up for everyone..

Re: The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?
by TGI (Parson) on Sep 12, 2001 at 23:37 UTC
    Here's the letter I sent to my senators and Mr. Hollings. Share it, copy it, change it, send it in your own name, I don't care.

    Regarding the "Security Systems Standards and Certification Act".

    Times change, technology changes, businesses must adapt to these realities or die. We can not legislate away reality, no matter how hard we might try.

    Digital media combined with inexpensive storage and transfer technology create a radical change in the way that information is distributed. Where distribution and duplication used to be expensive and difficult, they are now so inexpensive as to be nearly free. Companies whose business models rely on the difficulty of copying and distributing information are going to suffer if they do not change how they do business. It does not matter how many artificial barriers we create to hinder the flow of digital information, it will flow. The best thing that we can do is try to understand the nature of the changes that are occuring and help these companies adapt.

    The radical changes in the cost structure of media development and distribution create opportunities for entrepeneurs and the potential for the generation of incredible wealth. Consider Open Source Software, (see powerful empowering technology is being created by people who freely share their work, this is only possible because of the new cost structure. IBM is willing to back this model with $1 billion. They expect to make money by providing services to software users. Under this approach we generate stand to generate incredible gains, as IBM improves an Open Source software program, *everyone* who uses it benefits. If Hewlet Packard uses the same software, and further improves the software, IBM and HP and everyone benefits.

    The world of software has begun to adapt to the new realities of the digital revolution. It is not surprising that those who made the revolution adapt to it first. More traditional media have not yet found a model that works. They will, and when they do, it will be radically different from how we do things now. It will be an approach that accomodates and accepts the human desire to share. It will enrich us all.

    If we pretend that these changes are not occuring, if we fail to recognize their inevitability, if we create and enforce draconion laws that cost us our liberties, we will lose an unprecedented opportunity to enrich our country and the entire world. We will lose our economic power, we will lose our political power, and we will have lost our basic freedoms.

    TGI says moo

(ichimunki) Re: The SSSCA, Microsoft's answer to anti-trust?
by ichimunki (Priest) on Sep 11, 2001 at 16:52 UTC
    Why are you picking on Microsoft and listing AOL as a potential ally? What did I miss?
      Read the bill. Read the "no sunshine" and antitrust parts of it.

      It is dead obvious that this bill is a power grab by someone, who intends to become a heck of an abusive monopoly in anything resembling software.

      Once we have realized that, then we only need figure out whose power grab it is. After that our natural allies are anyone and everyone in that monopolist's way. The bigger, more powerful, and more influential, the better.

      I think I make a pretty good case that the company which stands to seize power here is Microsoft. And AOL happens to be one of the biggest companies standing in Microsoft's way. That makes AOL a powerful party with a vested interest (if they only realize it) in blocking this bill.

      Does that make sense?

        FWIW, it could be a cabal of service providers trying to become the only ones involved in ecommerce. So MS plus the RIAA is possible. MS Media Player already has some of the security features mentioned to prevent piracy of RIAA goods.

        Personally I think the RIAA is into it somewhere already. The bill mentions devices as well as software (IIRC). Software only laws would allow portable mp3 players to be used to pirate songs. This bill clearly prevents any device capable of doing that, whether it has software or no.

        Plus it feels more like a RIAA grab. MS has never really cared about laws (UCITA aside and many more companies than MS benefit from that one). MS just does what it wants to, when it wants to and how.

        The RIAA, OTOH, has a history of changing laws to accomodate their own plans (eg copyright extensions). This really sounds like their old 'ban video players, they'll destroy the industry' line, but with knuckles this time. ____________________
        I didn't believe in evil until I dated it.

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