[BiO BB] "SSCA Considered Harmful" - from Ben Tilly (Perlmonks.org)

jenn at peace.tbcnet.com jenn at peace.tbcnet.com
Fri Mar 1 18:14:24 EST 2002

I feel very strongly about this possible legislation, which is why I am 
forwarding this letter to all of you. Please take the minute or so to read
about the SSCA if you are not already aware of it's implications to you
and your work.

On Thursday, Feb 28, 2002 Senator Hollings lead a hearing on his proposed
Security Systems Standards and Certification Act, known as the SSSCA.

The problem, as Mike Godwin said at
is that Congress doesn't understand the technical issues involved. So we
must find examples of those technical issues in contexts that they understand.

Email makes a good example. Most people are familiar with it, and it
shows the relevant copyright issues.

I am sending you an email. If you like it, you might forward it to a
friend with a brief comment added. You might send it back to me with corrections made. You
might copy phrases out of it to put into a report or memo. It might, as with the
message I linked, find its way onto a website on the Internet.

By the act of writing you this email, I have a copyright on my words. In
these common tasks you have redistributed, modified, and taken away my attribution. Under
the SSSCA the software cannot be allowed to let you do that because the software is
failing to protect my copyright. According to Hollywood and Senator Hollings, you would be a
pirate and criminal for abusing my copyrighted material. Under existing copyright law your
actions might infringe, or might be fair use. Mostly it is fair use.

So how would the SSSCA solve the problem of your using email as it was
designed and intended to be used? Very simply, it would make your email program
illegal. The software must be rewritten. Once rewritten it cannot contain a "forward" button.
It cannot allow you to copy and paste text from it. It cannot allow you to create a reply with
my words included. It cannot allow you to send mail to existing email programs because they
don't implement copyright protection. According to the good Senator, only pirates and
criminals would want to do any of these things. My copyrighted content MUST be protected from
criminals and pirates like you.

Email is but one kind of program that is affected. (Do not be fooled. The
phrase they use may be "digital device", but their definition of a digital device includes
virtually all software programs.) Our lives are filled with electronic content that we produce,
transfer, and manipulate. Whether you paste from one Word document to another or copy
a spreadsheet, features you use can violate copyrights. Therefore Senator Hollings
wants to ban your software.

They call this the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act.
They claim it is meant to protect poor copyright holders (like me) from criminals and pirates
(like you). I call this the complete dismantling and destruction of our computer infrastructure.
Please let your representatives know what you call it. You can find their contact
information as follows:

  Senators: http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index_by_state.cfm
  Congress: http://congress.org/

  Ben Tilly

  PS Your email software has not (yet) been crippled in accord with the
proposed SSSCA. Please  feel free to use it to forward this message.

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