1994-02-02 - Re: archiving on inet

Header Data

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
To: jthomas@access.digex.net (Joe Thomas)
Message Hash: 2f042d301697b4115d76263317b10388c1c23a834b2191224ee2e61459d752af
Message ID: <199402020123.RAA16841@mail.netcom.com>
Reply To: <Pine.3.05.9402011809.B17142-b100000@access1.digex.net>
UTC Datetime: 1994-02-02 01:25:53 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 1 Feb 94 17:25:53 PST

Raw message

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
Date: Tue, 1 Feb 94 17:25:53 PST
To: jthomas@access.digex.net (Joe Thomas)
Subject: Re: archiving on inet
In-Reply-To: <Pine.3.05.9402011809.B17142-b100000@access1.digex.net>
Message-ID: <199402020123.RAA16841@mail.netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Boy, this has been one of the most contentious, arguing-in-circles
thread I've seen in a long time. I was getting ready to delete all
these posts by lawyers, semi-lawyers, wannabee-lawyers, and
non-lawyers when I ran across this nice and concise post by Joe Thomas:

> But to attempt to bring this back from misc.legal to cypherpunks territory...
> Have people here thought about what happens to the concept of intellectual
> property in an environment of strong cryptography and cheap anonymity? 
> When there's no way for the government to enforce Berne on movies and
> electronic books, what hope is there for Usenet postings?
> Joe

Exactly! The copyright laws, confusing as they may be, are basically
unenforceable for _private_ and _mostly private_ behaviors. Xeroxing
books, sheet music, and the like is done routinely--stand in a copy
shop for a while and watch what happens. And these things are
indisputably violations of copyright (there is a "grey zone" for short
copying jobs, under the "fair use" interpretatins, but certainly not
for copying entire chapters or books, or sheet music). Ditto for
copying software, as we all know. 

Copying CDs onto tapes is a murkier issue, because of the recent
revisions to the laws and the so-called "tape tax," which collects a
royalty on blank tape while allowing essentially unlimited copying for
_personal_ use (e.g., I can safely tape CDs onto DAT so long as I
don't then _sell_ them).

Where the rubber meets the road on all this stuff is when a visible,
public situation occurs--the college instructor who makes Xerox copies
of a textbook (not his own, but maybe even that is a violation) and
distributes or sells them to a class, the musician in a public concert
who is seen with piles of Xeroxed sheet music, the guy selling dubbed
videos at a flea market, the corporation buying one copy of a program
and then duplicating it for 30 employees, etc. In these cases, a
whistleblower can call in the Music Police (don't know their real
name), the Data Narcs (SPA), etc., and some action _may_ be taken.
(Rarely, for many reasons.)

The hair-splitting about whether making backup copies of Usenet
constitutes any kind of violation is not all that useful. The issue is
what happens when--as is inevitable--folks sell compilations of other
people's postings. Indeed, there was a raging debate on this several
years ago when Brad Templeton was planning to sell a book of the best
jokes he's seen in rec.humor.funny. Maybe the book even came out....I
never did hear the outcome. Anyone know?

With strong crypto and anonymous systems, few actions will be
publically visible enough to allow enforcement and sanctions. 

Copyrighted material may be sent through remailers to protect the
source (recall the "Information Liberation Front"). Ditto for other
kinds of "software."

A brave new world. My fear is that the NII will be structured so as to
limit crypto use with a public rationale of preventing these kinds of
abuse (the private rationale being the NSA/FBI/national security state
sorts of things).

--Tim May, who's not a lawyer and doesn't want to become one

(and who hates to see fine minds devoted to the credo "Cypherpunks
study law")

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
tcmay@netcom.com       | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409           | knowledge, reputations, information markets, 
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA  | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power:2**859433 | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.