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Broad Bills to Protect 'Communications Services' 550

Posted by michael
from the overreaching dept.
mttlg writes "According to Freedom to Tinker, MA, TX, SC, FL, GA, AK, TN, and CO have introduced similar bills that would make it illegal to possess, use, etc. "any communication device to receive ... any communication service without the express consent or express authorization of the communication service provider" or "to conceal ... from any communication service provider ... the existence or place of origin or destination of any communication." (Additional legalese removed for the sake of brevity.) This would seem to outlaw NAT, VPNs, and many other security measures. In other words, don't secure your communications, just sue if you don't like who receives them." The bills define 'communication service' as just about any sort of telecom service that is provided for a charge or fee. In effect, they would extend the already-extant laws relating to theft of cable TV services to any telecom service. For example, if your ISP charges per computer connected, using a router/NAT device would be illegal if these became law.
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Broad Bills to Protect 'Communications Services'

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  • Ouch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeadSea (69598) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:51PM (#5616326) Homepage Journal
    This law would make it illegal to do several things that I currently do:
    1. Run a proxy server at home and connect to it via ssl so that my employer can't tell what web pages I visit at work.
    2. SSH chaining - Use ssh to log into a remote computer and use ssh to log into another computer since this makes both endpoints unaware of the address of the other.
    3. Use a remailer as a whistleblower. A remailer stips all headers off a message before sending it out to a new specified sender. This provides anonymous mail which is important for people who are afraid of retribution if the note could be traced back.
    4. Post to slashdot anonymously.
    • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Carbonite (183181) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:58PM (#5616405)
      While I can certainly see legitimate uses of each of those things, they do seem rather questionable. Even if you're using these methods for the right reasons, I'd suspect that many people aren't. The real debate is whether a law prohibiting these activities is necessary. I believe that in virtually all cases, the answer is no.
      • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kableh (155146) on Friday March 28, 2003 @02:57PM (#5617552) Homepage
        The real debate is if this will stop real criminals, as opposed to those of us who have work to get done, from doing any of these things. I believe that in all cases, the answer is no.
      • Re:Ouch (Score:3, Informative)

        by erc (38443)
        That's because you've never used ssh or PGP to encrypt your browser connection or your email, respectively. Lots of reasons why your private communication isn't anyone else's business - discussing or researching your spouse's medical condition, for example, or your own.
    • Re:Ouch (Score:4, Insightful)

      by diablobynight (646304) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:07PM (#5616515) Journal
      I think this bill is probably not so much directed at us, IP geeks, as much as it is directed at people stealing sattelite TV, and people stealing cell phones
      • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jgerman (106518) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:16PM (#5616599)
        It doesn't matter who it's directed AT. What matters is that it can be used against anyone that it covers. Which include people doing the things the poster suggested. Things that should not be legislatable (matbe I just made that word up). I contantly ssh from box to box in what may be a long chain of ssh sessions. This bill is ridiculous and has no business even being up for a vote. It's nother example of how current lawmakers get involved in things they have absolutely no comprehension of.
      • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Insightful)

        by warmcat (3545) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:17PM (#5616612)
        The DMCA wasn't aimed at printer cartridges. But there it is.
      • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Insightful)

        by B1 (86803) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:25PM (#5616670)
        I think this bill is probably not so much directed at us, IP geeks, as much as it is directed at people stealing sattelite TV, and people stealing cell phones

        It may not be directed at IP geeks--maybe the spirit of the bill is that it's supposed to go after satellite TV pirates and cellular fraud.

        The problem though is that once the law is in the books, it's the letter of the law that matters. And right now, the wording of the bill leaves it open to potential abuse.

        The law may not target IP geeks, but if some ISP wanted to go after NAT users, they would now have a broken law on their side. As with the DMCA, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
        • Re:Ouch (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Rick the Red (307103) <Rick.The.Red@gma i l . c om> on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:58PM (#5617019) Journal
          As with the DMCA, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
          In the case of the DMCA: It's a superhighway to hell, they knew exactly where it went when they built it, and their intentions were not at all good. Congress' intention was to hand your wallet over to the corporate copyright holders, allowing Disney - for example - to charge you every time you view a Disney movie, not just when you buy it at WallMart. They know the best way to get further campaign contributions is to help fill their donor's pockets.
        • Re:Ouch (Score:3, Informative)

          by Skjellifetti (561341)
          The problem though is that once the law is in the books, it's the letter of the law that matters.

          That's too simple. While the letter of the law is clearly quite important, the legislative intent of the law is given a lot of weight when the law is interpreted by the courts.
        • Re:Ouch (Score:3, Interesting)

          by HiThere (15173)
          Why are you assuming that the purpose of the law is anything like as innocent as you are proposing. To me it looks not only foul, but intentionally foul.
    • by Gudlyf (544445) <(gudlyf) (at) (realistek.com)> on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:16PM (#5616602) Homepage Journal
      The key words in these draft bills is that these are in regards to the user acting "with intent to defraud" and is written to imply that it is the use of technologies "to defraud" that is the crime, not simple possesion. The bigger risk is that this bill could be used to tack on additional charges to some other crime (e.g. if you submitted a fraudulent tax return via an encrypted channel). Unfortunately, some cable vendors have very restrictive usage agreements so it may be quite easy find yourself technially guilty of "fraud".
      • by Specter (11099) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:52PM (#5616944) Journal
        "Wait, there are yet more words here..."

        The specific phrase actually says:

        "with the intent to harm or defraud a communication service"

        What's left unspecified is the definition of "harm." Is it harmful to a broadband ISP who offers a VoIP phone service if I choose to use another VoIP service vendor? Economically speaking, I think it's rather apparent that the my use of an alternate IP telephony company results in lost revenue for my ISP. That's harm; does it rise to a level prosecutable by this law?

        Am I attempting to defraud my ISP if I use intentionally use "too much" bandwidth?

        Is the mere posession of a wireless access point (where the possibility exists that someone outside of my household might be able to use it) enough to imply intent to harm or defraud? What if my WAP is running on one of those Linux boxes all those evil terrorist h4x0rs use?

        And to your point about Terms of Service from your ISP; those are often changed without any notice to you. Does that open you to "intent to defraud" if yesterday P2P was ok, but today it's not and you inexplicably weren't rereading your ToS daily?

        The problem with this is that, as usual, the reason for writing the bill (stop people from stealing things) got completely lost in the authoring process.

        Jared
        • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Friday March 28, 2003 @03:23PM (#5617791)
          What's left unspecified is the definition of "harm."

          Lawyers and lawmakers understand specific connotations of the word 'harm' as it relates to commerce, even if we laypeople don't.

          I think it's rather apparent that the my use of an alternate IP telephony company results in lost revenue for my ISP.

          That's lost potential revenue. You're not depriving the ISP of anything they would have otherwise had an inalienable claim to.

          • by mpe (36238)
            That's lost potential revenue. You're not depriving the ISP of anything they would have otherwise had an inalienable claim to.

            It the RIAA and MPAA can make the argument that loss of potential revenue equates to "harm" then any other corporate entity can probably claim the same kind of thing.
        • by rizzo420 (136707) on Friday March 28, 2003 @05:30PM (#5618881) Homepage Journal
          the problem with your argument is that your ISP does not have any revenue from you if you use VoIP from someone else. if you steal VoIP from your ISP, then you are both harming and defrauding them.

          using too much bandwidth is not defrauding anyone, in fact, unless you are specifically altering hardware to "get more bandwidth" or stealing a connection from the ISP, you aren't doing anything wrong. they provide you with the internet connection, it's their decision as to how they limit your use (some ISP's block P2P connections). if they want to shutdown your service after you transfer "too much" information to or from the internet, they can, but it should be written in the terms of service.

          running a NAT box or router so more than one computer can connect is not a violation unless it is specifically stated that your connection is only for one computer and you must pay for each additional computer connected. if, and only if, your ToS says that, then yes, you are defrauding or "harming" your ISP.

          as for changing the ToS, i have never seen it change drastically without them notifying you. usually a change is something small like the way they word something.

          and a final comment. when getting broadband, i had the option of going with SBC DSL or with AT&T cable (which is now comcast). we got DSL because AT&T said you could not run servers using your connection (servers being ftp, http, telnet, ssh, whatever, probably includes P2P applications as well). i didn't like that, so i went with SBC even though the upstream sucks. so read the ToS before you sign up for anything anyways. but if i had AT&T, and tried to run my ftp server or "share my bandwidth" with others (since that's what they called running a server, i would be "harming" them. the bill gives more legal rights to teh telecommunications companies, but i don't see any questions as to what harm means. i think in this sense it's meant almost the same way as defraud.
      • by Happy go Lucky (127957) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:53PM (#5616964)
        The key words in these draft bills is that these are in regards to the user acting "with intent to defraud" and is written to imply that it is the use of technologies "to defraud" that is the crime, not simple possesion.

        Not in the Colorado bill. In ours, "A person commits a violation under this section if he knowingly [commits a prohibited act, which would take me about ten pages to transcribe and does appear to include the operation of an otherwise legal VPN or IP-masq firewall.]

        Colorado residents: This late in the session, it shouldn't be too hard to make sure this thing dies. Call your state rep and senator (it's been introduced in both houses: you can get the numbers through www.vote-smart.org if you know your own ZIP code.)

        Right now, it's in the State House Information and Technology Committee, and the (god only knows why) Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. You can gripe to their chairmen, Rep. Shawn Mitchell at 303-866-4667 and Senator Doug Lamborn at 303-866-4835. Sen. Lamborn is the bill's Senate sponsor, so I don't know how much good that particular phone call will do.

    • Re:Ouch (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Elwood P Dowd (16933)
      Wide-open WIFI would also be illegal.
    • Re:Ouch (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rben (542324)

      This bill would follow the pattern of many recent bills and make lots of currently law-abiding citizens into criminals. It's amazing to me that our "representatives" are so eager to pass bills designed to squeeze more money out of out pockets and into the hands of the largest campaign contributors.

      Many representatives now introduce legistlation that is almost entirely written by companies that are aiming to improve profits. I doubt most of the representatives understand or even read the bills they put f

    • Removing some of the legalese, I read the text of what an Unlawful access device as:

      "Unlawful access device." Any type of device which is primarily designed for the purpose of defeating or circumventing any technology used by the provider to protect transmissions from unauthorized receipt, acquisition, interception, access, decryption, disclosure, communication, transmission or re-transmission.

      I don't know how NAT/SSH/Proxy server can be classified as an Unlawful Access Device under this definition. So

    • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Creep73 (647258) on Friday March 28, 2003 @03:06PM (#5617628) Journal
      If an ISP can regulate the amount of computers I have hooked up to that ISP's pipe can the water company charge for the amount of faucets installed in my house? Can the electric company charge me for the amount of electrical sockets installed in my home? Can the phone company charge me per phone? The logic used in coming up with these policies is flawed to the core. I thank the companies for this and the gullible lawmakers we have in this country. Instead of making money by creating and proving viable services they will make their current services and products make them more money through bad legislation. Unfortunately it is the current trend. Just ask Disney's Mickey.
  • Doh... (Score:2, Redundant)

    by }InFuZeD{ (52430)
    "any communication device to receive ... any communication service without the express consent or express authorization of the communication service provider"...

    Now my computer is illegal to own too =/
    • Re:Doh... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:59PM (#5616422) Journal
      What about phones, radios, etc? As long as you don't have "express permission" from the service provider, you're in trouble. I am glad we in Holland have a law called the "Right to reception", which basically means that if something is transmitted into the ether, it's fair game for anyone to receive. This law is quite fundamental, almost constitutional, and has even be used to uphold the right to use radar detectors to avoid speed traps. The law grants you the unconditional right to receive anything, including the radar signal.
      • The FCC, the government organization that deals with radio transmissions, gives us the same right you have, that it shall not be made illegal to recieve a radio transmission. That will probably just get stomped on and ignored, the new laws will stand for 3 or 4 years until someone gets charged with violating it, appeals all the way to a court high enough to have some authority, then the law will be overturned. Theres no planning ahead or common sense among the people who make the laws.
        • by AB3A (192265) on Friday March 28, 2003 @03:28PM (#5617835) Homepage Journal
          There are laws such as the Electronics Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1996 which actually do make it illegal to receive cellular telephone signals with a scanner.

          Those of you who are a bit older may remember the likes of SuperTV which used to broadcast an encoded signal on the air. Many built receive decoders. SuperTV didn't last long. HBO used to broadcast on the Multi-Point Distribution service on 2154 MHz. Anyone remember those "stopsign" boards and coffee can antennas? Those were illegal too under a twisted interpretation the FCC made using certain clauses of the original Radio Secrecy section of the Communications Act of 1934.

          No, the FCC is not your friend. The airwaves are not free in the USA. Ask any Scanner enthusiast what they think of the holes in the coverage of their scanners. Ask anyone who tries to receive Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) police traffic these days.

          Here in the USA, the airwaves are not free for you to receive legally. I guess practical realities such as detection, enforcement, or even the old maxim of radio ("never say anything on the radio you wouldn't want the whole world to hear") are lost on our legislatures. This is where ignorant "feel good" legistlation will get you. I don't know whether we should laugh or cry in the face this kind of stupidity.

  • Boy! (Score:3, Redundant)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hoggerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:53PM (#5616348) Journal
    Boy I'm glad the network I secure behind a NAT firewall is not in the USA!!!
  • by joebagodonuts (561066) <[cmkrnl] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:55PM (#5616364) Homepage Journal
    "In effect, they would extend the already-extant laws relating to theft of cable TV services to any telecom service."

    It does more than that. The language of the bills uses the word "harm" instead of "fraud". The language is vague enough that it could be twisted to be used against anyone. Just having a firewall that does nat translation is a violation of these bills.

    All brought to us by the friendly folks at the MPAA. Jerks
    • by PhxBlue (562201)

      Actually, I'm not sure if this is a result of MPAA lobbying or if it's something different at work. Consider that at least three of the states listed (CO, FL, GA) have Republican governors IIRC; and the MPAA's strongest influence is traditionally within the Democratic camp.

      No, this is just as likely some harebrained "antiterrorism" measure designed to render all networks wide-open to government surveillance. And since the lobbying is occurring at the state level, it's going to be more difficult to stop

  • by ShwAsasin (120187) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:56PM (#5616374) Journal
    Is it just me, or are these new laws being passed over the last couple years seem to really deprive the average citizen of regular rights and freedoms?

    With a country that seems to tout freedom at every corner, it's unfortunate that many rights and freedoms are being destroyed by people who have no clue about the general consequences of their actions.
    • by diablobynight (646304) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:04PM (#5616481) Journal
      You see all the pussies that can't get over the fact that our towers came down. Are using there fear as an excuse to pass thousands of laws, that don't affect them because there non-technical ninnies, and sadly the rest of America is dumb enough to let this crap happen under the guise of patriotism I bet it was patriotic to kill a jew in Germany during world war II, patriotism isn't always a good thing.
    • Earlier laws (Score:3, Informative)

      by willpost (449227)
      There was also the cellular law enacted in the 80's. Instead of encrypting the cellphone signals, they made it unlawful to listen to the 800 Mhz radio spectrum and illegal to manufacture or import any radio capable of doing so.
      • Re:Earlier laws (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Wansu (846)
        There was also the cellular law enacted in the 80's. Instead of encrypting the cellphone signals, they made it unlawful to listen to the 800 Mhz radio spectrum and illegal to manufacture or import any radio capable of doing so.

        So, the radio manufacturers put jumpers in the radios which disabled the reception of 800MHz phone calls and leaked info out on the net about how to cut the jumper in the field. Here's one for the Alinco DJ580

        http://www.mods.dk/mods.php3?radio=alinco&model=d j -580&sele
    • by Musashi Miyamoto (662091) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:39PM (#5616790)
      I believe it was Patrick Henry that said:

      "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or at least give me a false sense of security"
  • by Bonker (243350) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:57PM (#5616394)
    While not having quite the range of people using services in violation of these statutes as say, people downloading mp3's, there are already so many people doing these things, and profiting on them, that it will be pointless to try to enforce this law.

    Imagine for a second Bestbuy's reaction to the fact that it's popular cable-modem routers and wireless access points have all become illegal. I don't exactly see them pulling millions of dollars of hardware off the shelves without a legal fight. Nor do I see the manufacturers of those devices just giving up either.

    I NAT and I'm proud of it!
    • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:18PM (#5616619)
      Not to mention that SBC *provides* routers for home DSL users that have multiple computers.

      I also NAT as do many others. The PTB still don't have a fsck'n clue when it comes to home networking. For some reason they believe that home networks are costing Large Corps money, when in fact, most people doing NAT at home probably have a clue and actually reduce problems (ex: CodeRed) due to firewalling.

      A proud member of the NAT terrorist group!

    • by Erris (531066) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:46PM (#5616871) Homepage Journal
      Imagine for a second Bestbuy's reaction to the fact that it's popular cable-modem routers and wireless access points have all become illegal.

      The device won't be outlawed, using it without a fee will be. BestBuy sells cable modems too.

      The problem is that this outlaws anything not explcitly alowed by your telcom. While doing some things has already got people Raided by the FBI [slashdot.org], this will extend things considerably. It essentially redefines the alrady broken definition of "common carrier" to the point where you can't do squat. Instant messaging, VoIP, secure shells and more will all be outlawed or provided as a $ervice open to your provider's clerks. Looks like we won't have to worry about the internet making a real free press or helping people protect their fourth amendment rights.

      The smarter you make the internet, the less you can do.

  • by Jerk City Troll (661616) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:58PM (#5616399) Homepage
    It seems to me that the likelihood of these bills getting passed is next to nothing (of course, one can never be so sure). They were clearly introduced by technology-clueless law makers, but once they are subject to a vote, their silliness should become obvious. So I am not entirely afraid that they will succeed. If they do pass, other states are likely to pick up and follow the trail.

    What is really scary to me is that, even though these bills were introduced by the ignorant, the fact that lots of legislators had the mind to introduce them in the first place is shocking. Particularly on the note of encryption, this is largely unconstitutional and hopefully, if ever passed, these bills will be challenged by (financially) enabled individuals.

    How can such a thing even hold up when it not only criminalizes most existing telecom infrastructure, violates the 4th Amendment by tangent? Of course, we do live in a DMCA-cursed USA...
    • by jonabbey (2498) <jonabbey@ganymeta.org> on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:06PM (#5616512) Homepage

      Wow, is the weather very nice on your planet?

      This kind of legislation could easily pass. If something like this is proposed in your state, you need to write your legislators and let them know that this language could potentially criminalize a lot of straight-forward Internet gear, if a communications provider decides to require a per-CPU charge, or the like.

    • by Cpt_Kirks (37296) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:11PM (#5616551)
      It seems to me that the likelihood of these bills getting passed is next to nothing

      In TENNESSEE? Dude, up until a couple of years ago, you could hire a contractor to work on your house. Your agreement was with him. If the contractor did not pay HIS suppliers, the supplier could put a lean on your house. And it was LEGAL!

      Bad law, crooked as a dogs hind leg, right? It took YEARS AND YEARS to repeal that shit. The building material suppliers said it would bankrupt them. God knows they shouldn't have to do credit checks on fly-by-night contractors...
    • by regen (124808) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:34PM (#5616745) Homepage Journal
      What is really scary to me is that, even though these bills were introduced by the ignorant, the fact that lots of legislators had the mind to introduce them in the first place is shocking.

      The fact that these bills are being introduced in multiple states at the same time, indicates that it was probably crafted by a lobbyist.

      The question you should be asking is who wants this legislation? Who hired the lobbyist?

    • by 87C751 (205250) <(sdot) (at) (rant-central.com)> on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:41PM (#5616806) Homepage
      introduced by technology-clueless law makers
      You mean there's another kind?
      What is really scary to me is that, even though these bills were introduced by the ignorant, the fact that lots of legislators had the mind to introduce them in the first place is shocking. Particularly on the note of encryption, this is largely unconstitutional and hopefully, if ever passed, these bills will be challenged by (financially) enabled individuals.
      Don't look now, but that pesky Constitution is on its way out. As soon as we see a few retaliatory terrorist actions inside our borders, the threat level [threat-advisory.com] will go to Red and the Feds will punch the panic buttons. All of them. By the time the dust settles on that little imbroglio, you're going to wish that encryption and NAT were all that were illegal.

      Interesting times, indeed.

  • Double ouch (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pupsterCA (411342)
    And guess who's [mpaa.org]out front waving the flag of support [freedom-to-tinker.com] for this?
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:58PM (#5616403) Homepage Journal

    Just wait for John Ashcroft to announce the only legal services after these laws take effect:

    http://www.nsa.gov/patriot-proxy/
    http://www.fbi. gov/freedom-remailer/
  • My ISP blocks ports, and does not allow me to run servers (email/web/irc/anything) of any kind. If most ISP users are not allowed to run ANY servers, why should we care if they put additional restrictions on running servers?
    • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:09PM (#5616535) Homepage Journal
      Just because your ISP is stuck in the 90's doesn't mean you need to drag everybody else down with you. Personal servers are what make the internet great, not giant media conglomorates feeding you exactly what their advertisers want. You'll note that the most useful webpages are usually the ones put up by some devoted guy on some particular topic in his spare time, not the multi-million dollar popup/flash/trendy keyword extravaganzas that big companies bought into.

      of course you can just run your server on your ISP's website (if they offer one), but that's usually rather limited if you have a large number of infrequenty accessed files or dynamic content, and lord help you if your website needs a database backend to keep everything convienent yet manageable.

      Sorry about the rant, but I just hate when people get suckered into thinking they're nothing more than "consumers" that aren't allowed to contribute to the public good.
    • by EricWright (16803) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:42PM (#5616815) Journal
      You are a prime example of what's wrong with this country. It doesn't affect me, so why should I give a shit. Me me me me me... The world doesn't revolve around you. These laws (were they to become laws) would affect a lot of people, and in an adverse way.

      My ISP doesn't give a fat rat's ass if I run an email server. I don't allow open relays, so it deals with about 5 emails a day. Big whoop...

      I'm kind of surprised they haven't bitched about my 1-2 GB/day Usenet habit, though...
  • DMCA? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Limburgher (523006) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:58PM (#5616409) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't it be illegal for ISP's to bust SSL users?
  • by PhxBlue (562201) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:58PM (#5616411) Homepage Journal

    From the article:

    If you have a home DSL router, or if you use the "Internet Connection Sharing" feature of your favorite operating system product, you're in violation because these connection sharing technologies use NAT. Most operating system products (including every version of Windows introduced in the last five years, and virtually all versions of Linux) would also apparently be banned, because they support connection sharing via NAT.

    I'm not concealing the origin or destination of communication, in any of these cases. If I'm using a router to share my network connection, the origin/destination of my ISP's communications is whatever box is doing the routing. After that, if my router routes a copy of the data from my ISP to another PC in my home, that's okay: the transmission between my router and my ISP is complete, and the new transmission is between my router and one or more PCs on my network.

    I've always held that, as far as ISPs are concerned, they're responsible for supporting their network until it reaches the access point of my network--whether that's a single PC, a PC that shares its internet connection, a router, whatever. After that, I can accept the liability of supporting my own equipment. This should be handled the same way.

    Actually, better yet, it should be shot down outright. But that's more optimistic than I tend to be about such things.

  • by Gothmolly (148874)
    If your provider charges per computer, and you use NAT to host multiple PCs, then it is ALREADY ILLEGAL. You are violating the contract which outlines your terms of service, and can be sued or have your service terminated.
    • Re:NAT (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AmigaAvenger (210519) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:03PM (#5616470) Journal
      my linux pc IS a single PC... it routes traffic to other machines internally, but that is my own business and no one elses. I only have one machine connected to the internet, but have 6 more connected to that machine.
    • Define illegal?

      Certainly you could have your contract terminated. You may even be sued for some kind of damages.
      That's not the same as breaking the law.

      It sounds like this would make even possessing the equipment a _crimal_ offence...
    • Re:NAT (Score:3, Insightful)

      by emag (4640)
      The way I always read the ToS for various cablemodem ISPs I used before ditching them for service I could *use* was they always specified one computer connected to their cablemodem. Fine, I did that. I had exactly 1 computer connected to it. The fact that there was another NIC in it, connected to another network entirely, was immaterial.

      True, it likely violated the "spirit" of the ToS, but quite frankly, having every useful port blocked, and then being dinged for actually *using* the bandwidth they adve
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:59PM (#5616418) Homepage Journal
    This bill is intended for radio, and is to prevent you from having a scanner.

    However, unless they change the current law, having an Amateur Radio Operator's license trumps this - being a ham I can have a scanner, due to hams' role in emergency communications.

    However, this is just like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1987 - it may be illegal to eavesdrop on cellular communications, but it did'nt really stop anybody from doing it. Going from an insecure system (AMPS) to more secure systems (GSM, CDMA) did that.

    However, the point of the /. post is valid - the law of unintended consequences comes to play - VPN, NAT, proxies all could be banned by wording that broad. Perhaps that is a good thing - overbroad wording might just get it thown out.

    Yeah, and moderators on /. will grow a clue. Time to start adding comms gear to my armory.
    • by Telastyn (206146) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:09PM (#5616534)
      This also seems alot like something to prevent people from stealing satelite TV. People that broadcast TV realised there's no way to charge for that so they found alternative revenue in commercials. People that broadcast radio realised there's no way to charge for that so they found alternative revenue in commercials. People that boardcast satellite TV realised there's no way to charge for that, so they did it anyways and manipulated the government into policing it for them.
    • No it isn't. Just read the bills, particularly some of the crossed out text. Just read this crossed out text from the TX bill:

      2) [makes or maintains a connection, whether
      physically, electrically, electronically, or inductively, to:
      [(A) a cable, wire, or other component of or
      media attached to a multichannel video or information services
      system; or
      [(B) a television set, videotape recorder, or
      other receiver attached to a multichannel video or information
      system;


      Note that the key words here are "multicha
    • by DutchSter (150891) on Friday March 28, 2003 @02:18PM (#5617249)

      This bill is intended for radio, and is to prevent you from having a scanner. ...

      However, this is just like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1987 - it may be illegal to eavesdrop on cellular communications, but it did'nt really stop anybody from doing it. Going from an insecure system (AMPS) to more secure systems (GSM, CDMA) did that.

      Actually, if these bills are truly aimed at radio these laws are pointless. The reason amateurs are exempt from state laws is because the FCC has been explicitly granted an authority by Congress to regulate everything having to do with radios. This is why your landline phone service is regulated by a state utilities board, but your cellular phone provider is regulated by the FCC.

      The federal preemption basically says that no law may be passed by the states to in some way regulate anything that makes use of the airwaves. It isn't entirely accurate to say that the amateur preemption to scanner laws is because of their roll in emergency services. The preemption exists because the scanner laws could interfere with the exercise of federally licensed service (Ham Radio). If I have an FCC license to operate a radio and that radio is capable of receiving certain frequencies, Joe Hickabilly Cop cannot prevent me from do what I am legally licensed to do. There is some gray area with regards to scanners that cannot transmit. Clearly in the case of wireless routers and whatnot, which DO transmit, and are regulated as Part 15 devices, I think a strong case for preemption would exist.

      The ECP Act you speak of is a FEDERAL law, as such it is enforced by the feds, not the states. If Ohio were to pass a similar ECP law without Congress also doing so, it is unlikely that Ohio would have much to stand on.

      Towns have sometimes attempted to pass laws prohibiting someone from interfering with a person's TV set by way of radio. Usually it turns out to be Ham interference, but sometimes it's because there's a 100,000 Watt FM station in the middle of town. Each and every time they are quickly slapped by the FCC and made to pay any legal fees incurred by people who were charged under those local laws.

      I've read three of these proposed bills, and I'm just not sure what the true intent is. Having said that, if the aim is truly at radio problems, they'll all be slapped silly by the FCC.
  • Anyone know what ISP(s) serve those states, or have a lot of users in those states? This sounds kinda fishy that it would just HAPPEN to appear around the same time, and each bill is almost exactly the same. Sounds like a bit of corporate manipulation. Whatever happened to fair rights/users rights? Whoever is in those governments mobilizing this needs to be voted out! Can someone explain to me how ANY end user would want this kind of legislation? I thought this country was for the people, not the corpo
  • this is hopeless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HBI (604924)
    They're going to keep trying and keep succeeding in various places until such time as all right to use information technology by the home user are taken away.

    The common idiot in the streets couldn't care less, so I can't see as anything can be done about it.

    It's a losing battle. I haven't seen a single advocate who had a decent plan for mobilizing the public, which is what is going to be needed to defeat this crap once and for all.

    We'd have to demonize the MPAA/RIAA types and make their motives suspect
  • ... banning firewalls, privacy, and even accesibility? Is like avoiding spam banning the use of email.
  • If such a dastardly law came into effect I would argue that no device can conceal the orgination of a communication, because it is always the originiation of the communication. No more than a computer conceals the fact that the message really came from the keyboard, which first came from a person.

    Unfortuneately, we all know that lawyers will selectively apply this law to just those things that the mega corporations don't like, such as internet sharing devices and home networks. But really it should be ap
  • I mean, I know you can probably detect a NAT box by looking at all the packets, but how many ISPs are going to do this? Honestly?

    I mean, running your own server or sharing your 3l33t broadband connection between several machines are (AFAIK) the big interests -- or killer aps -- of broadband. (That, and mountains of pr0n and "FP!" on /., of course...) ;-)

    If you can't do this, why not stay with 56K dial-up?

    Er... wait, I have 56K dial-up and I can't stand it. Never mind me, carry on... =)
  • No violations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:04PM (#5616487)
    The endpoints of a connection are specified by IP addresses. If NAT is illegal because the "source" is disguised, they're really dictating what software you can use and what you can do with it - the source is obviously the machine doing NAT. They need to understand that they operate at the packet level - they sure don't offer any higher level capabilities that I care about. If they want to regulate what's in your packet, then they can be responsible for kiddy Pr0n and any other illegal activities taking place over "their" network.

    I used to work for a small ISP/Telco, and my boss always liked the Common Carrier status because it exempted them from liability. Apparently big ISPs don't understand this yet. If you monitor it, you're taking some responsibility for what's in it.

  • by HeelToe (615905) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:04PM (#5616488) Homepage
    Geez.

    This is really bad.

    I hope the states where I run networks aren't next.

    This allows companies to make more money off us by the threat of lawsuits or report to the authorities. If someone sells me internet access at a specific bandwidth, they should expect I can and may use up to that allotted bandwidth. They are selling me bandwidth, not individual ethernet ports.

    Things like ssh-tunneling to hide IM and WWW traffic while I'm at work, as well as improving the security of my networks by hiding the endpoints of my ipsec tunnels behind nat boxes also becomes illegal.

    So, in summary, we're trading utility (let's face it, a lot of these vpn/nat apps make things easier to handle - voip tunneling, smtp tunneling, very nice stuff handled with both vpns and nat), AND security (why should all my network devices sit exposed?) so that companies can make more profits, and we can be hauled to jail for making it harder to snoop our communications?

    This is ludicrous. Where will the fascism stop?

    • This is ludicrous. Where will the fascism stop?

      This stupidity won't stop under they kill the Goose that lays Golden Eggs (tm). Seriously, if I can't run a VPN, do P2P, ssh-tunneling, or run a server, why then spend the money for high-speed internet? If all I can (legally) do is browse the web and get e-mail, 56K dial-up is fine.

      What all the *AA's and other big companies forget is that most people only have a limited amount of income to spend for entertainment and other "extras" -- they can make all

  • This is what happens when companies are allowed to buy politicians.
  • by Lockle (61177) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:08PM (#5616522) Homepage
    to conceal ... from any communication service provider ... the existence or place of origin or destination of any communication.

    I believe that this item is probably not intended to go after NAT'd computers, but to try to cut back on spammers using broadband connections.

    If this is the reason, they should be applauded for trying something new. This law WOULD make forged headers illegal.

    One problem is that this also constrains anonymous peer-to-peer systems such as Freenet. One of it's strengths is that when you receive a request for a file from an IP, you don't know if that IP origionated the request. If you don't have it, you pass on the request and the node you pass it onto doesn't know if you requested it.

    This does make it impossible for a "communications service provider" to determine the origin or destination of the file or information request.

    If this is the intended outcome, it is a major violation of a civil liverty we have been appreciating lately.
  • by MsGeek (162936) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:09PM (#5616539) Homepage Journal
    ...only outlaws will have firewalls. If this bullshit spreads to California, damn straight I will keep my ipfw/nat firewall up!

    Time to make this a very uncomfortable time for your state assemblypersons and senators if you live in the affected states. Geek power stopped the Berman Bill, geek power is forcing the feds to revisit the DMCA, geek power is a pretty amazing thing when unleashed.

    The one thing that makes the least sense about these bills is that firewalling+nat is one of the tools needed to combat worms and exploits. Everyone is so damn interested in "protecting our Internet infrastructure from exploits, worms and viruses" yet these same clowns are taking away a very important tool that real people can use to make a real difference against these problems.

    And what if you are still running Windows NT4, for whatever reason? The workaround Microsoft gives people for the recent RPC vulnerability is to keep the server in the private IP space and firewall off the ports in the 13x range! You can't do that without a NAT!!!

    Time to fight this and fight it hard. Whatever you think about whatever other issues are going on around us, this is serious shit.
  • Wardriving (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chester K (145560) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:09PM (#5616541) Homepage
    In effect, they would extend the already-extant laws relating to theft of cable TV services to any telecom service.

    You didn't really think wardriving would stay in the gray "no laws" area for long, did you?

    At the risk of sounding level-headed in what's sure to be a discussion filled with reactionary "how can they do this?!" sorts of comments, I guess I don't really see the problem with this law. You have to take a pretty loose interpretation of it to apply it to NAT and other legitamite sorts of technologies -- unless of course you're using it on an ISP that specifically forbids NAT, or wants you to pay extra for multiple computers on the same line; but in that case you're at least ethically bound to pay what they're asking, or find another ISP.
    • Re:Wardriving (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jedidiah (1196)
      You speak as if corporations and governments don't routinely indulge in "pretty loose" legal interpretations when it suits them.

      Can you really be that naieve?

      The DMCA has already given us rather recent glaring examples of how an abiguously worded law can run amok.
  • It would seem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperJ (125753) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:10PM (#5616546) Homepage
    I haven't read the bill, and I'm not a lawyer, but from the description, it sounds like NAT and VPN would be ok. It says you cannot conceal the transmission of the "communication" to the "communication service provider", nor can you receive a "communication" without the permission of the "communication service provider."

    Now that sounds to me like if I pay for broadband, I'm paying for IP communication. My provider is selling me IP communication. So if I'm somehow tapping into Verizon's network, somehow stealing an IP connection, that's banned. But anything above the IP layer (VPN, tunneling, whatever) is ok. I guess NAT might be disallowed under this.

  • by Musashi Miyamoto (662091) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:11PM (#5616552)
    I would estimate that most persons with a NAT gateway is not using their internet connection any differently from a person with a direct connection. One machine surfing at any one time...

    Why can't the cable and DSL provider settle on a reasonable limit, such as "no more than 4 computers from the same household"? That way, it allows 99% of persons with routers to do what they want to do (allow multiple family members to surf the net, or allow them to surf the net from any of their computers).

    The problem is that most cable companies are accustomed to charging more for multiple connections. They are similar to the telephone company (ATT) before the government had to step in. What they refuse to realize is that most customers know that it does not "cost" the company any additional money when they watch cable on another TV, or surf from the livingroom instead of the home-office.

    Though, they currently have every legal right to demand that only one device is attached to their line, most persons know that there is no legitimacy to the demand. It is pure greed.

  • by dAzED1 (33635) <brianlamere AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:11PM (#5616554) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone actually read things anymore?
    From the texas bill [state.tx.us]

    (a) A person commits an offense if, with the intent to harm or defraud a communication service provider, the person:

    (1) obtains or uses a communication service without:

    (A) obtaining the authorization of the provider; or

    (B) making a payment to the provider in the
    amount normally charged by the provider for the service; or

    [(3)] tampers with, modifies, or maintains a
    modification to a communication device provided by or installed by the provider


    That is the entirity of the definition of a bad guy in this bill, as it is currently proposed as of the time I'm writing this.

    So, you have to, with "intent to harm or defraud," "[use] a communication service without""obtaining the authorization of the provider; or making a payment to the provider in the amount normally charged by the provider for the service; or tampers with, modifies, or maintains a modification to a communication device provided by or installed by the provider." I put it all together for ye who don't want to link.

    So, to be even MORE clear, this only effects people who are trying to harm or defraud an ISP, etc, by using service without authorization.

    Does a VPN "harm or defraud" an ISP? NO

    Does ssh "harm or defraud" an ISP? NO

    Does posting anonymously anywhere, or any of the other things being complained about, "harm or defraud" an ISP? NO

    I don't have the time to quote and translate each and every bill out there, but I do certainly recommed actually reading them before deciding the bills will make it illegal to brush your teeth. Knee-jerk, anyone? Know what you're having an opinion about, before forming that opinion.

    • by bourne (539955) on Friday March 28, 2003 @02:16PM (#5617229)

      Does a VPN "harm or defraud" an ISP? NO

      Many Cable Modem/DSL providers exclude VPN use from their "Residential" service. That usage is covered by their "Commercial" service, which generally costs 3 times as much.

      If you are not "making a payment to the provider in the amount normally chargd by the provider for the" Commercial "service," then you are harming and defauding the ISP.

      Some cable companies have a similar rule about multiple machines - they have standard access (one machine) and "home network" access (often 3 machines). There have been limited attempts to use this to restrain use of NAT for home networks. I would hate to see such attempts with a law like this behind them.

      Another more legitimate target of this would be people freely sharing their connection via Wireless.

    • It appears you've completely missed the section we care about, (6)(a)(1)(B).

      SECTION 6. Sections 31.14(a), (b), and (d), Penal Code, are amended to read as follows: (a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly manufactures, assembles, imports into the state, exports out of the state, distributes, advertises, sells, or leases, or offers for sale or lease: (1) a communication device with an intent to: (A) aid in the commission of an offense under Section 31.12 or 31.13;

    • Does a VPN "harm or defraud" an ISP? NO

      It would depend on who the lawyer is. Seriously, though, an ISP could make an argument that a vpn does cause them harm because it is bandwidth intensive. Moreso than the average web surfing/emailing that most people do. Some ISPs even offer vpn service at an additional cost. To set up your own without going through your ISP could, again, if they have the right lawyers, be interpreted as causing harm to the ISP.
  • Found this damn interesting, especially the stuff stricken out.

    http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlo/78R/billtext/ SB 01116I.HTM
  • For the record (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Mods - I cannot speak officially so I have to do this anonymously. Please mod this up.

    I am a chief engineer for SBC's ISP, and believe it or not, we oppose these sorts of laws. We really don't care what someone does with their IP, and in most cases actually encourage the use of NAT devices.

    Most of this cruft comes from the cable companies, who are still stuck in the pay-per-jack mentality.

  • by mivok (621790) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:31PM (#5616713) Homepage
    I'd warrant that a lot of the terms of this law that apply to computers and are actually valid (i.e. not arreasting somebody for ssh chaining withing their lan or something ridiculous), are actually already enforcable.

    To use the example of using NAT when the provider charges per computer, this will be spelled out in the contract, and therfore the company would be within their rights to sue you for breach of contract, and most likely have criminal charges brought against you for fraud.

    While I'm on the subject of now allowing NAT on the network (which my current provider does - for mostly valid reasons - the intent is to prevent one person in the halls of residence paying, and the others freeloading off the same connection), I have a main computer, and a headless, openBSD box to act as a firewall/NAT, I also have a networked printer (connected via ethernet, and accessible through port forwarding remotely), and a handheld with ethernet card. All of these are used by me and there is no intent to screw the university out of money, and yet technically, just browsing the net on my handheld through the main computer is a breach of contract.

    Okay.. rant over.. move along
  • Counterpoint (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gillbates (106458) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:32PM (#5616728) Homepage Journal

    Wouldn't this also make SPAM illegal? Or at least provide the legal means to force spammers to provide accurate headers?

    </fantasy>
    In a dark basement, the door is suddenly kicked in by state troopers. A man surrounded by computers with a broadband connection is busted as a terrorist for 'concealing the source of communications'. In tears, the spammer is taken away to rot in jail.
    <fantasy>

    Okay, it's not like the government would actually use this law for something as useful as busting spammers, but sometimes it's nice to dream....

    But on a more serious note, anonymity has been considered a constitutional right by the Supreme Court for quite some time now, and I don't think this law would stand up to constitutional scrutiny.

  • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:34PM (#5616747)
    Why we broke up AT&T in the first place!

    The public already decided once that the "Common Carriers" provided wires not services when they broke up AT&T and deregulated the Baby Bells. Why does it seem that there's a purposefull effort to undo all that effort? Could it be that the media companies that needed deregulation to get off the ground now don't want to play with the same rules that let them get in the game in the first place?

    What's needed is a real person in charge of the FCC [Lessing anyone!] To streamline the processes and remove some of the contradictions [i.e. ATT banned from local phone but owning cable w/o sharing, etc.]

  • by blunte (183182) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:34PM (#5616751)
    Ignoring any issues of stupidity regarding this proposal, there is one practical point that cannot be ignored.

    The IP address space isn't big enough for all the nodes on the internet. NAT alleviates this problem by "sharing" IP addresses. Remove NAT, and you're going to have to disconnect most computers from the internet.

  • Massachusetts (Score:5, Informative)

    by ravi_n (175591) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:43PM (#5616830)
    According to this [state.ma.us] the MA proposed super-DMCA bill has been referred to the committee on criminal justice and there is a public hearing scheduled on April 2. Doesn't sound dead to me (as one other poster claimed).

    Does anyone know how people can get into that meeting and testify? I'd hope some quick grass-roots opposition could kill this.
  • by pubjames (468013) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:48PM (#5616897)

    1) No whispering
    2) No wearing dark glasses and big hats
    3) No hiding

  • by cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) on Friday March 28, 2003 @02:08PM (#5617122)
    As I was playing with fortune(1), I came across this quote:

    You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a
    reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating
    the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for
    independence.
    -- Charles A. Beard


    Someone with a better writing style with me should write a fictional work on how the Founding Fathers would get along with DCMA, Palladium, and Echelon. They'd never get off the ground, the first mention of Revolution against the crown.

    People need to remember there are no guarantees against absolute safety. The Founders wanted to have the fear of revolution always being in the back of the governments mind; keep them on their toes.
  • What you need to do (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Borealis (84417) on Friday March 28, 2003 @02:21PM (#5617268) Homepage
    What somebody with the know how needs to do then is figure out what kind of networks the Politicians in question are running. It is more or less inevitable that they are currently in violation of this proposed law. Publishing this information in a public way might cause sufficient embarrassment for them to realize what a moronic idea this is.
  • Defense? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Qzukk (229616) on Friday March 28, 2003 @02:46PM (#5617464) Journal
    For example, if your ISP charges per computer connected, using a router/NAT device would be illegal if these became law.

    Its obvious common sense that if you have a router/NAT device plugged into the ISP, you have one device plugged into the ISP. The remainder are plugged into your NAT device. If anyone is charged under this situation, they could easily show nothing was stolen, since you don't take extra IPs, and you cannot take any more bandwidth than the capped amount you paid for, regardless of the number of computers connected to the NAT device.
  • by guacamolefoo (577448) on Friday March 28, 2003 @02:57PM (#5617558) Homepage Journal
    In effect, they would extend the already-extant laws relating to theft of cable TV services to any telecom service. For example, if your ISP charges per computer connected, using a router/NAT device would be illegal if these became law.

    If your ISP charges per machine and you circumvent it, it is already theft of services and it is already illegal. Congress is, as usual, piling on when existing laws are sufficient.

    The reason that you don't see many prosecutions is probably that police are doing things like, you know, arresting rapists and murderers. Snaking $5 from your ISP is hardly grand theft, and I don't think that federalizing the crime is really going to help out society much.

    It is too bad that legislators too frequently look to the quantity of work as a benchmark of how "well" they are doing rather than looking to the quantity. Before too long, our society is going to need a law angioplasty to clear out all the crap that is clogging the arteries of discourse, commerce, and general life.

    Coming from a lawyer,
    GF.
  • by edwardd (127355) on Friday March 28, 2003 @06:06PM (#5619115) Journal

    NAT isn't outlawed by these bills, but any VPN technology is, as well as any access to proxies via SSL, since that 'conceals' the souce/destination.

    Laws like this are quite disturbing, and if enacted could cripple business.

    - Imagine not being able to do business at your local bank, because they can't use their VPN to communicate with the main office?

    - How about not being able to fill a prescription at the drugstore, becase they can't have a secure channed as requireed by HIPPA back to the main office?

    - Imagine not being able to execute a trade through your broker, because the financial industry has a HEAVY reliance on encrypted communications channels, partly to comply with teh GLBA.

    Laws like this contradict so many existing laws that if it does get passed, it wont against any legitimate bush-back by a large company. The real problem is that small companies and individuals are ripe for persecution.

    Does anyone remember Dimitri Skylarov?

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. -- James Michener, "Space"

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