August 13, 2020

Archives for May 2003

Texas Super-DMCA Apparently Dead

Louis Trager at the Washington Internet Daily reports that the Texas Super-DMCA bill appears to be dead, as this year’s legislative session ended without any action on the bill. There is still a small risk that it will be considered in special session, but the governor’s office says he does not intend to call such a special session. The Texas legislature is not scheduled to meet at all in 2004, so the bill appears to be dead there until at least 2005.

The is another significant victory for Super-DMCA opponents, along with the veto of the Colorado bill, and the withdrawal of the Tennessee and Oregon bills by their sponsors.

Trager quotes MPAA Vice President Vans Stevenson as saying that “Time is on our side. We have all the time in the world.”

Apparently MPAA will be patient, in the hope that opponents will tire of the struggle, or maybe in the hope of finding new opportunities to introduce stealth bills. That may be MPAA’s best hope, since the bills have fared poorly wherever open debate on their merits has been allowed.

Waldo on Standards

Jim Waldo (a Distinguished Engineer at Sun) has written two provocative blog entries about standardization. He argues that technical standards are a good idea when their purpose is to codify existing practice in the industry, but that it’s counterproductive for a standards group to try to invent new technology. I think he’s right.

When standards groups try to invent technology, they tend to do poorly, for two reasons. First, committees generally do a lousy job of designing anything; the best designs spring from the mind of a single person, or from a small group of like-minded people with a clear common goal in mind. Second, standards groups can easily degenerate into political wrangling which, regardless of their pretextual substance, really amount to a battle over which company’s product plans will be anointed as the standard – a failure mode that is much less likely when the only goal is to codify existing, widespread practices.

The worst case of all, of course, is when lawyers try to invent technology, by codifying their regulatory schemes as “standards.”

E-Voting Bill Introduced

My Congressman, Rep. Rush Holt, has introduced an important e-voting bill, H.R. 2239. The bill would address the serious concerns raised by a broad coalition of computer scientists (including me) about the security and trustworthiness of electronic voting systems.

The bill would do three main things. First, it would require that voting systems generate a paper trail that the voter can verify at the time he/she votes. Second, it would require the software used in voting machines to be open for public inspection. Third, it would institute random, surprise recounts in 0.5% of jurisdictions, as a quality control measure. The bill also contains safeguards to ensure that disabled voters can cast their votes.

The text of the bill is not yet on the House’s web site; I’ll post a link here when it becomes available. I have seen a preview copy of the bill, and I think it does an excellent job of ensuring that our transition to e-voting maintains the trustworthiness of our elections. I support it strongly, and I hope you will do so too.

UPDATE(10:55 AM, May 27): The bill’s text is now available.