April 23, 2024

SpamCop Responses

I have gotten plenty of email from SpamCop advocates in response to my previous posts. Due to a work-related deadline, it will take me several days to sort through them and post a response. I hope to have my response up here by the end of Monday.

Have You Seen This Man?

Washington, DC police today intensified their search for missing news.com reporter and columnist Declan McCullagh, as evidence of his disappearance mounted. Police spokesman Harvey Hoax explained, “We believed initially that Declan was submitting his columns from an unknown location, but further examination of the columns revealed that they must have been written by someone else.”

According to sources, this week’s column was the key tip-off. Investigators have concluded that the column was partially written by Declan before his disappearance, and then completed by an unknown person. Police believe that the paragraph calling the DMCA an “egregious law” that is “probably unconstitutional” and “should be unceremoniously tossed out by the courts” was indeed written by Declan, as it is consistent with his often-stated views. However, later paragraphs characterizing the DMCA as no big deal appear to have been written by an unknown person.

Police now suspect that last week’s column, urging technologists not to be politically aware, was most likely written by the same unknown person. “Declan has devoted much of his career to bridging the gap between politics and technology, and he is widely respected for it,” said an anonymous source. “Clearly the column was written by someone else. That person probably knows where Declan is being held.”

When asked who might have altered Declan’s columns, RIAA Chairman Hilary Rosen quickly swiveled her computer monitor out of view and stammered, “Uh, no comment.”

Anyone with information about Declan’s whereabouts, or the authorship of his last two columns, is urged to contact the Washington police.

[Note to the humor-impaired: It’s a joke, for God’s sake.]

[Note2: Missing-Declan idea stolen shamelessly from Slashdot poster “idonotexist” and expanded upon here.]

Response to Declan's DMCA Piece

Declan McCullagh misses the boat at least twice in his August 19th
column concerning the potential impact on computer science research of
the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [“Debunking DMCA myths,” c|net
News.Com, http://news.com.com/2010-12-950229.html].

First, the DMCA has two arms: one that prohibits devices that circumvent
copy protection, and one that prohibits acts of circumvention. The
research conducted by Professor Felten and his colleagues took place
prior to the time when the “acts of circumvention” provisions became
effective in October 2000. Thus, these provisions did not apply to that
research. However, there is little doubt in the legal community that
this research, and similar research, would be illegal under the “acts of
circumvention” provisions. Declan fails to recognize this arm of the
DMCA in his column.

Second, the chilling effect of the DMCA cannot be described by the
probability of conviction alone. One must also consider the magnitude
of the exposure if convicted. Because the “acts of circumvention”
provisions of the DMCA were not in effect at the time of the Felten
research, the probability of an adverse judgment was indeed small.
However, a group of highly respected legal consultants told Felten’s
employer that the cost of an adverse judgment could be truly enormous.
The combination of these two factors had a very substantial chilling
effect. (It is also the case that two individuals were likely to lose
their jobs if the paper was published. This illustrates the human
dimension of the chilling effect.)

Other issues, on which we shall not elaborate, include the
anti-dissemination provisions of the DMCA, and the civil (in addition to
criminal) provisions.

It is disruptive to the progress of research when scientists must first
consult with attorneys to determine if previously legitimate research
might be in violation of the DMCA. We are happy to agree with Declan
that “The DMCA is … an egregious law … and should be unceremoniously
tossed out by the courts.”

Edward W. Felten
Princeton University

Edward D. Lazowska
University of Washington; Co-chair, Computing Research Association
Government Affairs Committee

Barbara Simons
Co-chair, ACM US Public Policy Committee

Keystone SpamKops (cont. 3)

Several people have asked me to expand upon a semi-cryptic comment I made in a previous post, saying that SpamCop’s system allows denial-of-service attacks. What I mean is that it appears that a malicious person could easily put you, or me, or anybody else on SpamCop’s block-list. There are at least three ways somebody could put XYZ.com (a hypothetical site) on the blocklist.

(1) Send a spam message containing the characters “http://www.XYZ.com,” and wait for spam’s recipients to report it to SpamCop.

(2) Sign up for a legitimate mailing list run by XYZ.com. Then when XYZ.com sends legitimate email messages on the list, maliciously report those messages as spam.

(3) Forge the text of spam messages purportedly from XYZ.com, and report the forged messages as spam.

It’s probably illegal to carry out such an attack, but it’s scary that SpamCop apparently makes it so easy.

Lawyers, Tiggers and Bears, Oh My!

That’s the title of a hilarious article in L.A. Magazine about the ongoing legal battle over the rights to Winnie-the-Pooh. It’s full of telling details about the state of “intellectual property” law today, and about the mindset of the people involved.

My favorite example is a statement by Disney’s lawyer: “The legacy of Winnie-the-Pooh and the treasure that it is for generations of kids is something that Disney has taken the time and money to accomplish.” And to think that I had always given the credit to A.A. Milne.