[free-sklyarov] FW: This Week's Clue: The False Choice Between Tyranny and Anarchy

James S. Huggins (Free Sklyarov) FreeSklyarov at ZName.com
Sun Jul 29 10:04:39 PDT 2001

The following is excerpted from the email of A-Clue.com

-----Original Message-----
From: dana at a-clue.com
Sent: Friday, July 27, 2001 11:59 AM
Subject: This Week's Clue: The False Choice Between Tyranny and Anarchy

by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume V, No. XXX
For July 30, 2001

This Week's Clue: The False Choice of Tyranny or Anarchy

I spent most of last week editing an important chapter of my book "Living on
the Internet," this one covering issues like the Copyright Wars. When I
finished and picked up my online newspapers, I realized I'd have to go
through the whole exercise again - reality had caught up with me.

I closed the draft chapter with a prediction that real people are about to
get really hurt by the Copyright Wars. Then on July 17 someone was. Dimitri
Skylarov was arrested, thrown in jail and charged with a felony for telling
an audience at the DefCon hacking conference how his Russian company,
ElcomSoft (http://www.elcomsoft.com), easily defeated the encryption in
Adobe's e-book format

Skylarov, a Russian national, was arrested for an act that is not a crime in
Russia. He was arrested on the insistence of Adobe Systems, charged under
the portion of the U.S. Digital Millenium Copyright Act making it a felony
to manufacture products that circumvent copy protection.

The reaction was predictable. Open source programmers rose up in protest.
Rallies were planned in 13 cities
(http://www.boycottadobe.com/pages/rallies.html), organized in part by an
e-mail list (http://zork.net/mailman/listinfo/free-sklyarov/). Allen Cox
proposed that Linux and other open source development be moved totally out
of the U.S., resigning from Usenix
(http://www.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=01/07/20/1228200 ). (Perhaps it
will move to India, where Richard Stallman launched a unit of the Free
Software Foundation on July 20.
(http://www.gnu.org/press/2001-07-20-FSF-India.html)) The Electronic
Frontier Foundation tried to meet with Adobe, defuse the situation, and stop
the protests (http://www.eff.org/alerts/20010719_eff_sklyarov_alert.html).

But Adobe is not the problem. In fact the U.S. Justice Department has come
down hard on behalf of throwing people in jail for copyright violations,
establishing 10 new offices
(http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/20548.html) to concentrate on the
"problem." By that simple act, it made all political disputes concerning the
Internet criminal matters.

Scott Rosenberg, who is generally two years behind in his attitudes,
predicted the "Napster Diaspora" would become a nightmare for the copyright
But it is becoming increasingly clear it's a nightmare for everyone.

The copyright industries have more than the law and the police on their
side. They have all sorts of technology, designed to enforce their rights to
control what you think you own. Recording companies are quietly installing
anti-ripping programs into their CDs (and not telling consumers about them)
s01) while an Israeli company promises to treat copyright violators the way
Sharon treats Palestinian protestors
(http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2001/07/19/Digital/Digital.30819.html). Those
are just two events that were publicized in the last week.

A lot of us made a lot of money during the Internet boom predicting that
technology couldn't be stopped, that this medium would become a force for
freedom in the world. But if the Bush campaign on behalf of record companies
succeeds, then any Internet action can be stopped. Laws against e-mailing
dirty jokes might actually be enforced
(http://news.itspace.com/telecom/tel010720_00.asp). China might yet gain the
benefits of the online world without paying its costs in liberty
for people.

My problem is that the present battle seems to be between anarchy and
China-like control. It has become an either-or question of whether the
Internet will be lawless or bound by law. Governments behave as though this
is a war between law and disorder. But that is only true if the laws being
enforced are truly agreed-upon by the people who make up the Internet.

The fact is these laws have been passed and imposed without the consent of
the people governed by them. The DMCA was passed in congressional back
rooms, and its advocates lied about its impact. The WIPO treaty was
negotiated by diplomats - democracy never entered into it.

If the people of the Internet have no way to express their will on how their
actions are to be governed, then all laws are tyranny, and all governments
are Chinese. Without democracy, the only resort is to lawlessness and
revolution. Yet there can be no progress, no freedom, and no real liberty in
anarchy - you're only as free then as your strength and technical prowess
makes you.

I feared when it came into office that the Bush Administration was naove,
that it would step into crises willy-nilly, ignoring the popular will, the
limits of its power, and all questions of principle. Sadly, I've been proven
right, and now many will pay. It will start with Dimitry Skylarov. It will
not end with him.


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