Fwd: The SSSCA considered harmful

Alessandro Rubini rubini at gnu.org
Sat Mar 2 11:17:11 UTC 2002

> From: Ben_Tilly at trepp.com
> Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 11:43:20 -0500

On Thursday, Feb 28, 2002 Senator Hollings lead a hearing on his proposed
Security Systems Standards and Certification Act, known as the SSSCA.

The problem, as Mike Godwin said at

is that Congress doesn't understand the technical issues involved.  So we
must find examples of those technical issues in contexts that they

Email makes a good example.  Most people are familiar with it, and it shows
the relevant copyright issues.

I am sending you an email.  If you like it, you might forward it to a
friend with a brief comment added.  You might send it back to me with
corrections made.  You might copy phrases out of it to put into a report or
memo.  It might, as with the message I linked, find its way onto a website
on the Internet.

By the act of writing you this email, I have a copyright on my words.  In
these common tasks you have redistributed, modified, and taken away my
attribution.  Under the SSSCA the software cannot be allowed to let you do
that because the software is failing to protect my copyright.  According to
Hollywood and Senator Hollings, you would be a pirate and criminal for
abusing my copyrighted material.  Under existing copyright law your actions
might infringe, or might be fair use.  Mostly it is fair use.

So how would the SSSCA solve the problem of your using email as it was
designed and intended to be used?  Very simply, it would make your email
program illegal.  The software must be rewritten.  Once rewritten it cannot
contain a "forward" button.  It cannot allow you to copy and paste text
from it.  It cannot allow you to create a reply with my words included.  It
cannot allow you to send mail to existing email programs because they don't
implement copyright protection.  According to the good Senator, only
pirates and criminals would want to do any of these things.  My copyrighted
content MUST be protected from criminals and pirates like you.

Email is but one kind of program that is affected.  (Do not be fooled.  The
phrase they use may be "digital device", but their definition of a digital
device includes virtually all software programs.)  Our lives are filled
with electronic content that we produce, transfer, and manipulate.  Whether
you paste from one Word document to another or copy a spreadsheet, features
you use can violate copyrights.  Therefore Senator Hollings wants to ban
your software.

They call this the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act.  They
claim it is meant to protect poor copyright holders (like me) from
criminals and pirates (like you).  I call this the complete dismantling and
destruction of our computer infrastructure.  Please let your
representatives know what you call it.  You can find their contact
information as follows:

Senators: http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index_by_state.cfm
Congress: http://congress.org/

Ben Tilly

PS Your email software has not (yet) been crippled in accord with the
proposed SSSCA.  Please feel free to use it to forward this message.

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