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IEEE Wants Congress To Re-Examine DMCA 185

Posted by timothy
from the please-observe-the-tripwires-and-landmines dept.
softsign writes "Reading this story in this month's IEEE The Institute, I found that IEEE-USA quietly published two position papers asking the US Congress to re-examine and/or clarify sections of the DMCA last year. The papers - developed by the organization's Intellectual Property committee - specifically cite concerns over the chilling effects and misuse of the DMCA against researchers and ISPs. Initially, the IEEE was pretty wishy-washy about the DMCA, but it seems that they've been listening to their members and have developed a pretty strong anti-DMCA, pro-innovation stance. Including an enlightened view on Fair Use rights!"
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IEEE Wants Congress To Re-Examine DMCA

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  • I like it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kcornia (152859) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @05:56PM (#5283975) Journal
    The snowball rolling down the hill towards the DMCA grows larger every day...

    • Re:I like it (Score:2, Insightful)

      by AtariKee (455870)
      Let's hope the big shovels of Big Business (and the Bush Administration) don't jump in front of it and chisel it to nothing on the way down :)

    • Re:I like it (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Dinosaur Neil (86204)

      Maybe. Then again, maybe not. While it's nice that the IEEE has (finally) taken a stand, it didn't strike me as a very strong stand, and a very limited one.

      It may be a sign of snowball, but it's a small sign on a pretty shallow hill...

      • Re:I like it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by softsign (120322) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:54PM (#5284250)
        I think it's important to point out that this is the mother of all engineering groups we're talking about here. These are not exactly hot-headed activists. That may make their words a little more tame, but - one hopes - their message all the more potent.
  • clarity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dirvish (574948) <dirvish@foundne w s .com> on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @05:57PM (#5283986) Homepage Journal
    asking the US Congress to re-examine and/or clarify sections of the DMCA last year.

    I like that they are asking for clarification. Sure, it would be nice to just have the DMCA go away but clarification would help a lot. The DMCA is a really poorly written law that can be interpreted in lots of ways. If Congress was force to clarify what the DMCA covers a lot of the corporate misuse would not be viable anymore.
  • by PseudoThink (576121) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @05:57PM (#5283987)
    Check out http://www.chillingeffects.org [chillingeffects.org].
  • by goatasaur (604450) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @05:58PM (#5283991) Journal
    ...its flammability.
  • by The Other White Boy (626206) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `yobetihwrehtoeht'> on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @05:59PM (#5283995)
    i may be confused, but the only IEEE acronym i know of ... doesnt seem like it'd have anything to do with this. I'll assume that its good news, but could someone please fill me in? and if its the only IEEE i know of, do they really have any sort of position to influence this or will it just be brushed aside?
  • I hope. (Score:4, Informative)

    by ball-lightning (594495) <spi131313@yahoo.com> on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:02PM (#5284008)
    I personally the DMCA is abolished, especially with This [slashdot.org] Freedom of Speech issues notwithstanding of course. I know this has been said before (by a lot of people), but I actually do make a lot of copies of the CDs etc I own, (I'm a clutz, just broke a CD yesterday, was a CD-R though, thankfully). I expect the DMCA will end up just like the prohibition did, being repealed because it did more harm than good, and made a joke out of the law.
  • by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:03PM (#5284012) Journal
    I can see it now....

    Senator: Wow, there are some really good points in this paper....maybe we should re-examine this DMCA thing...

    Secretary: I have a Ms. Rosen on the line. She wants to know if you want the front or the backs of the bills when she wallpapers your house with money.

    Senator: Tell her I'll want some toilet paper as well. These position papers leave me dry and chaffed.

  • What if (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Troll Garou (648237) <bi0nikle@noSPAM.free.fr> on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:05PM (#5284015)
    Okay, this is a troll account, but I'll bite.

    Consider this : what if the DMCA was only a way to buy time ? They needed time to compute the impact of internet access to their existing business model. Damn, some customers of mine oppose arguments stronger than theirs to delay migration and observe the behavior of the new system.

    Don't be fooled. They don't want a revolution, and they never did. They are just buying time and brainstorming.

    'Cause they already did a mistake. Remember the new economy ? Now they wait and watch and prepare their next move.

    Fair enough.

    • Re:What if (Score:3, Interesting)

      Well I think there is something to this, however I have read a lot of studies that indicate piracy does not detract from corporate profits whatsoever. In fact it makes them grow because the ability for users to hear an artist inspires them to support them (at least they think they are by buying the CD). Piracy promotes numerous smaller artists.

      The proof is in the pudding:
      Sony is one of the world's largest producers of music, and is one of the largest manufacturers of CD copying/producing hardware. This would be a conflict of interest if cd copying had any effect on sales.

      My theory is that if companies can sell to the politicians the idea that they are losing money on CDs (which they do by donating large sums of money to their campaigns), then they can get laws passed like say, oh I dont know, levies on the sale of blank CDs, CD copying software, and MP3 players. In Canada these levies (at the bare minimum) double the price of the purchase.
      • Sony is one of the world's largest producers of music, and is one of the largest manufacturers of CD copying/producing hardware. This would be a conflict of interest if cd copying had any effect on sales.

        Don't read too much into that. Sony is a huge corporation, and like any huge organization there will be internal disagreements and personal empires which come into conflict. I'm sure you could find similar examples in virtually any large company.

  • great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GuyMannDude (574364) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:05PM (#5284016) Journal

    Initially, the IEEE was pretty wishy-washy about the DMCA, but it seems that they've been listening to their members and have developed a pretty strong anti-DMCA, pro-innovation stance. Including an enlightened view on Fair Use rights!"

    ...which they quietly published in two position papers. Pardon me for being a wet blanket, but I'll wait until some organization makes the case by loudly publishing a position paper before I start cheering.

    GMD

    • Re:great... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by vsprintf (579676) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:04PM (#5284308)
      Initially, the IEEE was pretty wishy-washy about the DMCA, but it seems that they've been listening to their members and have developed a pretty strong anti-DMCA, pro-innovation stance. Including an enlightened view on Fair Use rights!"

      ...which they quietly published in two position papers. Pardon me for being a wet blanket, but I'll wait until some organization makes the case by loudly publishing a position paper before I start cheering.

      Agreed. I also think the poster of the article was somewhat confused. I am a member of both the IEEE and the IEEE-USA since it is the regional organization for U.S. residents. The links in the article are to IEEE-USA pages or the linked articles refer to IEEE-USA positions. IEEE, the parent organization, will remain wishy-washy as always. The only time it takes a position is when IEEE-USA offends someone (like the time it opposed H-1B increases), and the IEEE slapped them down and told them to shut up. IEEE-USA has a new president who hasn't been slapped down yet.

      • Re:great... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by softsign (120322) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:27PM (#5284420)
        I'm also an IEEE member and I realize that IEEE-USA is not the same as IEEE proper, but it's entirely appropriate that, as the US organizational unit of IEEE, IEEE-USA is developing these position papers, in accordance with its mandate:
        "To recommend policies and implement programs specifically intended to serve and benefit the members, the profession, and the public in the United States in appropriate professional areas of economic, ethical, legislative, social and technology policy concern." (emphasis mine)
        DMCA is a US problem first. For good or bad, the IEEE doesn't have the mandate to advocate public policy in specific countries. It's primarily an academic/professional body. Part of the reason IEEE-USA exists is to circumvent that shortcoming... To put it simply, I don't think this is insignificant... It's no coup, but it's nothing to sneeze at either...
        • Excellent points, but unless IEEE-USA can push this without offending someone in IEEE's massive directorship (and that's unlikely), it will be quashed like before. I had just hoped to manage expectations here (that's what good IT workers do, right) and point out that it is not yet the IEEE supporting this (hopefully, someday it will be).
    • Re:great... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by octalgirl (580949)
      which they quietly published in two position papers

      Exactly. Where are their comments as requested by the US Copyright office [copyright.gov], which were due Dec 2002?
    • Hold on there tiger.

      Every problem is not solved by chest beating and grand standing. The IEEE is an old (and stodgey) organization. They are also "in the club" from the stand point of being able to command respect and get listened to.

      They are able to take an advisory role on engineering and technology issues and no one is going to say "You're listening to them?"

      They are not going to make a press release that slaps the law makers in the face. That's not "how it's done"

      Here's a little play:

      King: All people must walk on thier hands and speak only in pig-latin! I have spoken.

      Advisor [who, after careful consideration, takes the side of the people]: Pardon your magesty [whispers in kings ear]

      King: Hrumph! Yes, in addition, walking on feet and other languages are also acceptable. I have spoken.

      Of course if the advisor had instead pissed on the kings robe and said it was the dumbest idea ever he would no longer be an advisor to the king. So it is with the IEEE.

      Slashdot, who pisses on the robe of the king many times a day, will never advise the king.

      =Shreak
  • by Cyclometh (629276) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:06PM (#5284021)
    I really doubt that Congress, who won't listen to the majority of its citizens, will bother to listen to a collection of scientists that don't provide any money to their campaign coffers.

    After all, the RIAA and MPAA can probably outspend the IEEE by about 500 to one or more.

    I hate to be too cynical, but this seems to be a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing to anyone who isn't a geek.
    • Don't be so sure (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:32PM (#5284157) Journal
      After all, the RIAA and MPAA can probably outspend the IEEE by about 500 to one or more.

      Don't be so sure.

      The IEEE not only has a large number of fairly wealthy engineers, but it also has some very wealthy corporate members such as Intel, and the rest of the semiconductor industry. Chips are in everything. I know I have a few in my car, all my media and computer equipment, my mobile phone, my cordless answerphone, my watch, and my credit card. These people don't want to have to spend money on adding a chips to prevent piracy. Especially when they know it isn't going to work.
      • Re:Don't be so sure (Score:4, Interesting)

        by vsprintf (579676) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:35PM (#5284452)

        First, it's not the IEEE leading the fight, it's the IEEE-USA which is a regional organization. The IEEE, which controls the money, has none. The IEEE's bloated directorship has squandered the organization's revenue and led it to near paralysis. The smaller subsections or societies finally demanded an outside review of organization management and policies.

        The review condemned the current state of affairs, but unless something is done about it, the IEEE will remain moribund and ineffective.

    • It might not be a matter of outspending. It may simply be a matter of out-influencing by way of both "official" and de-facto standards.It's currently slashdotted (or otherwise not available), but the IEEE basically recommends standards to ANSI, NIST, and the NEC (National Electrical Code), among others. These bodies then (usually) rubber-stamp the item and it eventually winds up somewhere in the Library of Congress as a USA standard.

      In case anyone wonders, these standards influence such things as the wiring in your home (NEC), the "official" version of "C" (ANSI), numerous industrial/commercial standards (OSHA, NEC, ANSI),
      and standard/accepted units of measure for personal and commercial purposes (NIST) i.e. metres, seconds (atomic clocks), pounds/kilograms,etc,etc.....

      So, I'd be surprised if a major contributor to the currently accepted and practiced North American US standards doesn't have some weight somewhere.

      Of course, I don't actually expect Congress to be aware of any of this. Er, until it's maybe too late...
    • I really doubt that Congress, who won't listen to the majority of its citizens, will bother to listen to a collection of scientists that don't provide any money to their campaign coffers.


      In the words of Mayor Quimby, the majority of US citizens are nothing but a bunch of pickled mush-heads. Congress is far more likely to consider the opinion of the IEEE than of Joe Schmoe who's too busy watching Joe Millionare to even write his congressperson anyway.
    • While it's true that the RIAA and MPAA has some of Congress in its pockets, some legislators do operate on principles: witness the defection of six key Republican Senators [nytimes.com] (link is to an abstract; I don't work for the NYTimes. CNN article here [cnn.com] ) about drilling in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

      Yes, legislators like to get reelected and so are susceptible to campaign contributions. But many of them still have consciences which lead them to vote in the interests of the public rather than in the interests of business (not that the two are always opposed).

      Legislators do somtimes listen to the dictates of public interest, though that all too rarely.

  • This is good (Score:5, Informative)

    by greymond (539980) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:07PM (#5284028) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad to finally see a big dog enter the fight. Don't get me wrong, the EFF and Slashdot community are great, but they have a tendancy to allow their bark to be louder than their bite.... So having the IEEE peeps start in on this is definately a good thing.
  • by cbuskirk (99904) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:07PM (#5284029)
    Coupled with the Unpatriotic Act the DMCA is a blueprint for the end of our country. Organizations like IEEE should be taking a much stronger stance against the DMCA. They should have no profit motive and should be charged with the duty to futher computing, not corprate greed. Granted the individuals who make up the various standards commities on the IEEE have shareholders to pretend to answer to, but the core mission of the IEEE should be offended by the blatent Un-American nature of the DMCA and take a stand, just as every true patriot should take a stand against the so called Patriot Act.
    • Re: kinda OT (Score:3, Insightful)

      by goatasaur (604450)
      ...the blatant Un-American nature of the DMCA and take a stand, just as every true patriot should take a stand against the so called Patriot Act.

      These are two very unnecessary bills passed by a technologically ignorant (in the case of the DMCA) and shortsighted (in the case of the Patriot Act) legislature.

      I personally don't understand the benefit of either act. IAONAP, but as far as I can tell there was no evidence that the existing laws were inadequate, in either case. I do believe both the DMCA (in its current incarnation) and the Patriot Act (ESPECIALLY the Patriot Act) are chipping sizeable chunks away at civil liberty. One of these needs to die before it gets worse.

      • Re: kinda OT (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I personally don't understand the benefit of either act. IAONAP, but as far as I can tell there was no evidence that the existing laws were inadequate, in either case. I do believe both the DMCA (in its current incarnation) and the Patriot Act (ESPECIALLY the Patriot Act) are chipping sizeable chunks away at civil liberty. One of these needs to die before it gets worse.


        Have you not realised yet, that the intention of these bills is to restrict civil liberty? That they benefit the capitalist corporations and not the citizens at large is the whole point of these bills. Realise this and you're half way to becoming a free man again.
    • the core mission of the IEEE should be offended by the blatent Un-American nature of the DMCA and take a stand

      Errr - the IEEE is an international organisation - hence the 'I' in the name.

      So the 'core mission' of the IEEE is to promote the International aspects of standardisation etc.

      For issues purely pertaining to one specifice country ther are regional groups. For the US this is IEEE-USA, and its this group that is raising the discusion papers.

      Forgive me as a UK outsider but the US normally takes a very dim view of International organisations that try to influence its domestic policy - cf current discussion the UN or the Kyoto agreements.

      Are you really calling for an Non-US organisation to define what US Patriotism is and isn't?

      The IEEE will always be wishy washy as it has to deall with all countriee - the region groups such as IEEE-USA need to campaign on country specific issues.

      I might agree with you that the main IEEE may need to take a stand on the way some elements of the US are trying to extend the reach and use of the DMCA outside of US territory, such as happened in the Elcomsoft case. However even here it is probably a compaign that would be more succesful if carried out by the American members of the IEEE.
  • It's good to see respected organizations like the IEEE speaking out against the problems of the DMCA. If we can keep the pressure on, the politicians will not be able to ignore the populace.
  • by elflet (570757) <elflet AT nextquestion DOT net> on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:10PM (#5284051)
    Not only has the IEEE jumped on the bandwagon, but we're likely to find a sympathetic ear in the FCC. This story [bayarea.com] profiles the new head of the FCC (Michael Powell, who is General Colin Powell's son):
    Powell, 39, will help craft the rules of the road to a new digital promised land, where the lines between computers and entertainment devices blur and consumers have access to a vast array of new services. A die-hard Republican free-marketeer, he aims to do so with as little government intrusion as possible.
    It seems that an overly restrictive DMCA would get in the way of his plans as well, and he's well received on Capital Hill.
    • by rgmoore (133276) <glandauer@charter.net> on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:02PM (#5284296) Homepage
      A die-hard Republican free-marketeer, he aims to do so with as little government intrusion as possible.

      Unfortunately, I'm not so sure that this is true in the way you think. There are a lot of "diehard free-marketeers" who don't see excessively strong copyright as being a form of government intrusion. Many of them, in fact, see strong copyright as a preservation of property rights, which they veiw as being the cornerstone of a market economy. If anything, the idea of limiting government intrusion is likely to come out in the form of explicitly allowing copyright holders to hack the systems of alleged thieves, or some similar vigilante-style action.

    • by Hug Life (643998) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:21PM (#5284382)
      Beleive me, Michael Powell is the last person you want fighting for your freedom of expression. Michael Powell has been behind the Corporatization of news for 2 decades. He's repealed valuable laws preventing news monopolies, for example, he has allowed one company to control multiple outlets in cities. I.E. Murdoch controlling the LA news. Clear channel owes a lot to this bastard, he's no friend of mine. -js
    • Michael Powell is the reason ClearChan^H^H^H^H^H TicketMaster charges $7.50 for concert tickets printed on cheap ugly computerized tickets. And venues box-office are open, like, sunday from 8:10 to 8:15am.

      DZM
      • "Michael Powell is the reason ClearChan^H^H^H^H^H TicketMaster charges $7.50 for concert tickets printed on cheap ugly computerized tickets. "

        Allow me to submit that a more compelling reason is that we are like pigs at a trough to BUY this crap, meaning that we at least share the blame with Powell.
  • Humm (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:13PM (#5284071)
    In line with its past positions regarding shrink wrap licenses overriding user rights in the Copyright Act that are the result of hard-fought compromises in Congress, IEEE-USA feels that all user rights in digital works, as well as other user rights provided by intellectual property law, must not be alterable by a shrink wrap, click wrap, or similar license.

    So if I am reading this correctly, that means that there can't be a EULA clauses that says that I can not make a back up or transfer a DRMed file.

    Now if only there is something that also covers EULA changes and clauses like "we have the right to reword and fine tune this EULA to what ever screws you and benefits us the most."

    There is still the legality issue of EULAs but I doubt they will want to do anything about it.
  • by argoff (142580) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:17PM (#5284085)

    The problem isn't the DMCA, but that the era of copyrights is over and people, especially in the entertainment industry, can't deal with it. I think civil disobedience of copyrights whenever possible (like people are doing now) is a much more effective way. It will force change from the outside and not the inside. It will get the problem at the root.
    • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79 @ g m ail.com> on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:30PM (#5284149) Homepage
      "I think civil disobedience of copyrights whenever possible (like people are doing now) is a much more effective way."

      ...because 'civil disobedience of copyrights whenever possible (like people are doing now)' has to date been SO successful in securing less restrictive government policies...

    • by Sarcazmo (555312) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:58PM (#5284274)
      I think civil disobedience of copyrights whenever possible (like people are doing now) is a much more effective way

      I guess you mean people should freely steal GPL code and not comply with it then.

      Get it straight. Copyright is not a bad thing. Copyright is a good thing that is being twisted and abused to do bad things. We need to end copyright abuse, not copyrights.

      A lot of what is opposed doesn't really fall under copyright per se, but under contract law, when you are talking about EULAs that have terrible clauses in them that infringe on basic rights. Copyright is only the means that is often used as an enforcement method for these EULAs.

      The DMCA is bad for other reasons, it likely violates due process in regard to the "guilty until proven innocent" stance that ISPs must take when they get a DMCA complaint.

      The DMCA anti-circumvention clause violates basic property ownership rights, that are heavily implied in the constitution and in common law.

      The other issue with copyrights are their length, and the extensions, as seen in the Lessig case, terms so long that they actually hinder the creation of new works.

      None of this points to an inherent problem with copyrights.
      • by argoff (142580) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:13PM (#5284350)

        Let me put this straight, just because an institution calles something a right doesn't mean that it is. This is as true with calling copyrights a right today as it was in the 1850's when controlling slaves was called a property right. Rights are not about controll, but liberties. But copyrights are about controll, and the DMCA is about taking actions to secure that form of controll - and now people act supprised when all of a sudden their liberties start disapearing. Sorry, but this wouldn't happen if copyrights were a true right, and neither would the infinite extensions. True rights don't have expirations, phony ones or otherwise.

        And the EULA is not a contract, and copyrights are not an enforcement. Since when did contract law become binging on 3rd parties who don't even agree with it? this is exactly what copyrights do. And what if someone sent you $100 in an envelope that said on the outside "by opening this I have the right to send thugs over and collect $200 in interest from you and your friends that you share it with" - this is fradulent contract law in any other context.

        • by Sarcazmo (555312) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @08:22PM (#5284709)
          You seem very confused. Who said copyright was a "right"? I sure didn't. It's an artifical scheme designed to give authors some control over the distribution of their work.

          EULA is not a contract

          Last I checked, the only legal basis for most of an EULA is under contract law, debatable as that may be.

          Copyrights as EULA enforcement devices is pretty weak, as most of it is covered under contract law, but certain EULAs may allow certain actions that may fall under the realm of copyright law, and violating other contractual clauses of the EULA may terminate the whole thing, including the parts covered by copyright law.

          Think site licenses, which also grant rights normally reserved under copyright (i.e. the limited right to copy), in addition to EULA terms. In cases like that, both sets of law must come into play.

          And what if someone sent you $100 in an envelope that said on the outside "by opening this I have the right to send thugs over and collect $200 in interest from you and your friends that you share it with" - this is fradulent contract law in any other context.

          Your example is sleezy, but not fraudulent. Sleezy companies already do this! Haven't you ever gotten a "check" in the mail, usually for several hundred or thousand dollars, but upon careful inspection, it turns out the check is really a loan with a huge rate of interest? Anyone with good credit can attest to getting these. If the notice that it is loan is not prominent, then it could be argued that it was fraudulent, since both parties were not well informed of the terms of the contract, but if it was printed prominently in a place you would likely see it, then I seriously doubt it would be declared an invalid contract in court.

          I'm temped to add IANAL, but if you are getting legal advice from some anonymous guy on the internet, you would probably be stupid enough to just think it was a reference to my homosexuality anyway.
      • Copyright is a bad thing. It has taken the DMCA to cause me to see this, but copyright cannot co-exist with free speech and modern technology. Copyright, at its heart, tells you that there are things you may not print, things you may not say in public, things you may not write, under penalty of fines and prison.

        Before modern times when copying was so easy and copyright so extensive, there was a possibility of copyright co-existing (uneasily!) with free speech. Actually violating a copyright was difficult and took investment in a printing press (copying by hand was not a violation for most of that time, and certainly not prosecuted). Now thanks to photocopiers and computers you can violate it easily, even trivially.

        To save copyright from becoming effectively unenforcable, it is necessary to restrict both free speech (via DMCA-like laws, as well as by copyright itself) and modern technology (via CBDTPA-like laws). If that's what it takes to enforce it, copyright should die. Unfortunately, it is not.
      • Hmm. Let me try:

        Owning property [copyrights] is not a bad thing. Acquiring more property [more copyrights] isn't a bad thing either.

        But putting a gun to someone else's head and telling them that because you own property, they can't own anything [because you own a copyrighted work, no one else can fair-use it] is bad. The DMCA is the gun in this scenario.

        Lousy analogy, but it's what came to mind when I read your post. (Sure, blame the parent poster :)

    • I think civil disobedience of copyrights whenever possible (like people are doing now)...

      Right now the number of people engaging in civil disobedience is somewhere between zero and not very many. Civil disobedience is not just a matter of breaking the law and then telling yourself that its really ok because the law is bad. Civil disobedience is breaking the law, telling a policeman that you did it, going to court, getting sentenced, accepting your sentence, and going to prison. It works because it makes it obvious to everyone that reasonable people who otherwise respect the law are not able to accept this particular law. It works because it reveals, in a way that is painfully visible to everyone, how power is being abused to make people abide by a law that is immoral.

      Back in the 50's and 60's a lot of whites thought that blacks really didn't mind segregation all that much, and that it didn't involve any real coercion. Civil disobedience made it clear that reasonable and law abiding citizens, white and black, did object to the law quite strongly, and that it was being maintained only by means of coercion.

      Let me know when you find a few people who are willing to spend a year - or even a night - in jail for the sake of their fair use rights. Then we can talk about a campaign of civil disobedience.
      • Let me know when you find a few people who are willing to spend a year - or even a night - in jail for the sake of their fair use rights. Then we can talk about a campaign of civil disobedience.

        Also, civil disobedience means being prepared: you have to study up on the law you're about to take on, and be absolutely certain that you want to commit to opposing this one piece of legislation over others (you cannot at once fight ALL oppresive laws by yourself). Be sure to read up on the subject (Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" [indiana.edu] is a good start) and it's previous practitioners [kids-right.org]. Also, be prepared to deal with the consequences: aligning yourself in direct defiance of the state is a sure way to inflame it's proponents and incite non-official (but tacitly approved) retribution in most any part of the world. Try to align yourself with similar minded people. If you survive all this and your actions have an effect, be ready to enter into politics!

        PS: To return to the subject, do not forget that IEEE is also a guild, not a samaritan organization to help downloaders, and aims chiefly to further the well-being of it's members. That's why it has a larger hope of succeeding against RIAA/MPAA, because it's yet another powerful lobby.
  • The name (Score:4, Funny)

    by Radio Shack Robot (640478) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:29PM (#5284142) Homepage
    There is some irony in the IEEE's name: "The Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers" also includes computer engineers, but the computers engineers have coded themselves out of the name. Thanks to legacy issues in source code (e.g. #include ieee_std_80211a.h) in C and VHDL, the computers engineers would have a heck of a time going back and changing the code if the IEEE changed its name to include computer engineers. It would become confusing to have one name but the legacy header files another name.
  • by Exitthree (646294) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:33PM (#5284163) Homepage

    Perhaps someone else has made this analogy before, but I've never seen it.

    I was just thinking of the similarities of today's copyright infrigement and corporate behemoths exploting the working class with the old day's mills and bosses controlling labor. Basically in both instances people became fed up with the situation. Back then, people started to protest and organize unions, while at the same time the corporations and bosses would pass out black-lists of violators and make a fuss when people wanted fair pay. Today we have file-swapping and MP3s becuase we are sick of paying too much money for something; things (MP3s in particular) where the original author doesn't profit so much as the recording label. Again, the corporations are making a fuss, and instead of black-lists, they are suing the pants off anyone they can find.

    Now, I doubt that the government will legalize file-sharing like they protected unions, but I hope something just as amiable is devised for our current situation. Anyone new that decides to fight is a step in the right direction.

    • Unions don't break the law. File sharing of copyrighted data does. That difference kills your analogy. Now, if people boycotted, that would be something else. But we do't yet care enough to do that.
    • by argoff (142580) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:59PM (#5284283)

      how about this...

      in the 1850's they called slavery a property, rather than a form of controll; today they call copyrights a form of property

      in the 1850 they thought that the entire purpose of the industrial revolution was to use inventions like the cotton gin to expand the size of their plantations for unlimited controll and profit. Today people think the information age is about using the internet to leverage their copyright holdings for infinite and unlimited reach.

      "I have no incentive to grow cotton without slaves", "freeing slaves is common theivery", "the great wealth of the plantation system show's it's goodness", "I put effort into getting them slaves" sould alot like "artists have no incentive to create ... etc" , "copying is piracy", and "the great financial success of the movie and software industries is owed to copyrights". etc...

      And how about the market crash of the 1850's when all sorts of experimental business ventures involving industrial technology crashed. (dot com bust?)

      even a civil war happened next, today we have a war on terrorisim?

      • by Anonymous Coward
        I'm guessing you're not black.
      • /. user tonyhill (above) gets it exactly right, but lest his argument go ignored by the muddle-headed . . .

        Slavery was an economic system that had at its center the oppression of a group of people based on birthright. It was a system of production that deprived people of their most fundamental rights to self-determination.

        Copyrights do not deprive anyone of their most fundamental rights to self-determination except in those cases where persons are prosecuted for copyright violation and jailed. Even then, this is not a determination made at birth. Copyright law is not really about morality and human self-determination in the same way that slavery as property right was.

        As for your suggestion that the war on terrorism can be compared to the Civil War, let me suggest you read some history, pronto. The Civil War threatened to sunder the political integrity of a nation-state because factions on one of two sides disagreed whether slavery was an economic or a moral problem (turns out it was both).

        The war on terrorism is not in response to copyright law and, furthermore, is really cover for executive saving face (can't find Osama) and inflating oil prices (wartime scarcity).

        Oh, and by the way, may I have a hit of what you've been smoking 'cause that shit must be good.

  • I wish... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    that the blighters in Congress would do the job right in the first place. Then RE-examination would probably not be necessary. Instead they did the job they were paid for. And I don't mean their salaries.

    Do anon cowards always get rated ZERO?

    If so, Slashdot sucks!
  • by orthogonal (588627) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:40PM (#5284194) Journal
    IEEE Wants Congress To Re-Examine DMCA

    IEEE? Isn't that Microsoft's new browser?

    Internet Explorer Extended Embrace?
    • "Gee.. been working on this for hours now with no problems at all on my Windows box.... just a couple more minutes and I can save it and.... [BSOD]... IEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!"
  • by ShatteredDream (636520) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:40PM (#5284197) Homepage
    Two years ago I brought basic concerns about misuse of patent law and the DMCA to my Congressman, Goodlatte (R-VA). He said that I was either a thief or advocated stealing because I opposed his bill and that a lot of technical people did too. You see, they don't care what the actual coders think, they care what corporations and unions' leaders think.

    Stop acting like Congress represents you. It gets auctioned off every year and CFR isn't going to fix it. It is the 2-party system that is to blame. Even if you outlawed bribery on the pain of death under our current system you'd see no meaningful change. It is because only the best looking and/or most ruthless people get into office.

    I'm a CS student and a regular voter and supporter of the LP and 85% of its positions (I only disagree on its espionage and immigration policies, I support the CIA and believe immigration should be heavily restricted). I was talking the other day with probably the only girl in our department who genuinely "gets it" with coding. She's better than most of the guys and we were talking about politics and she said agreed that universal democracy is a bad idea. She said that most of the women she knows that voted for Clinton in 92 did so because he was the sexiest candidate and she said that in her opinion such idiots should be disenfranchised.

    Most geeks don't understand political people. I have been around enough of them and have been drug into political conversations enough to know exactly how they think. Invariably political people tend to be scumbags. They practically get off on social and political discussions and yet they have no real desire or capacity as a general rule to effect positive change.

    I am a semi-Stalinist Socialist-turned-Libertarian. I learned from history that only **one** system of government works for a long time and that's a Liberal republic. Liberalism is the key to the salvation of the human race and that's what both conservatives and leftists cannot understand. The Liberalism of Locke, Friedmon and co. is an experiment in true civilization. Stop bitching about how Bush and co. undermine democracy. Fuck democracy. You want to see real democracy unleashed on a nation? Read up on Socrates' last days on this Earth. The summaray execution of Socrates by committee for his beliefs is the true face of democracy. It is as vile and vicious as any communist or fascist government that has ever existed. Be concerned about your natural rights, the rights that are inherent to your being a human being such as your right to own property, speak freely, defend yourself and be secure in your home and person. I would rather live under a benevolent dictatorship such as a platonic republic that respects my rights than a democratic system that lets "the people" get whatever they want.

    Democracy doesn't work. The average person doesn't have the intellectual maturity and education to wield the political power that is the vote. I would rather lose my right to vote and know that my representative truly is a peer than have an aristocrat lord over me like I'm a sheep that needs to be herded. Excuse the hell out of me, Congress, but I know more about computers than all of you combined. If our representatives were chosen at random from the bourgiouse then we'd have representatives who could actually relate to us and would see us as equals. We'd also have a system where they don't have to take shit off of us or special interests and can do the right thing. Choose them at random from the bourgiouse, give them one term in office and if they take bribes lynch them from the nearest tree in DC.
    • Shut your pie hole moron. The US is NOT a Democracy. It is a Representative Republic. Big difference. I weep for the future.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It is the 2-party system that is to blame.

      Actually don't you mean a one party system? I don't see much difference
      between them. They both suck corporate dick.

      I would rather lose my right to vote and ...

      Don't worry about it, you already did lose your right to vote.
      We don't count the votes in this country, we let the winner's brother decide.
    • The average person doesn't have the intellectual maturity and education to wield the political power that is the vote.

      Bitch,moan,gripe...If you can come up with a better method of choosing representatives, I'm all ears. As im sure you realize, the individual vote isn't a whole lot of power. It was further diluted by the indirect elections of the president and formerly senators. The problems inheirent in our republic are the result of the scaling of our government under the constitution from a nation of a few million to one of hundreds of million.s

      Democracy doesn't work. The average person doesn't have the intellectual maturity and education to wield the political power that is the vote. I would rather lose my right to vote and know that my representative truly is a peer than have an aristocrat lord over me like I'm a sheep that needs to be herded.

      If you lost your right to vote, he would no longer be your representative, he would be your lord. Without accountability, there is no check that the power a representative wields is in your best interest. Yes, there are many problems in our government, but universal suffrage certainly is not one of them.

    • by cheezedawg (413482) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:50PM (#5284547) Journal
      Here is a summary for the people that don't want to read this entire rant:

      ShatteredDream is not going to vote to re-elect Congressman Goodlatte.

      Hope this helps.
    • by Selanit (192811) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:57PM (#5284579)
      Yours is an interesting argument. You have put a lot of thought into it. I think there are several problems with it. At the risk of writing an overly long post, I am going to respond to a few of your points.

      Regarding paragraph one, which details your experience with Congressman Goodlatte. He dismissed you and called you a thief. From this, you conclude that those elected to Congressional seats do not represent you. You say, "You see, they don't care what the actual coders think, they care what corporations and unions' leaders think." I do not think that this is a valid conclusion. You can certainly conclude that Congressman Goodlatte does not agree with you, and that he does not represent your views. But he is just one person. How do you know that all representatives do not care? Perhaps a different senator would echo your views more closely.

      Also -- your account is a bit vague. Your rhetorical style seems rather combative. Might you have alienated him by showing up and aggressively presenting your views and then expecting him to agree with you automatically?

      The conclusion of your fourth paragraph strikes me as an of unsupported assertion compounded by the same logical error that troubled your judgement of representatives (judging a whole class of people based on your own experiences with a small section of that class). "Invariably political people tend to be scumbags . . . [who] have no real desire or capacity as a general rule to effect positive change." How is this different from the general population? Strike the word "political" from the above sentence. It now reads "Invariably people tend to be scumbags . . . [who] have no real desire or capacity as a general rule to effect positive change." You seem to suggest that politicians (if that is what you mean by "political people") should be held to a higher standard than anyone else. And yet, they are human too. They have failings, and they have flaws.

      Turning to the last bit of that sentence, you seem to forget that people constantly disagree on what constitutes "positive change" and how to effect those changes. No change is universally positive; eliminating slavery was good for the slaves, but bad for the slave-owners who depended on their labor. In that case, deciding that the interests of the slaves were more important than those of their masters would seem fairly straightforward. But even that was hotly contested for years. Consider reading the writings of Senator Calhoun, who spoke vigorously in favor of slavery. He proposed basically a whole new political ideology in order to retain an institution that was important to him and a small group of others. You will always find special-interest groups in any political body; as a result, it is essentially impossible to maintain 100% consensus. A dictatorship is the only example I can think of where this is not a problem; because the dictator always agrees with himself, and his vote is the only one that counts. Even then, he'll have people trying to influence him for their own ends.

      There is lots more I could say, but this post is getting long. Before I submit, let me turn to your last paragraph. Let me just put in a couple of quotes:
      1. The average person doesn't have the intellectual maturity and education to wield the political power that is the vote.
      2. If our representatives were chosen at random from the bourgiouse then we'd have representatives who could actually relate to us and would see us as equals.

      Let me get this straight. First you say that the average person is too dumb to be trusted with a vote. And then you say that our representatives should be selected at random from that same mass of people who are too stupid to vote in a general election, and given a vote in a legislative assembly? Are you sure about that? You'd be giving huge amounts of power to people who are, by your reasoning, incapable of wielding even the lesser power of a vote diluted by thousands of others. Perhaps you should put that one back to bake for a bit more, 'cause it ain't done yet.

      Your political system evidently would be controlled by a small minority -- the "intelligent" ones who can "do the right thing" for all the countless others. You say you don't want to be lorded over by an aristocrat; but what I hear is not that you hate aristocrats . . . merely that you want to be the one doing the lording.
      • I believe that people would sober up very quickly if they had the power of a legislator. I think most Americans would also have the basic sense to tell John Q. Weasle from the Whee Cheatum and Howe lobby group to fuck off. I should rephrase my previous comment. I think most Americans simply don't have the desire to push for change because they think they. I also think many of them are not observant enough to see through politicians' bullshit. If people could have seen Bush's political goals in 1999 I doubt he'd be in office today. They just like the sound of "compassionate conservatism" and went with it. They never put two and two together with what "compassionate conservatism" really is. It's a pseudo-fascist system. My congressman is an asshole to most of the people that disagree with him because he can be, he runs unchallenged. There was no other name on the ballot for God's sake.


        The solution is not a total elimination of the democratic process at the federal level, but its marginalization. There are other things that should be done to add checks and balances.


        1. Remove the unconstitutional size restrictions on the House of Representatives so that CA can have say..... 130 representatives, VA 45, you get the idea.
        2. Abolish the districting system and go to proportional representation. There is no logic in saying that people in an arbitrarily defined region have the same views and interests. My Congressman is so statist on IP that I'd rather vote for Boucher or a Libertarian in VA.
        3. Give the state legislatures a power of a vote of no confidence in both Congress and the Presidency. If 2/3s of the states vote on the President, he's removed. If 2/3s of the states vote, all of Congress is removed and new elections around the country called. If a state considers its representatives too corrupt it can issue a selective removal notice on the condition that a state grand jury has issued an idictment for an action committed by the rep/senator that is an ethics crime in their home state. If a Senator violates his/her state's trust on the other side of the US, I see no reason to not let a state court issue a warrant for their arrest which would prompt the US Marshalls to arrest them and extradite them to their home state for prosecution.
        4. Give the states the power to issue a "notice of nullification" if 2/3 of them agree on it for any federal law they find objectionable. Imagine how much easier it would be to remove the USA PATRIOT Act this way.

        Ultimately what we need is a system where John Q Citizen doesn't need to worry about what his government is doing. This could be easily accomplished if we'd abide by the US Constitution but that'd get rid of all of the free bread and circus. It's a very tricky situation. I worry that we're not damned if we do and damned if we don't.

        • If a Senator violates his/her state's trust on the other side of the US, I see no reason to not let a state court issue a warrant for their arrest which would prompt the US Marshalls to arrest them and extradite them to their home state for prosecution.

          There is a reason... it's called the constitution, and perhaps you should read it some time. I quote (emphasis added):

          The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States.
          They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

          So, unless the representative commits treason, a felony or breach of the peace they can't be arrested. I would be interested in knowing what "Ethics crimes" you would consider to be so serious that they should be felonies, and how you would prove anything as they can't be questioned about speechs or debates in the house. You can't ask Representative Corporate Monkey why he voted a specific way. If he voted for Megacorp because he felt it was for the best for his constituents, or because they helped his campaign funds doesn't make a difference. The constitution says that he can't be questioned about it.

          As for removing the "unconstitutional size limits" on the house. You should read the constitution. The constitution does not specify a number of seats in the house. It does however specify a maximum. The maximum is one per thirty thousand constituents, with a mimimum of one per state. It does not say that a representative can only have thirty thousand constituents, nor does it say that you have to have one representative for every thirty thousand people. If you want to follow this rule strictly then sure, you can increase the size of the house.

          But, given that the current US population is 290,236,982 (Source US Census [census.gov]) that would require 9,674 representatives. Assuming that we pay them a mere $30,000 a year salary (or $1 per constituent), then we have almost three hundred million dollars per year going to them... On top of which we have to pay for the office space, the assistants, the football stadium sized congress building,... Can you imagine trying to co-ordinate a meeting with over nine thousand participants? Can you imagine trying to get them to come to concensus over anything?

          Not that your suggestion is completely unworkable or anything...

          Z.

    • Democracy doesn't work. The average person doesn't have the intellectual maturity and education to wield the political power that is the vote.

      Bill Buckley and others have made this claim for years, and it has some merit -- how can illiterates and the uneducated gather enough information to make reasoned choices? It's a prima faciae fact that they can't, they vote based upon criteria that are unconnected or illogical.

      The problem with voting prerequisites (literacy, sufficient education, etc) is that they're almost always used by those in power to disenfranchise their opponents, or only enforced selectively to disenfranchise undesirables (blacks, hispanics, italians, irish, laborers, etc). It can even be used over time to further disenfranchise groups that meet the franchise standard -- such as, lets vote to disband public schools. Suddenly blue-collar workers can't afford private education and while they may have the franchise, their children will not since they won't have an education. It becomes a fast track to an aristocracy.

      Even if you have a system that screens out the illiterates and the uneducated, how do you know that I, a college graduate, am going to base my vote on something logical? Maybe I base my vote on what my family wants, or I vote for the most attractive candidate or I just plan toss a coin -- even then you're not eliminating people who are educated, literate but just flippant.

      The other problem, and its a pretty large one for a fan of Locke, Friedman, et al is the problem of legitimacy. If I'm withheld from selecting those that make the laws I'm expected to obey, why should I accept that government as have ANY power over me? I wouldn't. It would be an illegitimate government.

      Which is part of the social contract that allows us to be governed -- the government has to have UNIVERSAL democratic participation to have UNIVERSAL democratic legitimacy.

      Unfortunately I think money is undermining our sense of universal legitimacy. Everyone votes, but the financial contributors almost get to vote a second time, after the general election is over, to determine policies, ignoring the voices of those without a lot of money, which has the practical effect of disenfranchising us.
      • If the problem is that uneducated cannot vote, the solution is not to remove the uneducated from the vote. The solution is to educate everybody.
        • I'm sorry, you must have not been keeping up. The United States has had manditory, universal, free education for at least the past 100 years and the problem of uneducated voters is still a problem.

          Please do pay attention more. You'll follow the arguments better and not make suggestions that have been implemented already.
          • The fact that the US does have mandatory universal free education and the fact that a large percentage of adults remains uneducated means that the educational system does not work.

            I said the solution is to provide education. The educational system, while it exists, does not seem to provide any education. The US is not the only country that provides a universal educational system that fails to meet its goals, you know.
    • I wrote my congresswoman, Sue Myrick, a republican from Charlotte, the second largest banking town in the US and a huge pool of ultraconservative cash...in regards to the consumer broadband act, and she vowed to vote in favor of my opinion, and take the consumer side instead of that of the corporations..point being, there are some decent people in public office, few and far between, but there are nonetheless.
    • First off, the the present failure of the administration is not evidence of long term failure. The system is not efficient, but given a long enough time spawn seems to work out, after a lot of people go to prison for "crimes" against the status quo.

      Secondly, how do you figure "Democracy doesn't work" based on the American system? This is a republic, with people appointed by a vote, and not even a popular vote at that. Democracy is the idea that anyone can function as a government official. Athens had this, though their court system was not.

      In short, your arguement is not solid.
  • Simple... (Score:3, Funny)

    by symbolic (11752) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:49PM (#5284228)

    As long as the IEEE's request is accompanied by a check (preferably in the $100K range), they shouldn't have any problem at all getting someone to listen.
  • No Way! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by famazza (398147) <fabio.mazzarino@ ... om minus painter> on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @06:53PM (#5284245) Homepage Journal

    DMCA won't be examined neither clarified, there are too many interests involved in keeping the law the way it is.

    There's no way to beat RIAA/MPAA lobby, I can't believe that IEEE have enough money to buy more congressmen than they. So we'll have to wait until RIAA/MPAA find out that the world has changed and decides to adapt to the new reality (just like we all have to do in our lives).

  • by joggle (594025) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:04PM (#5284306) Homepage Journal

    IEEE-USA quietly published two position papers asking the US Congress to re-examine and/or clarify sections of the DMCA last year

    Actually, there are three papers:

  • Influence of money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Badger (1280) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:38PM (#5284471)
    More and more I'm coming to believe that the phrase "Congress is bought" should be read "it's easier to whine than to act."

    Sure, you could act to create change, but why risk it? If you actually found out that you could change the law, that would almost obligate you to act! And then when would you have time to read Slashdot?
  • by paroneayea (642895) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @07:45PM (#5284507) Homepage
    Often times news such as this creates only slight interest, as the war against the DMCA has not yet seen a complete victory. But is not each battle won in a war indeed still a victory? Should we not still celebrate this small step? Our cries of satisfaction over that which we approve are indeed just as important as our groans of disgust over that which we disapprove (which we seem to be much more willing to display). For you see, this is more than just encouragement amongst us geeks; it piques the curiosity of others, for they shall wonder why we rejoyce as we do. Not all, but surely some, shall investigate, and many shall join our cause. And our cry shall become louder.
    Thus I encourage you to join me in whooping, hollering, and just plain happily ranting about how this wonderful event when in the accompanyment of others. Believe it or not, in doing so you are helping to win yet another battle.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @08:36PM (#5284776)
    There is another IEEE-USA IPC position statement relevant to this discussion that is on the general IEEE-USA position statements page but somehow is not on the IPC-only page. It is at http://www.ieeeusa.org/forum/POSITIONS/copycontrol systems.html

  • by inode_buddha (576844) on Tuesday February 11, 2003 @09:46PM (#5285140) Journal
    "How can I help it that Power likes to walk on crooked legs?"

    -- Frederich Nietzsche, "Also Sprach Zarathustra"
  • Well.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by I kan Spl (614759)
    I know the problem with this law is simply that Joe Blow, can not even spell intellectual property law. (can I?) There is not going to be a major outcry aginst this law from anyone other than professionals. It is definately a good thing that the ivy leaugers are now on the side against it. Having the "hackers" (CNN's definition here) aginst a law is one thing, having a major, respected institution take a stance aginst it's current form is quite another thing entirely.

Dennis Ritchie is twice as bright as Steve Jobs, and only half wrong. -- Jim Gettys

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