September 19, 2017

Berman-Coble Bill: Green Light for Cyber-Attacks

In the current climate of concern about cyber-attacks, it’s astonishing that Congress is considering a bill that would legalize a wide range of cyber-attacks – yet that is just what the proposed Berman-Coble bill would do.

The bill allows the owner of a copyright to interfere with the computer or network of anybody who is thought to be using the copyrighted material without authorization. The bill allows any attack, so long as it does not mess with any files on the victim’s computer (other than copyrighted ones). For example, they can cut off your network connection, or even crash your computer.

I am not totally opposed to the idea of self-help for parties whose legal rights are being violated. But this bill goes way, way too far. For example, the bill allows attacks on anybody making “unauthorized” use of a work, even if that use is legal. (Under copyright law, if you own a legimate copy of a work, there are certain things you can do with that work whether the copyright holder likes it or not; so a use can be unauthorized but still legal) And the bill doesn’t do much to hold the attackers accountable for any collateral damage they cause.

Text of the proposed bill is available at http://www.politechbot.com/docs/berman.coble.p2p.final.072502.pdf