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MPAA Kills California Anti-Pretexting Bill 299

Posted by Zonk
from the revealed-to-be-playing-dirty-pool dept.
IAmTheDave writes "A California anti-pretexting bill that got unanimous support in the state senate with a vote of 30-0 was struck down after heavy last-minute lobbying by the MPAA. The bill aimed to make deceptive 'pretexting' (lying) to gain personal information on another person illegal. The MPAA told legislators 'We need to pose as someone other than who we are to stop illegal downloading,' and thus killed the bill when it came up for a final vote. California passed a much narrower bill that 'bans the use of deceit to obtain telephone calling records, and nothing else.' In a final 'think of the children' bid, the Califonia Association of Licensed Investigators also opposed the bill, saying it needed to be able to use pretexting to help find missing children, among other things."
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MPAA Kills California Anti-Pretexting Bill

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  • by jonnythan (79727) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:25AM (#17065666) Homepage
    I never realized the MPAA was a law enforcement organization.

    I wonder what else they need in order to enforce laws. Prisons? Armed agents? The power to arrest and seize property?
  • by mikelieman (35628) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:25AM (#17065670) Homepage
    It's the only way to make sure the Legislators even PRETEND TO TRY to give a shit about us.

    We're fucked.

  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@gmai l . com> on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:25AM (#17065674) Journal

    Seems odd when a committee (in this case, an entire senate) deems a law pragmatic enough it goes up for vote with a unanimous (30-0) sendoff and subsequently because of special interest (MPAA allegedly) the final vote skews not only away from unanimous but actually flips the sentiment (bill loses 27-33).

    Consider the gist of the bill (from the article):

    The bill, SB1666, was written by state Sen. Debra Bowen, and would have barred investigators from making "false, fictitious or fraudulent" statements or representations to obtain private information about an individual, including telephone calling records, Social Security numbers and financial information. Victims would have had the right to sue for damages.

    This means the MPAA and others argued for the right to make "false, fictitious or fraudulent" statements...! Amazing!

    There are legitimate ways for the entertainment industry to obtain data when prosecuting alleged piracy activity. This isn't one of them. So, the practice (pretexting) remains legal and the MPAA prevails in yet another seamy side of big business buying milquetoast government.

    I've lost the ability to record FM on my Creative Zen with my last firmware update... ostensibly, though I can't confirm it because of industry pressure on Creative -- it was one of the features I bought it for.

    The threat continues to loom for providers of excellent technology like TiVo to rein in their features, also ostensibly under pressure.

    The better the technology gets, the less they want us to use it.

  • by FatSean (18753) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:26AM (#17065688) Homepage Journal
    But now companies and PIs can too? Can the average guy 'pretext' as well, or will he get punished? I can't really tell from the article.

    Makes me want to break more laws....let's see...what can I do that has a low chance of getting caught...

  • my thoughts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jimstapleton (999106) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:28AM (#17065726) Journal
    I don't see a problem with pretending to be someone else, as long as you have the appropriate licenses/credentials.

    i.e.:
      Pretending to be a everyday/normal person - fine
      Pretending to be a Police Officer without being in the employ of a police agency, or a CPA without the actual degrees and licenses: bad

    I do not agree with falsifying data either:
      "I downloaded these files from the user's hard drive"
      if you did this and have absolute proof - fine
      if you didn't do this and/or "fudged" the numbers, you need jail time.

    what parts of these, with respect to other laws, are impacted by this bill and the changes made?
  • by bhmit1 (2270) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:32AM (#17065794) Homepage
    If you need to stop something illegal, it shouldn't be necessary to lie and impersonate someone to prevent the activity. Why is it necessary to impersonate another to "think of the children" or to stop illegal downloads? If you have proof of a wrong doing, you take it to a judge, get a warrant, and put an end to it. If you don't have proof, then lets end all the witch hunts.
  • by buzdale (943806) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:33AM (#17065822)
    Isn't it already a crime to pass yourself off as someone else? I thought it was fraud.
  • by Vengeance (46019) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:40AM (#17065954)
    You've hit upon something which I've long believed is important:

    Legislators rarely suffer from the effects of their actions, while the rest of us are slowly whittled down.

    We've got a huge percentage of our population in the prison system, in a 'free country' where putting something into your body is considered a criminal act.

    This all falls under the theory that you cannot rule a free man, but if you make SOME aspect of every free man's life technically illegal, you can keep them in line.
  • by ph1ll (587130) <ph1ll1phenry@@@yahoo...com> on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:41AM (#17065976)
    I'm not an American nor do I pretend to understand American politics but how can a vote swing from 30-0 to the other way?

    And people say the European Commission is corrupt...

  • But, but, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SengirV (203400) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:42AM (#17065980)
    Wouldnt' any bill allow for exceptions like the use of pretexting for criminal investigations? Seems like a pretty flimsy excuse for downgrading the bill.

    So it all just comes down to who has the biggest pockets.

    Current breakdown of the California State Senate - 25 DNCers, 15 GOPers. But I thought only GOPers who bow to big business?

    Wake up people, no party is free of Big Business.
  • by DJCacophony (832334) <.v0dka. .at. .myg0t.com.> on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:42AM (#17065986) Homepage
    This may be bad for filesharers, but it's a victory for social engineers everywhere. Do you really want to live in a state where lying is illegal?
  • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:42AM (#17065988)

    To paraphrase Ed Harris in the movie, History of Violence, "...how come the MPAA is so good at killing bills?" The answer is that succesful politicians are not developed, they're bought.

    True. Although do bear in mind this is California, home of the movie industry. I'd be interested in seeing if they were quite as successful in getting a similar bill nuked in, say, Massachussets.

  • Already exists... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NineNine (235196) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:43AM (#17066018)
    It's not a bill, but a party. The Libertarian Party [lp.org] is all about the government leaving us alone as much as possible. If that's what you believe, then you should vote Libertarian.
  • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:44AM (#17066024) Journal
    I've lost the ability to record FM on my Creative Zen with my last firmware update... ostensibly, though I can't confirm it because of industry pressure on Creative -- it was one of the features I bought it for.

    This is one of the best examples yet of why one should not upgrade firmware on a device unless there is an immediate need for an update.

    I should think that removing a feature from a purchased item after the fact is grounds for a lawsuit, especially if the packaging and manual list it as a feature. I'd suggest a class action suit demanding the functionality be restored or a refund of your money. Hey, everyone else is suing someone, let's get in on the action!
  • by PMuse (320639) on Friday December 01, 2006 @11:50AM (#17066154)
    In a final 'think of the children' bid, the California Association of Licensed Investigators also opposed the bill, saying it needed to be able to use pretexting to help find missing children, among other things."

    Riiiight. Because a carve-out for protecting kids would just have been impossible to write in.

    It couldn't be that the real money in PI work might be in divorce/adultery, paparazzi-ing, or industrial disputes.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:01PM (#17066356) Homepage
    We all need to give up a little of our privacy so that we can secure the interests of our economy. And by our economy, I mean the few people who continue to control our lives for profit while the middle class declines into poverty and debt.
  • Big time! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:03PM (#17066398)
    I say that "pretexting" should be ILLEGAL. They can work through the legal system to "protect" their "property".

    If your car was stolen, the cops would take a very unfavourable view of you impersonating a cop in order to retrieve it.
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:04PM (#17066416) Journal

    The only problem with that is that it will never happen for the same reasons that this bill was killed: it requires politicians to do what is in the best interests of the citizens, instead of what is in the best interests of their reelection campaign (read getting money).

    The only problem? His amendment is so broadly worded that it would probably outlaw credit histories as well. Do you lend money to people? Is this something you'd condone?

    Likewise, there were probably very compelling reasons not to pass this bill but we won't hear about them because of the four letter word known as the MPAA. Because they got involved I predict the chances of this being a fruitful discussion on /. at 100 to 1 against.

  • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:12PM (#17066578)

    Speaking of California and the movie industry, does anyone know if we're hearing anything from any of these actors/actresses who speak out so often about social injustice? What's the Governator's opinion on this? I haven't seen anything. I wonder if maybe it's too close to their own pocketbook (maybe it's true about the love of money...) or maybe it's just peer pressure from within their social circles?

    Those idiot actors speak out on social injustice when it gives them photo ops with starving children. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Angelina Jolie.

  • by stupid_is (716292) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:13PM (#17066588) Homepage
    "An honest politician is one that stays bought" - RAH
  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:19PM (#17066690) Homepage
    ... IF the judges in cases involving the MPAA remember that, in order to get this proposed law defeated in California, the MPAA essentially admitted that it lies and falsifies information in the course of a piracy investigation >:)

    I can see the court transcript now: Judge: And how, exactly, were you able to obtain this evidence? **AA: Your honor, we lied and falsified information, but everything we tell you is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth...honest. Judge: Riiiiiiiiight.....
  • to be accurate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:26PM (#17066836) Journal
    The MPAA told legislators 'We need to pose as someone other than who we are to stop illegal downloading,' and thus killed the bill when it came up for a final vote.

    To be more accurate, one would say:
    "The MPAA told legislators that it needed this bill killed, presumeably either threatening to pull their financial contributions to said legislators, or offering contributions if the legislator agreed to vote the way they wanted. The MPAA approached sufficient legislators to find enough of them that a sufficient percentage were willing to sell their vote to kill the bill. Like well-paid prostitutes, they did exactly what was asked and thereby prevented the bill from passing."

    The MPAA can't kill any bills. It takes whores in the legislature to do that.
  • by Robber Baron (112304) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:34PM (#17067006) Homepage

    Yeah, I'm talking to you, Angelina Jolie.
    Yeah, as if she reads Slashdot!
  • Re:Big time! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MoneyT (548795) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:35PM (#17067038) Journal
    True, but that's because you're impersonating a cop. By contrast, the police would have no problem with you impersonating an interested buyer in order to get close enough to the car to verify that it's yours and gain some proof thereof.
  • by Homr Zodyssey (905161) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:42PM (#17067182) Journal
    Those idiot actors speak out on social injustice when it gives them photo ops with starving children. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Angelina Jolie.
    I don't think Angelina Jolie [wikipedia.org] is doing it for the photo ops. She's donated millions of US$ out of her own pocket and is continuously working first-hand in dangerous and poverty-stricken areas. I see your point about idiot actors speaking out because they think their views are somehow more informed. But, I think Ms. Jolie is a very bad example for you to use. How about Pamela Anderson, George Clooney or Sean Penn?
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:44PM (#17067208) Journal

    Maybe it'd put a quick end to the whole 'credit culture' that has built up in America and is slowly destroying the national economy.

    And I have a problem with the 'credit culture' as well (what's wrong with having the cash for stuff before you buy it and living within your means?) but you are ignoring my point. The point was that when you write something that broad it can have unintended effects.

    Want an example on the other side? Did anybody ever think that the social security number would become a national ID number used for everything from employment to taxes to security?

  • by turly (992736) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:48PM (#17067292) Homepage
    To quote Ralph Nader [wikiquote.org]:

    The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door. That's the only difference.
  • Re:my thoughts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday December 01, 2006 @01:01PM (#17067588) Journal
    The problem is not that these people are pretending to be someone they are not, the problem is that they are pretending to be some one in particular and useing that to gain information they could not otherwise gain.

    The problem is not that they are pretending to be someone in particular to gain information, it's that they can gain information by pretending to be someone in particular. The solution is not to prohibit people from pretending, it's for industry to implement some reasonable information security.

    If I can call your bank and get your information by pretending to be you, that's a problem with the bank, not with me.
  • by RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) on Friday December 01, 2006 @01:13PM (#17067886) Homepage Journal
    Damn, I had to blow off Mod points to respond to this, but...

    "Too bad they take it to the other extreme. Zero regulation of businesses, the complete abandonment of any sort of social safety net and privatising everything are just a few of the disagreements that I have with the Libertarian Party."

    The nature of government past and present tends toward eternal scope creep. If Libertarians were to sweep all 3 branches of the US government tomorrow and hold power for a decade, we would still not live in a system that actually *had* zero regulation of businesses, complete abandonment of any sort of social safety net, or total privatization of all that is currently in the civic sphere.

    Despite my heavy Libertarian sympathies, I do believe that some things *belong* in the public sector. The Libertarian philosophy may appear extreme to you, and it may in fact be extreme. However, Democrats and Republicans alike have lost sight of any sort of sane boundaries on what belongs in the public sector. I can't imagine a pure Libertarian philosophy ever really being actualized, but I think an extreme dose of it would bring sobriety and balance to bear against government's inexorable tendency to intrude further and further into what should be the private sphere.

    Think about it - you surely can see extremity of some sort in the Democrat and Republican parties alike, no? But does this country look entirely like an incarnation of the desires of either one of them? No; it's a hodge-podge of policies -- sometimes contradictory -- hailing from all over the political spectrum. So in the end, infusing the system with a bunch of anti-scope-creep politicians would merely introduce some friction to retard the expansion. Like any other party, if they took it too far, populism would push the pendulum of power away from them and things would drift back in the other direction.

  • by operagost (62405) on Friday December 01, 2006 @01:27PM (#17068186) Homepage Journal
    Actually, no, since it's only illegal to lie to law enforcement or in court. It doesn't matter whether you are an individual or speaking for a corporation. Kevin Mitnick's pretexting was perfectly legal-- it's when he used the information to trespass or break into systems that he broke the law.
  • by krell (896769) on Friday December 01, 2006 @01:30PM (#17068238) Journal
    "Actually, no, since it's only illegal to lie to law enforcement or in court"

    It is legal to lie in court if you are not specifically under oath. Otherwise, a lot of lying is done in the courtroom: from the typical business practices of attorneys to the large percentage of the accused who did the crime (and know they did it) but lie and plead "not guilty" anyway.

    A courtroom without lies would be very very different.
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:02PM (#17069968) Journal
    I won't respond to your points one by one because I largely agree with them. I wasn't saying that I wouldn't vote for a Libertarian candidate either. I only wanted to say that I find a combination of Libertarian and leftist (represented by the Democrats in the US) to be personally appealing. Extreme support for civil liberties, gun rights, choice (abortion), Gov't out of the bedroom, these are all things that I support. If you combined them with some center-left economic policies I think you'd have a killer app that would appeal to a broad number of people.

    Sometimes I question the way that the Libertarian Party goes out getting it's message out though. New York State has the most liberal electoral fusion [wikipedia.org] laws in the country. Why don't the NYS Libertarian's take advantage of this and borrow a page from the playbook of the Working Families [workingfamiliesparty.org] and Conservative Party of NY [cpnys.org] and try to influence the direction of the Republican and/or Democratic parties? Instead they run someone that I've never heard of (and I'd wadger that I follow politics more closely then 90% of Americans) who doesn't even get enough votes to get them automatic ballot access for future elections.

    I would love to see the Libertarian Party gain enough influence to get their ideas out there in public debate. Unfortunately a lot of the Libertarian candidates that I've met would rather blame the Republicans and the Democrats for "shutting them out".
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:25PM (#17070438) Journal

    And neither is the libertarian party. To say that the party is for a complete removal of government from the country is to confuse them with Anarchists.

    To read their official platform [lp.org] leads me to conclude the following:

    "Public Policy instruments including eminent domain, zoning laws, building codes, rent control, regional planning, property taxes, resource management and public health legislation remove property rights from owners and transfer them to the State, while raising costs of property ownership."

    They are against the concept of zoning laws and public health legislation. So under the Libertarian model I can do whatever I want with my property -- and my neighbor can sell his property to a industrial concern that will cause my property values to drop like a brick. And when did public health legislation become "unduly burdensome"? Are regulations that food service workers wash their hands really a removal of property rights?

    "All publicly owned infrastructures including dams and parks shall be returned to private ownership and all taxing authority for such public improvements shall sunset."

    Parks and dams serve the people and belong to the people. Why should they be owned by a private concern and operated for profit?

    I'm not quoting the parts of the platform that I agree with -- and there are money. I'm just pointing out the parts that a vast majority of Americans would have a problem with. And while I'd acknowledge that not all Libertarian candidates are likely to agree with these objections (just like all Republicans aren't pro-life) it is on the official party webpage and it is a part of their platform.

    And please don't assume that I'm attacking the Libertarian Party. I have a great respect for what they stand for and find myself in 100% agreement with them on the "war" on drugs, gun rights, civil liberties, abortion and victimless crime. I'm just pointing out the stances on issues that I'd have to carefully consider before I could vote for a LP candidate.

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