[DMITRY-BOSTON] Re: [free-sklyarov] Re: Continuing the fight

C. Scott Ananian cananian at lesser-magoo.lcs.mit.edu
Mon Dec 17 10:32:08 PST 2001

Wow, what a flame-fest!

Not to appear *too* sane, here, but:

1) as someone who *has* spent time in jail over free speech issues and
whose charges *were* (eventually) dropped and who *did* none-the-less
spend 8 days in Philadelphia's finest maximum security prison (CFCF), and
2) as a street organizer who spent many many hours on corners around
Boston agitating for copyright reform, and thus is (I think) well-placed
to say when (grassroots) "momentum is high" and when it is not, and
3) as a participating citizen of a democracy who writes real paper letters
to his elected officials and gets back meaningful responses, and so
somewhat knows what *their* stances and perspectives are (this statement
only relavant for the Cambridge, MA area and its elected representatives),
4) as an academic participant in discussions with undergraduates,
librarians, *and* music industry types (most recently
and thanks to Jonah Jenkins here at MIT for both setting up this wonderful
event and inviting me to be a panel participant), and so possessing
slightly better information about the current state of copyright
legislation and the various lobbyists than the average
I see that
a) Dmitry Sklyarov's release is in all ways a good thing.  No man deserves
to be imprisoned unjustly, and every release --- for whatever rationale
--- makes our world a better place.  No one who cares for individual
human beings can disagree here.
b) Sklyarov's case pales in importance compared to the 2600 and Felten
cases.  This is from talking to actual industry lawyers and lobbyists who
are sensitive to how these precedents will be read.  2600 *magazine* was
forbidden from even *linking* to software *they didn't even write*.  From
a freedom-of-speech perspective, this sets all sorts of undesirable
precedents for publishers, the structure of the web, and the "viral nature
of the internet" (to use the words of the decision).  If you want to set
good precedents, these are the battles you want to fight.  No one is
interested in the Sklyarov case for precedent because most of the
interesting legal issues are over jurisdiction and such: it's not going to
be used as a DMCA example case in the literature.  And the DOJ was
blatently attempting scare tactics: they weren't after precedent either.
*Furthermore* the amount of disinformation I'm hearing *even from our
friends* on this case is staggering.  I wish people would stop carping on
the Sklyarov case being the "first criminal use of the DMCA" (in
particular) because it's *not*.
c) Street fighting momentum *is* gone.  It evaporated after September 11
and has not recovered.  The mood of the country has changed.  That's not
to say that it is or is not appropriate/useful/etc, but simply noting the
different atmosphere.  Blindly reverting to tactics which were not even
appropriate *before* Sklyarov's release (I'm referring particularly to an
Adobe boycott) is a mistake.  We need to re-trench and re-think.
And on this note:
d) Copyright issues will appear before the legislature in *February* in a
big way.  The next Sklyarov court date wasn't to be until April, and I
think the recent agreement will not bring this any closer.  The thing that
should occupy our attention *now* and for the next few months is the
*SSSCA* and the *MOCA* bill.  (This means *DISNEY* and not Adobe should be
the corporate target).  These are the bills which will next attempt to
abridge your freedom.  These are the bills we need to fight.  We have
librarians on our side, and we even have composers and musicians on our
side (it's a bit schizophrenic talking to ASCAP (for example), which
represents both artists *and* publishers, but the sane half of ASCAP is
with us).  We need to write our congress-critters, visit them in person,
do what is necessary to keep "digital rights management" out of our
toasters.  rms, I heard serious suggestions at the last conference I was
at, to the effect that "the age of the general purpose computer is over".
Single-purpose devices are seen as easier to "secure" for the new age of
rights-management.  Let's keep Alan Turning's soul at rest by keeping
Turning-complete machines legal!

I think the old "walk a mile in a man's shoes" proverb should be invoked
here.  I don't see *any* of the flame-festing and name-calling that has
erupted on these lists as being a constructive means to our end.  May I
humbly suggest that loyalty-oaths be left buried with McCarthy's age and
that we concentrate on what *we* can do to ensure our voices are heard
when our elected *representatives* meet in February to discuss the future
of copyright?

And a final helpful suggestion from the ASCAP lobbyists:  most hearings
are public to some degree or another.  That means that if you can afford
to show up, you will often be heard.  And that any comments you write are
often *legally required* to be published and recorded.  [The Microsoft
antitrust settlement has a similar legally-required public comments
period, while I'm on the topic.]  You'd be *amazed* at how *few* public
comments are actually recorded at any of these hearings.  Say, 50-60
*tops*.   Only *30* comments were recorded on the DMCA
and I'm sad to say I didn't author any of them.  I don't intend to repeat
that mistake.  Your active effort *will* (*really*!) make a difference.
Who will speak on copyright issues, if not us?

justice early warning genetic LA global action network blowfish United Nations 
Saddam Hussein cracking IDEA arrangements Philadelphia North Korea 
              ( http://lesser-magoo.lcs.mit.edu/~cananian )
 "These students are going to have to find out what law and order is
 all about."  -- Brig. General Robert Canterbury, Noon, May 4, 1970,
 minutes before his troops shot 13 unarmed Kent State students, killing 4.
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